Van Cleef & Arpels — a collector’s guide

The history of Van Cleef & Arpels

Alfred Van Cleef (1872-1938), scion of a lineage steeped in the art of diamond craftsmanship, sealed his union with Estelle Arpels, scion of another venerable lineage dealing in precious stones, in 1895. The subsequent year witnessed the convergence of Van Cleef’s prodigious talents with those of his father-in-law, Salomon Arpels, giving rise to the legendary maison of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Upon Salomon’s passing in 1903, Alfred, along with two esteemed brothers-in-law, Charles (1880-1951) and Julien (1884-1964), inaugurated Van Cleef & Arpels in earnest, debuting their boutique in 1906 at none other than the hallowed 22 Place Vendôme, a locale the firm still graces with its presence to this day. The addition of Louis Arpels (1886-1976), the third scion of the Arpels lineage, to the fold in 1912 undoubtedly facilitated their burgeoning expansion, evidenced by the establishment of branches in Nice, Deauville, Vichy, Lyon, and Cannes between 1910 and 1920.

In 1926, the reins of the company’s artistic direction gracefully transitioned into the hands of Alfred’s daughter, Renée Puissant (1897-1942), who, over the ensuing twelve years, collaborated closely with the esteemed designer René-Sim Lacaze, shaping the maison’s aesthetic with unparalleled finesse and ingenuity.

An Art Deco multi-gem desk clock, by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1928. 13.5 x 13.5 x 15 cm. Sold for CHF 1,032,000 on 10 November 2020 at Christie’s in Geneva

In the annals of exquisite craftsmanship, one marvels at the opulent opus of Van Cleef & Arpels, epitomized by an Art Deco multi-gem desk clock, crafted with meticulous precision in 1928. This horological masterpiece, measuring 13.5 x 13.5 x 15 cm, captivated connoisseurs’ hearts and minds, fetching a princely sum of CHF 1,032,000 at Christie’s in Geneva on the illustrious date of 10 November 2020.

Yet, it is not merely in timekeeping marvels that Van Cleef & Arpels distinguished themselves, for in 1930, they bestowed upon the world the ‘minaudière’ – a veritable objet d’art conceived in response to the glamorous soprano Florence Jay Gould (née Florence La Caze). Legend has it that upon encountering Claude Arpels, she unveiled her accoutrements housed within a Lucky Strike cigarette case, igniting Claude’s creative fervor. Thus inspired, he embarked upon the creation of a portable treasure trove, an indispensable companion for the sophisticated woman of the era. Within its elegant confines lay the essentials of a lady’s existence – a comb, lipstick, watch, cigarette holder, lighter, mirror, and compact – a testament to Van Cleef & Arpels’ unwavering commitment to both form and function, elevating the mundane to the sublime with their unparalleled craftsmanship and visionary artistry.

A gold and diamond-set minaudière, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for £20,000 on 7 December 2016  at Christie’s in London

Van Cleef & Arpels reigns supreme, as evidenced by the enchanting tale of a gold and diamond-set minaudière, crafted to perfection by their skilled artisans. This exquisite objet d’art, adorned with the most precious of materials, attained the sumptuous price of £20,000 at Christie’s in London on the distinguished day of 7 December 2016.

Ever the trailblazers of innovation, Van Cleef & Arpels unveiled their pièce de résistance in 1933 – the patented ‘Mystery Set’. A revelation in gem-setting techniques, this ingenious method allows stones to be nestled seamlessly without a hint of prongs disrupting their splendor. Originally conceived to embellish minaudières, the Mystery Set ushered in a new era of adornment, where hues cascaded uninterrupted by the glare of metal, rendering each creation an ethereal vision of elegance and refinement. Thus, Van Cleef & Arpels once again proved their mastery of the craft, weaving together innovation and tradition to forge timeless treasures fit for royalty.

Rare ruby and diamond Mystery Set necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for CHF 387,500 on 10 November 2020 at Christie’s in Geneva

Behold the epitome of magnificence: a rare ruby and diamond Mystery Set necklace, meticulously crafted by the illustrious Van Cleef & Arpels. This extraordinary masterpiece, adorned with the most exquisite rubies and diamonds, attained the astounding price of CHF 387,500 at Christie’s in Geneva on the prestigious day of 10 November 2020.

Amidst the shifting tides of history, Van Cleef & Arpels navigated with finesse, as evidenced by the strategic moves orchestrated by the three sons of Julien Arpels—Charles, Jacques, and Pierre—who joined the fold in 1935. As the sun set on the 1930s, Van Cleef & Arpels cast their gaze across the Atlantic, entrusting much of their enterprise to the bustling shores of the United States. In 1940, a branch was established in Palm Beach, heralding a new era of transatlantic elegance. By 1942, the iconic jeweler had firmly ensconced itself in the heart of New York City, at the esteemed address of 744 Fifth Avenue, where its legacy continues to flourish to this day. Thus, Van Cleef & Arpels transcended borders, crafting a legacy that spans continents and endures through the ages.

Retro sapphire and diamond Ludo Hexagone bracelet, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Old and calibré-cut sapphires, old and single-cut diamonds, gold (French marks), circa 1936. Sold for £50,000 on 27 November 2019 at Christie’s in London

Behold the timeless elegance embodied in the retro sapphire and diamond Ludo Hexagone bracelet, a masterpiece by Van Cleef & Arpels. Crafted with meticulous precision, this bracelet features a harmonious blend of old and calibré-cut sapphires, accentuated by the brilliance of old and single-cut diamonds, all set in a radiant gold frame adorned with French marks. In a dazzling display of opulence, this exquisite piece commanded a princely sum of £50,000 at Christie’s in London on the illustrious day of 27 November 2019.

In the wake of the Second World War, Van Cleef & Arpels emerged as a beacon of resilience and creativity, expanding its horizons to craft jewels fit for royalty, film stars, and esteemed entrepreneurs. Embracing a shift towards a more relaxed style of jewelry, the maison unveiled an accessible range in 1954, renowned for its naturalistic motifs and whimsical themes. While diamonds continued to grace these creations, they played a supporting role, enhancing the allure of each piece with subtle elegance. During the vibrant 1950s, these enchanting jewels captured the hearts of discerning connoisseurs, offering a glimmer of hope and optimism in a world emerging from the shadows of conflict.

Today, the legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels shines brighter than ever, as it continues to captivate the imagination of aficionados worldwide. Owned by the esteemed Richemont Group, the maison stands as a testament to timeless beauty and exquisite craftsmanship, perpetuating a tradition of excellence that transcends generations.

The Mystery Set by Van Cleef & Arpels

Following the meticulous cutting and faceting of each precious stone, this innovative technique entails delicately inserting them into gold rails measuring less than a fifth of a millimeter in thickness. The complexity of this process cannot be overstated, as it demands an extraordinary amount of time and precision craftsmanship. Indeed, for a single piece of average size, the labor-intensive nature of this method may require upwards of 300 hours to complete. Such dedication to detail underscores the unwavering commitment of Van Cleef & Arpels to achieving unparalleled excellence in every facet of their craft.

A pair of sapphire and diamond Mystery Set earrings, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimate £60,000-80,000. Offered in Jewels and Handbags Online The London Edit on 23 June 2021 at Christie’s in London

Originally, the application of this groundbreaking setting was confined to flat surfaces, exemplified by boxes or minaudières. However, as the ‘Mystery Set’ technique progressed, it ventured into the realm of more intricate curved surfaces. Notably, emeralds posed a formidable challenge due to their intricate cutting requirements and the intricacies of color matching, rendering them a rarer sight compared to sapphires or rubies within this innovative setting. The evolution of this technique epitomizes Van Cleef & Arpels’ relentless pursuit of pushing the boundaries of possibility in haute joaillerie.

A Mystery Set ruby, emerald and diamond Deux Fleurs clip brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for £235,250 on 29 November 2011  at Christie’s in London

The acquisition of new cutting techniques in 1990 marked a pivotal moment for Van Cleef & Arpels, allowing the integration of diamonds into their illustrious designs. Simultaneously, hexagonal-cut stones joined the repertoire, adding a geometric elegance to their inventory.

Among their masterpieces, one stands out in its complexity and magnificence: King Farouk’s Rose brooch, conceived in 1938. This opulent creation boasted a staggering array of 814 rubies and 241 emeralds, a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship of Van Cleef & Arpels artisans. While numerous imitations have attempted to replicate this imaginative setting, it is only the pieces crafted by Van Cleef & Arpels that can lay claim to the true essence of the mystery set technique.

The Van Cleef & Arpels Passe-Partout necklace

The inception of the Passe-Partout necklace marked a pioneering moment in the realm of transformative jewelry, emblematic of Van Cleef & Arpels’ innovative spirit. This visionary design, patented in France on 8 August 1938 and in the United States on 20 April 1939, empowers the wearer with unprecedented versatility.

With the Passe-Partout necklace, one can effortlessly adapt their adornment to reflect their mood or complement other cherished jewels. It represents not only a triumph of craftsmanship but also a celebration of individuality and self-expression, epitomizing the timeless elegance synonymous with Van Cleef & Arpels.

A retro gold, ruby, sapphire, coloured sapphire and diamond Passe-Partout suite, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimate £60,000-90,000. Offered in Jewels and Handbags Online The London Edit on 23 June 2021 at Christie’s in London

The allure of the Passe-Partout suite by Van Cleef & Arpels transcends mere adornment, embodying an era of refined sophistication and versatility. Offered with an estimate of £60,000-90,000 at the prestigious Jewels and Handbags Online: The London Edit on 23 June 2021 at Christie’s in London, this suite exemplifies timeless elegance and craftsmanship.

In the 1940s, the Passe-Partout captured the hearts of discerning connoisseurs, including luminaries like actress Paulette Goddard and heiress Doris Duke. Comprising two exquisite flower clips seamlessly attached to a flexible gold snake chain by metal rails, this masterpiece transcends conventional jewelry, effortlessly transforming into a necklace, choker, bracelet, or two brooches.

Each bloom, adorned with blue and yellow sapphires culminating in a radiant ruby or colored sapphire center, evokes a sense of enchantment and grace. Noteworthy is the splendid parure of Passe-Partout jewelry donned by Hélène Arpels at the Prix de Diane in Chantilly in 1939, a testament to its timeless allure.

Furthermore, the evocative portrayal by the esteemed Russian-born artist Serge Ivanoff at the New York Exposition in 1939, featuring the iconic Passe-Partout jewelry, underscores its pivotal role in shaping the epitome of elegance and sophistication in the world of high fashion.

Van Cleef & Arpels Ballerina brooch

The genesis of the iconic Ballerina brooch unfolds against the vibrant backdrop of New York in 1940, where creativity intersected with the world of dance, giving birth to a timeless masterpiece. Inspired by the ethereal grace of ballet, Louis Arpels and his nephew Claude, esteemed patrons and confidants of George Balanchine, co-founder of the esteemed School of American Ballet, envisioned a jewel that would encapsulate the elegance and fluidity of dance.

With meticulous attention to detail and a profound reverence for artistry, the Ballerina brooch emerged as a tribute to the sublime beauty and poise of ballet. Crafted with precision and adorned with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, each brooch evokes the enchanting allure of a prima ballerina, frozen in a moment of graceful movement.

As a testament to its enduring legacy, the Ballerina brooch captivated the imagination of connoisseurs worldwide, transcending the realms of jewelry to become a cherished emblem of artistic expression and refined sophistication. In the grand tradition of Van Cleef & Arpels, this exquisite creation continues to inspire awe and admiration, casting a spell of timeless beauty that resonates with aficionados of dance and haute joaillerie alike.

A diamond, ruby and emerald Ballerina brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $422,500 on 21 October 2009 at Christie’s in New York

Adorned with a mesmerizing array of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, a Ballerina brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels mesmerized collectors with its enchanting allure, fetching a staggering $422,500 at Christie’s in New York on October 21, 2009. This exquisite piece, a testament to the House’s unrivaled craftsmanship, captured the essence of elegance and grace, transcending mere ornamentation to embody the spirit of ballet itself.

The inception of the Ballerina brooches traces back to the skilled hands of John Rubel, known as Jean Rubel, who journeyed to New York in the late 1930s and became the principal manufacturing jeweler for Van Cleef & Arpels until 1943. It was under his meticulous direction that the first Ballerina brooches took shape, each a harmonious symphony of precious gemstones and impeccable design.

In 1941, the mesmerizing ‘Spanish dancer’ emerged, captivating the imagination with its radiant beauty. This marked the beginning of a series of exquisite brooches, including dancers and fairies, each a celebration of movement and artistry. Among these, the Camargo brooch, crafted in 1942 from platinum and adorned with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, stands as a testament to the enduring inspiration drawn from Nicolas Lancret’s timeless portrayal of Marie Camargo dancing in the 18th century.

A multi-gem Ballerina brooch and a pair of earrings, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for CHF 233,000 on 10 November 2015  at Christie’s in Geneva

A mesmerizing ensemble by Van Cleef & Arpels, featuring a multi-gem Ballerina brooch accompanied by a pair of exquisite earrings, captured the imagination of connoisseurs, commanding a remarkable CHF 233,000 at Christie’s in Geneva on November 10, 2015. This captivating display of artistry and elegance, adorned with a kaleidoscope of precious gems, epitomized the timeless allure of ballet and the enduring legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

In the annals of luxury, 1944 witnessed a moment of splendor as Barbara Woolworth Hutton, renowned for her impeccable taste, acquired the ‘Spirit of Beauty’ Dragonfly Fairy brooch. This remarkable creation, embellished with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies, radiated an ethereal charm that befitted its illustrious owner. Additionally, Hutton’s acquisition of a Ballerina brooch in the same year underscored her appreciation for the exquisite craftsmanship and enchanting designs synonymous with Van Cleef & Arpels.

A gold, turquoise, diamond and ruby Ballerina brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $80,500 on 22 April 2010 at Christie’s in New York

A resplendent gold, turquoise, diamond, and ruby Ballerina brooch, crafted by the venerable house of Van Cleef & Arpels, captivated discerning collectors, fetching a remarkable $80,500 at Christie’s in New York on April 22, 2010. This exquisite creation embodies the epitome of grace and poise, celebrating the artistry of ballet with a harmonious blend of precious gemstones and meticulous craftsmanship.

Each Ballerina brooch from Van Cleef & Arpels evokes a captivating narrative through a series of graceful poses, adorned with intricate costumes embellished with rows of rose-cut diamonds, turquoise, rubies, or emeralds. These dynamic creations captivated the elite clientele of New York, heralding a new era of sophistication and refinement in jewelry design, distinct from the pre-war aesthetics.

The Van Cleef & Arpels Zip necklace

The genesis of the legendary ‘Zip’ necklace is steeped in intrigue and elegance, emerging from a tête-à-tête in the late 1930s between Renée Puissant, the visionary artistic director of Van Cleef & Arpels and the illustrious Duchess of Windsor. It was during this captivating conversation that the Duchess, renowned for her impeccable taste and audacious style, proposed the idea of transforming a humble zipper into a jewel of extraordinary beauty.

This seemingly mundane suggestion sparked a creative revolution, inspiring Renée Puissant to conceive a masterpiece that transcended the boundaries of conventional jewelry design. Thus, the ‘Zip’ necklace was born, a symbol of innovation and sophistication that continues to captivate the imagination of connoisseurs and fashion mavens alike.

Iconic ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond Zip necklace and earrings set, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for £464,750 on 28 November 2018 at Christie’s in London

The legacy of the iconic ruby, sapphire, emerald, and diamond Zip necklace and earrings set by Van Cleef & Arpels is etched in the annals of haute joaillerie history. Sold for a princely sum at Christie’s in London, this resplendent creation embodies the epitome of luxury and innovation.

Crafting such a marvel required years of meticulous craftsmanship, as the skilled artisans of Van Cleef & Arpels endeavored to perfect a fully functional zipper embellished with precious metals and gemstones. Finally unveiled in 1951, the Zip necklace swiftly ascended to the zenith of coveted adornments. Yet, owing to the exacting nature of its creation, only a select few were privileged to possess one.

What sets these masterpieces apart is their versatility. The Zip necklaces, comprising a series of diminutive gold cups interlocked by intricate hooks, possess a unique ability to transform. They can be elegantly draped as a necklace, fully opened to reveal their brilliance, or ingeniously closed to form a regal bracelet, with a section removed and replaced by a bracelet clasp.

Fashioned in gold and platinum, bedecked with a symphony of diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, or rubies, these treasures remain unparalleled in their allure. Despite the passage of time, their allure endures, with select pieces gracing luminaries of the silver screen and the red carpet, such as the diamond and sapphire Zip necklace adorning the radiant Margot Robbie at the prestigious 2015 Academy Awards ceremony.

La Boutique collection by Van Cleef & Arpels

In the annals of haute joaillerie, 1954 marked a pivotal moment as Van Cleef & Arpels unfurled the exquisite tapestry of its ‘La Boutique’ collection, beckoning admirers into a realm where luxury met accessibility. Nestled within the hallowed halls of 22 Place Vendôme, this collection heralded a new era of inclusivity, where the opulence synonymous with the maison became attainable to a wider audience.

With ‘La Boutique,’ Van Cleef & Arpels demonstrated a masterful fusion of artistry and pragmatism, offering creations that embodied the essence of sophistication without compromising on craftsmanship or quality. Each jewel bore the hallmark of the maison’s illustrious heritage, infused with a modern allure that spoke to the discerning tastes of the era.

From delicate bracelets to resplendent earrings, the ‘La Boutique’ collection curated an ensemble of treasures that catered to every facet of the wearer’s personality. Whether adorning oneself for a soirée at the opera or a leisurely stroll along the Seine, these jewels exuded an effortless elegance that transcended time and occasion.

As patrons crossed the threshold of Van Cleef & Arpels’ storied boutique, they were greeted not only by the shimmering radiance of gemstones but also by the promise of a new chapter in the maison’s illustrious narrative. With each piece, ‘La Boutique’ invited individuals to partake in the timeless allure of Van Cleef & Arpels, weaving their own stories into the rich tapestry of its legacy.

Diamond, turquoise and ruby Turtle brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold $13,750 for on 6 December 2018, Online

In a whimsical ode to nature’s enchantment, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced the delightful Turtle brooch, a testament to the maison’s penchant for infusing high jewelry with lighthearted charm. Crafted with meticulous artistry, this exquisite creation emerged as a playful embodiment of the maison’s dedication to whimsy and elegance.

Embracing the allure of semi-precious stones and gilded accents, the Turtle brooch captivated admirers with its naturalistic form and intricate detailing. Each turquoise and ruby gemstone, carefully chosen for its vibrancy and allure, danced in harmony with the shimmering embrace of diamonds, creating a symphony of light and color that mesmerized all who beheld it.

As patrons bid adieu to the ordinary and embraced the whimsical allure of the Turtle brooch, they embarked on a journey into a realm where joy and elegance intertwined seamlessly. From gala soirées to leisurely strolls through sun-dappled gardens, this enchanting creation served as a radiant companion, sparking conversation and enchanting hearts with its effervescent charm.

In the tapestry of Van Cleef & Arpels’ legacy, the Turtle brooch emerged as a radiant testament to the maison’s commitment to crafting jewels that not only dazzle the eye but also warm the soul. With each delicate stroke of the artisan’s hand, a new chapter in the story of haute joaillerie unfolded, inviting patrons to immerse themselves in a world where beauty knows no bounds.

A multi-gem clip brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for HK$250,000 on 26 May 2009 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

In the illustrious realm of haute joaillerie, Van Cleef & Arpels captivated connoisseurs once more with the enchanting allure of a multi-gem clip brooch, a testament to the maison’s enduring legacy of elegance and sophistication. Sold amidst the opulent ambiance of Christie’s in Hong Kong, this exquisite creation beckoned admirers into a world where beauty knew no bounds.

Crafted with meticulous artistry, the multi-gem clip brooch emerged as a radiant embodiment of nature’s splendor, taking the form of birds, lions, cats, squirrels, and other beloved creatures. Each gemstone, carefully selected for its vibrancy and allure, danced in harmonious symphony, capturing the essence of Van Cleef & Arpels’ distinctive style.

With luminous coral, ethereal aquamarine, iridescent mother-of-pearl, and serene chalcedony, the collection boasted a diverse array of materials, each lending its unique charm to the exquisite creations. From the graceful flutter of wings to the regal bearing of majestic beasts, every jewel bore the unmistakable mark of Van Cleef & Arpels’ unparalleled craftsmanship.

Embraced by luminaries such as Jackie Onassis and Grace Kelly, these enchanting creations transcended mere adornment, becoming cherished companions on the journey of life. As they graced the lapels and collars of discerning patrons, they whispered tales of elegance and grace, weaving dreams of beauty and splendor with every gleaming facet.

In the tapestry of haute joaillerie, Van Cleef & Arpels’ multi-gem clip brooch shone as a radiant jewel, a timeless testament to the maison’s commitment to excellence and innovation. With each delicate stroke of the artisan’s hand, a new chapter in the story of beauty unfolded, inviting patrons to embrace the magic of Van Cleef & Arpels’ extraordinary creations.

Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra jewellery

1968 marked a momentous occasion as Van Cleef & Arpels unveiled their iconic four-leaf clover design, a symbol of enduring elegance and timeless sophistication. Fifty years hence, this emblematic motif continues to captivate the hearts of aficionados, a testament to the maison’s unparalleled legacy of artistry and innovation.

Inspired by the intricate quatrefoil patterns adorning the Moorish tiles of the illustrious Alhambra Palace in Granada, the four-leaf clover design embodies a harmonious fusion of cultural heritage and artistic ingenuity. Each delicate petal, meticulously crafted with precision and finesse, pays homage to the rich tapestry of history, evoking a sense of timeless beauty and grace.

Yet, beyond its aesthetic allure, the four-leaf clover holds a deeper significance as a harbinger of good fortune and prosperity. Rooted in tradition and folklore, this cherished emblem harkens back to the Touch Wood rings introduced by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1924, symbolizing a timeless belief in the power of luck and destiny.

As it graces the wrists, necks, and ears of discerning patrons, the four-leaf clover design weaves a tapestry of dreams and aspirations, infusing each moment with a touch of magic and serendipity. Whether worn as a statement of style or as a talisman of hope, it remains a beacon of light in a world of ever-changing fortunes.

In the grand tableau of Van Cleef & Arpels’ illustrious legacy, the four-leaf clover design stands as a testament to the enduring power of beauty and belief. With every shimmering facet and delicate contour, it beckons admirers to embrace the enchantment of possibility, forever entwined with the timeless allure of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Group of turquoise Alhambra jewellery, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $47,500 on 5 December 2018 at Christie’s in New York

The allure of the Alhambra collection by Van Cleef & Arpels transcends mere adornment, encapsulating a timeless elegance that resonates with discerning connoisseurs of haute joaillerie. Crafted with an exquisite finesse and imbued with a sense of understated luxury, these pieces evoke a sense of refined sophistication that captivates the imagination.

From the verdant depths of turquoise to the enchanting allure of malachite, each gemstone in the Alhambra collection tells a story of timeless beauty and effortless grace. Inspired by the intricate motifs of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, these jewels exude a sense of timeless allure, weaving a tapestry of dreams and aspirations with every shimmering facet.

Princess Grace of Monaco, an icon of timeless elegance and grace, was among the illustrious patrons who embraced the allure of the Alhambra range. Her affinity for the collection, particularly her penchant for a necklace adorned with the verdant hues of malachite, speaks to the enduring appeal and timeless beauty of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations.

From the gilded halls of royalty to the glittering lights of Hollywood, the Alhambra collection has captured the hearts of luminaries and tastemakers alike, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of haute joaillerie. With each exquisite piece, it invites admirers to embark on a journey of timeless elegance and refined sophistication, forever entwined with the legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Mother-of-pearl and onyx Magic Alhambra long chain necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $22,500 on 5 December 2018 at Christie’s in New York

The resplendent charm of the Magic Alhambra long chain necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels continues to enrapture aficionados of exquisite craftsmanship and timeless elegance, standing as a testament to the enduring allure of impeccable design.

Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, this captivating creation intertwines the ethereal beauty of mother-of-pearl with the sleek sophistication of onyx, resulting in a mesmerizing composition that exudes understated luxury and refined grace. Each delicate link of the chain necklace bears the hallmark of Van Cleef & Arpels’ unparalleled artistry, offering a harmonious fusion of tradition and innovation.

As it graces the décolletage of its wearer, the Magic Alhambra necklace evokes a sense of timeless allure and effortless sophistication, transcending fleeting trends to emerge as a symbol of enduring style and refinement. Its enduring popularity, spanning five decades and counting, serves as a poignant reminder that true elegance knows no bounds of time or season, remaining eternally relevant in a world of ever-changing fashions.

In a realm where trends come and go, the Magic Alhambra necklace stands as an everlasting testament to the timeless appeal of impeccable design, reaffirming Van Cleef & Arpels’ legacy as purveyors of timeless beauty and unparalleled craftsmanship.

Worn by film stars, heiresses and royalty

Since its inception, Van Cleef & Arpels has enjoyed an illustrious association with the crème de la crème of society, counting among its clientele the most esteemed luminaries of the silver screen and royalty alike. From the captivating allure of Gloria Swanson to the enigmatic charm of Greta Garbo, film stars have long graced the Maison’s threshold, drawn by the irresistible allure of its unparalleled craftsmanship and timeless elegance.

In a dazzling display of artistry and opulence, Van Cleef & Arpels unveiled the breathtaking ruby and diamond Jarretière bracelet in 1938, a masterpiece of unparalleled magnificence created exclusively for the legendary Marlene Dietrich. Radiating with the fiery brilliance of meticulously selected rubies and diamonds, this spectacular creation epitomized the Maison’s commitment to crafting jewels of unparalleled splendor and sophistication, capturing the essence of Dietrich’s incomparable allure and charisma.

Meanwhile, the Art Deco emerald and diamond necklace commissioned by Princess Faiza of Egypt in 1929 stands as a testament to Van Cleef & Arpels’ enduring legacy of excellence and refinement. With its exquisite blend of geometric elegance and captivating gemstones, this extraordinary piece exemplifies the Maison’s ability to transform precious materials into works of art that transcend time and convention. When it graced the auction block at Christie’s in 2013, fetching a staggering $4 million, it found its way back into the loving embrace of Van Cleef & Arpels, joining its esteemed collection as a cherished symbol of heritage and prestige.

From the glimmering lights of Hollywood to the regal courts of royalty, Van Cleef & Arpels has left an indelible mark on the world of haute joaillerie, captivating hearts and minds with its unrivaled beauty and craftsmanship. With each masterpiece crafted by its skilled artisans, the Maison continues to weave the timeless tale of luxury and glamour that has captivated generations, solidifying its place as an enduring icon of elegance and refinement.

An Art Deco emerald and diamond necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for CHF 3,861,000 on 12 November 2013  at Christie’s in Geneva

Among the illustrious roster of Van Cleef & Arpels’ esteemed clientele, few names shine as brightly as that of the incomparable Duchess of Windsor, born Bessie Wallis Warfield. Renowned for her impeccable taste and undeniable style, she graced the Maison’s halls with her presence, leaving an indelible mark on its storied history.

In a gesture of timeless romance and unparalleled elegance, the Duke of Windsor bestowed upon his beloved future wife a bracelet of faceted rubies and diamonds in March 1936, a testament to their enduring love and devotion. As their relationship blossomed, so too did their affinity for Van Cleef & Arpels’ exquisite creations, with further acquisitions made in the following year, both before and after their fabled union on June 3, 1937, at the picturesque Château de Candé in France.

Each jewel acquired by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor bore witness to a love story steeped in romance and sophistication, reflecting the Maison’s unparalleled craftsmanship and the couple’s discerning taste. From the gleaming facets of rubies to the scintillating brilliance of diamonds, these exquisite treasures encapsulated the essence of their timeless romance, serving as enduring symbols of their boundless affection and the enduring legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels’ unparalleled artistry.

A historic Mystery Set sapphire, coloured diamond and diamond Argentine flag brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $992,500 on 6 April 1998 at Christie’s in New York

The auctioning of Eva Perón’s iconic Argentine Flag brooch in 1998 marked a moment of unprecedented allure and prestige, underscoring the indomitable fusion of fame and unparalleled craftsmanship synonymous with Van Cleef & Arpels.

Commissioned from the esteemed Maison in the late 1940s, this historic Mystery Set masterpiece transcended its status as a mere accessory, embodying the very essence of Eva Perón’s magnetic persona and unwavering commitment to her beloved Argentina. Crafted with meticulous precision and adorned with an exquisite array of sapphires, coloured diamonds, and diamonds, the brooch stood as a testament to the Maison’s unrivaled artistry and Eva Perón’s enduring legacy.

As the gavel fell at Christie’s auction house, an electrifying atmosphere enveloped the room, culminating in a riveting bidding battle that spanned over ten minutes. With an initial estimate of $80,000-120,000, the brooch commanded a staggering final price of $992,500, shattering all expectations and reaffirming its status as a priceless relic of history and a beacon of Van Cleef & Arpels’ unparalleled legacy.

A coral, amethyst and diamond Lamartine bracelet, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $782,500 on 13 December 2011  at Christie’s in New York

The auctioning of the coral, amethyst, and diamond Lamartine bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels in 2011 at Christie’s in New York marked a moment of profound appreciation for the Maison’s exquisite craftsmanship and timeless elegance.

This mesmerizing piece, adorned with a harmonious blend of coral, amethyst, and diamonds, exuded an aura of refined sophistication and opulence. Its intricate design, reminiscent of a bygone era, captured the imagination of discerning collectors and connoisseurs alike.

As the bidding ensued, anticipation filled the air, and it soon became evident that this bracelet held a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts. With each increment, its value soared, ultimately fetching a remarkable sum of $782,500—a testament to its enduring allure and the enduring legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels in the realm of haute joaillerie.

A ruby and diamond ring, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for $4,226,500 on 13 December 2011  at Christie’s in New York

The sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s illustrious collection of jewels at Christie’s in New York in December 2011 was a momentous occasion in the world of haute joaillerie, showcasing the enduring allure of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Among the treasures gracing the auction block were 22 exquisite pieces crafted by the Maison, each bearing the unmistakable mark of Van Cleef & Arpels’ timeless elegance and impeccable artistry. Among these distinguished pieces were the Lamartine bracelet and the Puertas ruby, both bestowed upon Elizabeth Taylor by her beloved Richard Burton.

The Puertas ruby, a symbol of their enduring love, captivated bidders with its exquisite beauty and romantic significance. Presented as a Christmas gift in 1968, this exceptional ring, adorned with a resplendent ruby and diamonds, fetched an astounding $4,226,500, attesting to its status as a cherished artifact of Hollywood glamour and timeless sophistication.

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