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Spotlight on…Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels are globally renowned designer makers of the most exquisite, imaginative timepieces and jewellery.

Van Cleef Mystery Set necklaceThe jewellery house was founded following the marriage of Alfred van Cleef and Estelle Arpels.  Alfred was the son of a gemstone cutter and Estelle the daughter of a dealer in precious gems.

In 1906, Alfred joined forces with Estelle’s brother, Charles and established a boutique in Paris’ Place Vendôme.  In 1908 Estelle’s brother Julien joined the business, followed four years later by her third brother, Louis.

Their Maison soon became renowned for out of the ordinary, even positively extraordinary, jewellery and the Parisian go-to goldsmith for very special bespoke pieces, including the dazzling Varuna Boat. Made of ebony, green and white enamel, rubies, gold and jasper – and equipped with an electrical contact for a butler’s bell – this was a very fancy way to summon your staff!



Van Cleef & Arpels Dragon-Clip-1969The 1920’s

During the 1920’s the Maison Van Cleef & Arpels responded to the growing desire for orient-inspired jewellery and jewelled work.  Working with coral, jade, lacquer, mother-of-pearl and precious gems in every shades, they created simply stunning pieces that are as relevant today as they were then – true beauty never fades and style never dies.

1922 the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, made by Howard Carter, who was sponsored by Lord Carnarvon, inspired a Western trend for Egyptian-themed art, furnishing and of course, jewellery. The Van Cleef & Arpels collections were jaw-droppingly beautiful; decorated with Egyptian scenes and hieroglyphic motifs depicting scarabs, sphinxes, bulls, ostrich feathers, lotus flowers and bees and set with precious buff-top emeralds, sapphires, rubies, pavé diamonds and onyx.  The goldsmiths plunged themselves into the creation of pieces that reflected the lifestyle of Ancient Egypt’s long-dead kings and queens and in their turn inspired a generation of designers.


VC MysteryThe 1930’s

In 1933 Van Cleef & Arpels patented a unique and game-changing technique, known as Mystery Set.  This technique requires the setting of gemstones stones in such a way that no prongs are visible.  The technique is so involved and delicate that it is incredibly time-consuming; each gemstone is precisely inserted onto thin gold or platinum rails that are less than two-tenths of a millimetre thick.  Once complete, the gems appear to be entirely free-standing. Because of the complexity of the process, Mystery Set pieces are extremely rare: in fact, the jewellery house produces no more than a couple each year.


VC ballet



The 1940’s

The 1940’s were dark times for the Maison’s Paris store, with the city in the possession of the German army for several years.  During this time, the US division continued to create dazzling pieces that defied the darkness of Europe.  The New York store released the Ballerina and Fairy collection, a series of pieces that caught the imagination of their wealthy clientele and were claimed as symbols of hope and light during the dark days of WW2.


Princess Grace in Van Cleef Pearls wedding setThe 1950’s

1956 saw the most glamorous wedding of the decade, the result of a fairytake romance between Prince Ranier of Monaco and the American actress Grace Kelly.  The fairytale couple chose a Van Cleef & Arpels wedding set of pearls and diamonds, consisting of a five strand necklace with matching bracelet, earrings and ring.  This was the start of a life-long love affair between Princess Grace and the jewellery house, as she built an enviable collection of unique pieces.

The following decades cemented Van Cleef & Arpels’ reputation as creators of the finest and most imaginative jewellery and supplier to the world’s most wealthy, glamorous and, let’s face it, luckiest, lovers of jewellery.  Their regular High Jewellery collection launches reveal breathtaking designs inspired by a wide range of themes, which then go on to inspire jewellery designers and makers across the globe.

We salute you Van Cleef & Arpels and thank you for bringing such beauty into the world.