Dinh Van (Est. 1965) is the French, Paris headquartered, luxury jewelry brand that bears the surname of its founder, Jean Dinh Van, who was born September 11, 1927 in Boulogne-Billancourt. A French jeweler and craftsman, the Dinh Van line was born out of the desire to break the unspoken codes of jewelry design and creating pieces that can be worn for any occasion.
As a nonconformist brand, Dinh Van chooses to swim against the current. Inspired by small details of everyday life, and instead of the traditional circular shape of rings, Dinh Van launched square designs. Where clasps are usually hidden, the brand transforms them into centerpieces as seen in its Menottes and Serrure collections. Unremarkable daily objects are Dinh Van's inspirations turning a simple keyring into the central motif of its iconic Menottes collection.
Jean Dinh Van’s father was Vietnamese and married a Breton woman who worked as a lacquer artisan. Jean studied drawing at the Arts Décoratifs, then entered Cartier in 1946 where he spent ten years and learned the jewelry craft.
In 1965, Jean Dinh Van opened his own jewelry workshop at Place Gaillon, Paris. His stylistic themes of jewelry almost immediately set him apart from the traditional world of jewelry. With Pierre Cardin, he created the square 2 pearl ring, now on display at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris. In his desire to shake up the traditional codes of French jewelry, Jean Dinh Van chose, in 1967, to market his creations not at a jewelry shop, but at the gift shop Drugstore Publicis1, a noted Parisian business of the time.
Even though the brand is relatively young when compared to more established luxury jewelry brands, its history is no less fascinating. While fine jewelry at the time was ornamental and fussy, Jean created simple yet feminine designs that were cutting edge in style and shape.
Over the years Jean chartered new territory with designs such as his square shaped engagement rings (“the rings are square because the finger is not round,” he said) and chains made up of square (instead of round) links for a more edgy look. In 1967, he created the Bague Deux Perles ring for Pierre Cardin that featured two pearls framed by a gold square. More than fifty years later, the ring retains a modern and contemporary look and appeal.
Current collections feature updated interpretations of these classics along with new designs that are in keeping with the brand’s creative spirit. The previously mentioned Menottes collection, based on a handcuff key ring transforms the handcuffs into clasps for bracelets or used as a design motif for cufflinks or rings. The Pi Chinois collection is based around a 24 carat hammered gold disc and is understated yet luxurious. For men, there is a collection made from black carbon fiber that gives the pieces a cool look. And the Serrure collection boasts unique sliding closures and sleek geometric designs.
Minimalist chic, Dinh Van’s design style has been going strong since the 1960s. For example, Le Diamant Cube places a diamond inside a gold cube for a clean approach to adornment.
The brand’s current collections include Menottes dinh van, Double Coeurs, Le Cube diamant, Pulse dinh van, Seventies, Anthéa, Spirale dinh van, Impression, Mallon, Pi, and Symboles dinh van. The collections are variously comprised of pendants, chain rings, studs, bracelets (including cord types), wedding bands, engagement rings, bridal jewelry, earrings, Le Cube Diamant rings, necklaces, small hoops, watches, cufflinks, plus jewels for men and children.
With a few best-sellers for collections such as the Chinese Pi or the hand-cuff, Dinh Van set its reputation with simple and self-sufficient designs. The brand went on to demystify the exclusivity of a piece of jewelry in mounting silver, gold and diamond pieces on cotton threads the owner could change according to a preferred style.
It wasn’t until 1976 that Jean Dinh Van opened his own boutique at number 7, rue de la Paix. Additional boutiques in New York and Geneva swiftly followed as more and more women discovered these new and stylish jewels that offered something truly different and original.
Unexpected and sometimes controversial motifs based on everyday objects such as razor blades, pins, locks, and handcuffs were transformed in Dinh Van’s imagination into fine jewels which married attitude with craftsmanship and quality. The purely functional suddenly became beautiful, stylish, and desirable as his work gained a cult following.
In 1980, he partnered with the sculptor César to create a gold pendant in the shape of a woman’s breast which he displayed alongside his own jewels as well as the Swatch watches that he began retailing in the early 1980s much to the dismay of his neighboring fine jewelers. In 1984, he was selected as one of the first jewelers to exhibit their work in the newly opened jewelry gallery of the Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette.
As a personal protest against the 1993 change in French law which saw the reversal of the ban on importation and manufacture of 9ct gold, he created a collection of pure gold jewels, Pi Chinois, which were handcrafted in richly hued 24ct gold and hammered to give each piece both strength and a unique textured appearance. As both the new millennium and his eighth decade approached, Dinh Van felt it was time to slow down and he retired, selling his company (along with the rights to his name) in 1998.
Beloved of the French, Dinh Van is something of a local institution with fans building up their collections year after year. By introducing design in jewelry, Jean Dinh Van revolutionized the codes of jewelry and reinvented precious jewels. With its unique styles, his creations bring fresh life to refined and modern jewelry that is a world away from the traditional.