L’ÉCOLE Van Cleef & Arpels, the Paris-based School of Jewelry Arts, launched their first Middle East campus in Dubai during November. Following on from great success in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York, the nomadic campus came to Dubai for three weeks at Hai d3.

First President of L’Ecole, The School of Jewelry Arts, created 5 years  ago with the support of the Maison Van Cleef & Arpels, Marie Vallanet-Delhom’s (below) professional experience has been dedicated to teaching, the passing on of knowledge and expertise and  High Jewelry. After receiving a Master’s degree in Literature, Marie Vallanet-Delhom began her career as a teacher.

In addition to the adult classes and children’s workshops, the school has developed a rich program of events and activities that are free and open to the public. Ranging from evening conversations, to landmark exhibitions and complementary outdoor cinema screenings, the program is designed to offer an immersive experience for anyone interested in design, history, jewelry and contemporary culture.

Zeina Mokaddam grasped the opportunity to fully immerse herself, and to learn more from Marie Vallanet-Delhom, president of L’ÉCOLE Van Cleef & Arpels.

Firstly, and pertinently as we sit here in the heat of Dubai, far from the streets of Paris, why the travelling school? “Well, at first”, Marie says, “we decided to establish the school in Paris because this is where jewelry is rooted, but I quickly realized that there was a contradiction between wanting to reach out to the largest audience possible and being localized in Paris because not everyone visits Paris. Therefore, we had to move and go to our future students. Thus, the idea of a moving school was created”.

The aim of the the lessons is only to learn the basics, or is it a gateway for those who want to partake more fully in the jewelry industry? “Both. It is essentially an initiation for the public. We do not pretend that taking the courses makes one ready to work in the industry. But it should be noted that the courses are very specific, allowing professionals as well to add to their knowledge. For instance, a jeweler who does not know much about the history of gemstones can take courses and learn more about Art Nouveau jewelry or the history of jewelry. So, both amateurs and professionals take our courses”.

Over the past 5 years, you’ve been to New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. And now, you’re in Dubai. How was your first experience, how did the diverse cultures respond to the idea, and how is it today and why? “5 years is at once a lot of time and very little time for this school, which is one of a kind in the world. Tokyo was our first destination. We established our first school abroad in Tokyo where we gave courses. Later, an outstanding version of a moving school is here in Dubai, because not only do we give courses and hold conferences, we also have a campus with 6 simultaneous expositions. It is our most ambitious project so far and I am very happy with it”.

The profits of this program go to a charitable organization for the education of children. Is it the first time L’Ecole gives charitable donations or is it common to the L’Ecole program? “It is not exactly the first time. We’ve had a similar program in Hong Kong, because China is also very engaged in the education of children. It is Hong Kong and the Middle East that have the most been engaged in this matter”.

How often do you plan to revisit a country? How do you rotate and select the cities you want to work with? “We are trying to have an 18-month cycle, which would be perfect. If we could for example come back here in 18 months, it would be great. We were able to do this in Hong Kong, we have visited Hong Kong 3 times now. We were not able to do it in the USA but I think we will manage to hold a second session there next year. It is true that we are facing a big demand at the same time and in various places. And for those who don’t want to wait for a year and a half, they can always come to L’Ecole in Paris, so they can visit the L’Ecole website and register. It is available 11 months a year”.