George Balanchine’s Jewels

Pre-Christmas Gift! Today, let’s talk about the most famous ballet inspired by Jewellery!

(Lire en français)

Jewels is a three-act plotless ballet that premièred on Thursday, 13 April 1967 at the New York State Theater.

Created for the New York City Ballet by co-founder and founding choreographer George Balanchine, it uses the music of three very different composers. Balanchine was inspired by the artistry of jewellery designer Claude Arpels, and chose music revealing the essence of each jewel. He explained: “Of course, I have always liked jewels; after all, I am an Oriental, from Georgia in the Caucasus. I like the color of gems, the beauty of stones, and it was wonderful to see how our costume workshop, under Karinska’s direction, came so close to the quality of real stones (which were of course too heavy for the dancers to wear!).”

balanchine VCA

George Balanchine, Claude Arpels and Suzanne Farrell wearing Van Cleef & Arpels

Each section of the ballet is distinct in both music and mood. Emeralds, which Balanchine considered “an evocation of France — the France of elegance, comfort, dress, perfume,” recalls the 19th century dances of the French Romantics. Rubies is crisp and witty, epitomizing the collaboration of Stravinsky and Balanchine. Diamonds recalls the order and grandeur of Imperial Russia and the Maryinsky Theater, where Balanchine was trained. Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp have written: “If the entire imperial Russian inheritance of ballet were lost, Diamonds would still tell us of its essence.”

jewels archive pic

New York City Ballet – Mimi Paul (seated), Patricia McBride (in red), George Balanchine and Suzanne Farrell (in white), in “Jewels”

In 2013, Van Cleef and Arpels commissioned to Benjamin Millepied and his L.A. Dance Project a new ballet, as a modern revisitation and hommage to Balanchine. (See article here). Although we claim the initiative, Jewels remains the absolute legendary for ballet inspired by jewellery and a true enchantment.


  1. […] The French High Jeweller’s connection to actual ballet and choreography dates back in 1967 – when the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, inspired by the colourful jewels in a Van Cleef display on New York’s Fifth Avenue, first translated sparkling stones into dance in the three-act ballet: Jewels. (Read about Balanchine’s Jewels here) […]


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