This story is part of a series celebrating L’École’s 10th anniversary. Events include in-person lectures in New York City and Houston. Find out more about the schedule here.
February 9, 2022—In 2014, I began research for my novel, The Secret Language of Stones. The main character, a member of a family of 19th century French witches (based on my great grandmother), was a jeweler. When I set out to study both the history of the art and learn how jewelry was made, I was surprised to come up short in getting any practical help.
Even in New York City, I couldn’t find a way to study with a jeweler in their workshop (this due to insurance policies — not that they weren’t willing). There simply was no short-term place for me to get any hands-on experience.
One jeweler I’d talked to suggested I look into L’ École School of Jewelry Arts, supported by Van Cleef & Arpels. After perusing their website, I realized they offered everything I needed. I signed up and spent two weeks in Paris taking six classes that opened my eyes and taught me more than I’d ever anticipated. Not just about the making of jewelry, or its history, but its savoir faire.
Even after I concluded my research, I continued to take additional classes in L’École, the next time I was in Paris and then in New York as well as attending dozens of the online “Conversations,” they now offer.
My reason can be summed up in one word — passion. Certainly, my passion for jewelry and its history. Not only is it the study of a beautiful art form, but its history touches on science, geography, magic, history and legend. For me, like so many of us, jewelry has an endless fascination.
But passion has another meaning when it comes to L’École because passion has permeated every single aspect of my experiences with them. From the perfect china cups and delicious pastries during the class coffee breaks to the accessories and accoutrements you’re given when you attend a class in person, to the extraordinary library in the Paris school which was like discovering an Ali Baba’s cave of treasures.
Of everything though, it is the teachers who exhibit the kind of passion that had made me want to take class after class. It’s rare to find one teacher who brings energy, love and profound knowledge to a class. But it’s extraordinary that every teacher and lecturer I studied with at L’École, shared that same passion.
One of the most interesting days I spent at L’École started with a 4-hour workshop in painting gems with gouache followed by a four-hour design workshop taking a design from paper to a pewter mock up. (I didn’t file my finger off but did manage to damage my fingernail.)
In a class about talismans and amulets, one of L’École’s most enthusiastic professors, Inezita Gay Eckel, described how the bad luck attributed to the Hope Diamond actually gave it a greater cachet and helped to sell it. She told such an intriguing story with so many details and anecdotes, she wound up inspiring my next novel.
My high school history teacher once told me that learning is easy if you love what you are studying. For me L’Ecole, has been proof of that concept. If there is an aspect of the world of jewelry you feel passionate about, you’ll find a class or lecture that will help you go deeper and as Inezita always says, to further into your love.
M.J. Rose is a New York Times bestselling author; her most recent novel, The Last Tiara (February 2, 2021) has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as: “Engrossing… A wonderfully twisty plot that keeps the reader wanting to know more… [a] winning story.”