Van Cleef and Arpels is the story of a fateful marriage! In 1895 Estelle Arpels married Alfred Van Cleef. Estelle’s father was a dealer in precious stones and Alfred’s father was a diamond cutter from Amsterdam. Fate or destiny, it appears that these two families were destined to be joined!
In 1896 Alfred and his father in law Salomon Arpels joined names to start Van Cleef & Arpels, in Paris. In 1906, three years after Salomon died, Alfred and two of Estelle’s brothers, Charles and Julien opened the first boutique at 22 Place Vendome, in Paris. In 1912, Estelle’s third brother Louis joined the company.
From the very beginning, Van Cleef and Arpels worked hard to create artfully crafted pieces full of diamonds and precious gemstones. Known for their innovation, it comes to no surprise that in 1933 the company secures a patent known as the Mystery Setting or Serti Mysterieux in French. As the name suggests, stones are set in a way that no prongs are visible, creating suspense as to how these delicate stones are held in place. This intricate process relies on gold rails that are less than two-tenths of a millimeter thick! Most often we see flowers of rubies, sapphires and emeralds, but there have been many other designs, including the infamous ballerinas that later became the symbol of the house. While other jewelers have attempted the mystery setting, none have mastered with the quality work of Van Cleef & Arpels. Their jewelers are some of the most talented, as creating one clip utilizing the mystery setting can take up to 300 hours of work!
Van Cleef & Arpels started by catering towards the elite high society. They certainly achieved this with clientele like the Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1954, the company made a shift, looking to gaining a younger, slightly less affluent customer base. They opened ‘La Boutique’ at their 22 Place Vendome flagship location, in hopes to achieve this goal by selling more affordable pieces of jewelry. Some of the first pieces were whimsical animal clips made of semi-precious stones, hard stones and diamond highlights.
One of the most influential collections to come out of ‘La Boutique’ is that of the Alhambra. These rounded four leaf clover pieces that celebrated its 75thanniversary this year resemble the Moorish quatrefoil design that was seen in the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. These pieces have been made from mother of pearl, malachite, coral, carnelian and even diamonds. The design has expanded to earrings, bracelets, pendants, chains, rings and even watches. A symbol of luck, the Alhambra collection has continued to flourish and grow since its conception, becoming a core part of the Van Cleef & Arpels DNA.
Van Cleef & Arpels
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