A short distance from the pavé stones of Place Vendôme in Paris, the Hôtel d'Evreux played host to an intimate gathering of some of your more unexpected visitors — complete with a pair of elegant elephants and a gangly giraffe or two.

No, the circus wasn't in town, but the big tent would certainly have been envious of the amount of forest friends parading two by two at the launch of Van Cleef & Arpels' latest high jewellery collection, and at its accompanying exhibit designed by American set designer Robert Wilson, L'Arche de Noé racontée par Van Cleef & Arpels (or Noah's Ark told by Van Cleef & Arpels).

Van Cleef & Arpels L'Arche de Noé exhibition

Inspired by the story of Noah's Ark, the craftsmen at the French jewellery house have brought back the brooch in a frenzy of colour and ornate animal shapes — an already classic theme at the iconic Maison — for a collection full of light and three unique guardians.

Easily the most special pieces within the collection exhibit, standing stoic and all alone in their individual cases, were our dreams come true: an enchanting unicorn decked horn to tail in emeralds, sapphires and turquoise; a transcendent phoenix emblazoned with rubies and golden mother-of-pearl; and the winged horse Pegasus flaunting a coat of diamonds, violet sapphires, coral and rubies.

Van Cleef & Arpels L'Arche de Noé exhibition

While each of these glistening creations could easily stand on their own as a showstopper worthy of even the late Elizabeth Taylor, this wouldn't have been a Noah's Ark inspired collection without the couples (after all, how else could we expect to repopulate the Earth with adorable miniature diamond penguins?).

Vibrant, multi-coloured toucans appeared in a rainbow of sapphires, garnets and spinels, while a delicate pair of ladybugs perched softly on a diamond branch in pink and violet sapphires, black spinels and gorgeous baguette-cut and rose-cut diamonds. And, of course, our amorous penguins: a tender face à face of black onyx, diamonds and two-toned coral cabochons against a setting of white and pink gold.

Sixty in all, these figurine brooches brought the animal kingdom to life in a spectacle of fantastical fauna, plucked subtly from the bustling jungles and the complacent countryside for a one-of-a-kind showcase.

The L'Arche de Noé exhibit is open to the public from 12pm to 8pm through 26 September 2016 at Hôtel d'Evreux, 19 Place Vendôme, Paris, France 75001.