Here are some excellent places where you can attend courses and talks on the history of jewelry and the world of stones. NB: none of them issues a national diploma.
L’École des Arts Joailliers
I could spend my entire life there… This Paris-based school, created at the initiative of the jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels, is the only one of its kind, and appeals to amateurs and professionals alike. Serious-minded but accessible at the same time, its theory and practical courses have been developed with teachers, scientists and historians. It offers dozens of topics, like “Discovering stones”, “Lacloche Joailliers” and “Precious amulets and symbols”, as well as almost weekly lectures, online videos, meetings with authors, visits to exhibitions and now study days for “Young researchers”. You can pick and choose, as all the modules are independent. News for Hong Kong residents: L’École des Arts Joailliers has recently opened a branch there, and also travels to New York, Dubai and other places. Worth knowing about: workshops for children.
Prices: €10 for a meeting with an author, €40 for a lecture, €200 for a course (4 hrs)
For its major jewelry sales, the auction house is staging various talks throughout the world, like “Hidden Gems: Jewelry Behind the Scenes” and “The Essential Guide to Identifying Jewelry”. Above all, it is the only one to propose Christie’s Education, online courses that at present include one on the “History of Jewelry Design: 1880 to Now” presented by historian Vanessa Cron. Available in English and Chinese with subtitles, this MOOC consist of six sessions (Edwardian era, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, etc.) with videos of interviews with heritage conservators, designers, etc. There is also a bibliography, and you can ask questions and chat with other students.
US$1,500 per MOOC
Haute École de Joaillerie
A large number of jewelry professionals are trained in this Paris school, but a few courses are open to informed amateurs. They move from introductory to specialized sessions, with a particular focus on gemology, with “The sapphire and other blue gems” (7 hrs) and “The diamond” (7 hrs). A few cover techniques, like “Wax models– an introduction” (70 hrs) and “Enameling”. There is also a summer/winter school.
Prices: €200 for a 7-hour course, and €1,500 to €2,500 for a 70-hour course.
Cercle de l’Octaèdre
Each year, the Association Française de Gemmologie organizes an event for professionals, also open to highly-informed private individuals: the “Rendez-Vous Gemmologiques de Paris”, focusing on the latest trends and innovations. At the 2019 session, I heard Richard Duffy, CEO of Petra Diamonds; Stéphane Fischler, President of the World Diamond Council, and David Fisher of De Beers Synthetic Diamonds. In a lighter vein, all year round the Cercle de l’Octaèdre (the AFG members’ club) arranges visits to exhibitions on precious stones, talks and thematic trips to Idar-Oberstein and Antwerp, and to southern Italy to study cameos. There are also workshops for children,
Annual subscription: €40
Rendez-Vous Gemmologiques: €160
This jeweler’s exhibition also lays on talks. In 2019, I attended “Jewels from the 70s and 80s: how different can they be?” by Amanda Triossi (historian and former curator of Bulgari’s heritage collection), “Jean-Baptiste Tavernier: a life of adventure and diamonds in the 18th century” by historian Gislain Aucremanne (from the L’École des Arts Joailliers) and “Art Nouveau Jewelry: Sacred Beauty” by historian Vivienne Becker. All totally fascinating.
Available with an admission ticket at €50; prior reservation online required.
The Society of Jewellery Historians
The London-based Society of Jewellery Historians brings jewelry lovers together around research, publications, a magazine, private tours of museums and exhibitions, etc. It offers a number of specialized lectures, usually on Tuesday evenings. Upcoming talks include “Forensic Jewelry”, “Brooches, badges and pins at the Victoria and Albert Museum” and “A Box Full of Buttons: The Life and Work of Frederick James Partridge”.
Members only. Annual subcription: £40