Paul Paradis: A Life Immersed in Beauty and History

Paul Paradis: A Life Immersed in Beauty and History
“Jewelry reflects everything.” So proclaims Paris-based independent art and jewelry historian Paul Paradis. “Jewelry is transversal” – interdisciplinary – and is “linked to fashion, to culture, to power – to whatever the values and beliefs of that culture are.” And if you have even a passing interest in aesthetics, history, culture, and politics, you might be surprised to find how they can all be combined in a single piece of jewelry. Paul has the privilege of indulging his keen interest in jewelry and art as, among other things, an external professor for the past six years at L’École des Arts Joailliers – The School of Jewelry Arts – supported by the renowned luxury jewelry company Van Cleef & Arpels, whose clients included Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, the Duchess of Windsor, and Farah Pahlavi, for whom it created the Empress Crown, which, with its thirty-six emeralds, the largest of which is ninety-two carats, 105 pearls, thirty-four rubies, two spinels, and 1,469 diamonds, merits its own Wikipedia entry. The crown was worn at the coronation of her husband, Mohammad Reza Shah, in Iran in 1967, during which she was crowned empress. Empress Crown, designed by Van Cleef & Arpels. Photo credit: National Jewelry Museum of Iran/ Facebook Paul came upon his expertise in art and jewelry in the circuitous way that life sometimes unfolds. Growing up as the youngest of eight kids in 1970s California, he didn’t hear a lot of talk about things foreign. Those matters were mostly within the purview of diplomats and those whose expertise was international relations. But the outside world has a way of beckoning to some children, as it did to Paul. From an early age, he was already familiar with the French language; his grandmother was an immigrant from France and he often heard French spoken at home, especially when his mother was angry and shouted at the kids in French, which, I’m thinking, with eight kids, might have provided plenty of French language exposure. Paul Paradis teaching at L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts, Paris. Photo credit: L’École Van Cleef & Arpels Paul studied French in junior high school, and he later grabbed the opportunity to spend a junior year term in France, where he was assigned the hardship post of Cannes. Living abroad only whetted Paul’s interest in things international. He had “always wanted to know about other countries,” and he channeled that interest into majoring in international relations (and in music), in undergraduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and into getting a master’s degree in European Studies and International Economics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), one of the elite U.S. institutions with programs in that area and whose famous alumni include CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Lead photo credit : Discover the gemstones at L'ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts. Photo credit: L’École Van Cleef & Arpels

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Diane Stamm occasionally writes from Paris.