Jewels was not a concept that was developed overnight.
Balanchine put Le Palais de Cristal (later renamed Symphony in C) on the stage in 1947, planting the seed for Jewels twenty years later. Le Palais featured four movements: rubies, black diamonds, emeralds, and pearls, and is set to Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C, for which the ballet was later renamed. The ballet was performed by the Royal Opera Ballet, where Balanchine was a guest choreographer, as is said to have been developed in a mere two weeks.
Some twenty years later, inspiration struck yet again. After a visit to Van Cleef and Arpels in Paris, Balanchine saw a connection between the countries he loved, their involvement in the ballet world, and the jewel displays he saw before him.
He would go on to develop Emeralds for France, with its deep historical connection to ballet and classic, romantic culture displayed beautifully in the opening. Rubies was an homage to New York City, the city that represents The United States as a whole: flashy, bold, intense, and modern. Finally, Diamonds, meant as a look back for Balanchine at his youth in St. Petersburg, the mecca for all ballet dancers: sharp, somber, technically impeccable. Each costume portrayed each of these elements, perfectly chosen to correspond the place of heritage with their respective jewel.
The name for the ballet is credited to Clive Barnes, a critic who praised the ballet after its debut in the April 17, 1967 issue of The New York Times, referring to it as “The Jewels” multiple times throughout his piece, even stating that there was, “…no title on the program, but it has to be called something”.