We all know of the famous quote “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. If you are a woman who loves her diamonds, you will hold the name Van Cleef close to your heart. You can’t help but be awestruck by the elegant flora and fauna motifs of the exquisitely crafted jewellery by Van Cleef. The inspiration behind these magnificent designs is the radiant energy of love. It was love that animated this grandeur French house.
The story of Van Cleef and Arpels began with the love story of Estelle Arpels – the daughter of a merchant in exquisite stones and Alfred Van Cleef, a stone cutter’s son. The lovers shared a passion for precious stones and desired to create something that is everlasting. This led to the founding of Van Cleef & Arpels, which was set up by Alfred and Estelle’s brother Charles Arpels in 1906. The house left a strong imprint the history of jewellery and has evolved into one of the most commended houses of women’s jewellery, women’s watches and women’s perfumes.
The history of this house can be regarded through these unique innovations and the brand’s milestones.
22 Place Vendôme
The first boutique of the house was inaugurated on June 16, 1906, at 22 Place Vendôme located right opposite to the Ritz, France. Hotel Ritz was an attraction to Russian and European aristocrats as well as American industrialists and business magnets. This made the location ideal for the house to function and thrive in. As a result, Vendôme was deemed the benchmark for international luxury and elegance.
This is an exquisite innovation by the mansion which involved the technique of setting gems and stones without any prongs visible. This ‘Mystery setting’ by Van Cleef and Arpels was patented in 1933. It takes approximately 300 hours or more to produce a single piece using this technique, bestowing great value to each of these exquisite Van Cleef jewellery pieces.
744 Fifth Avenue, New York
This venue saw the creation of the most prominent and spectacular pieces of the house by merging old world skills with new world tastes. This era proved to be a profitable one for the house. The present boutique of the house remains on this very ground which was initially inaugurated in the year 1942.
“La Boutique” was opened in 1954 displaying a line of jewellery crafted with a touch of youth and playful tones. The social elites including Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy Onassis were drawn to these pieces. In 1956, the house was named “Official Supplier to the Principality of Monaco”. This came into being when princess Grace Kelly chose to walk into the store to purchase the three-stranded pearl necklace which later, became a favourite to her.
The house’s signature necklace was designed in 1956 incorporating the iconic Alhambra motif. This creation symbolizing harmony is considered as a token of luck.
Ballerina and fairy clips
Louis Arpel, the youngest of the Arpel brothers sported ardent passion for the world of dance. His passion inspired the creation of the iconic ballerina clips in the early 1940s. The pieces were designed in a variety of dance poses, boasting lustrous diamonds and highlighted with hues of the rubies and emeralds. The famous 1941 Danseuse Espagnole clip is one of the earliest models.
It also witnessed the creation of the Fairy clips inspired by the cartoons of that time. The “Dragonfly” brooch was one of the first models which became an immediate success. Sharon Stone and Barbara Hutton were among the famed celebrities to flaunt the “Dragonfly” brooch.
These clips were an instant success among the glamorous American society who viewed them as representations of joy and hope during World War II.
The zip necklace is one of the most iconic pieces among the cherished Van Cleef necklaces. the Duchess of Windsor endorsed its beauty. It was the Duchess’ idea to create a piece based on the zip fastener. This was realized and created by Renée Puissant – daughter of Alfred Van Cleef and the creative director of the house. This technical feat materialized in 1950 which soon stood up to a high-status.
Till date, the house continues to craft graceful and refined pieces and stands witness to several enchanting love stories. It remains an iconic brand and goes on stunning the fashion world with its creations.