Imagine a magical prairie teeming with life: butterflies, dragonflies, flowers and birds. Then, think of all these beautiful creatures – both real and imaginary – actually made of diamonds and precious stones, seamlessly set in gold and platinum. Now, add over 110 years of history, exquisite craftsmanship, and the love story between Alfred Van Cleef and Estelle Arpels as the backdrop. The world of Van Cleef & Arpels gradually comes to life in your mind.
Talking about Van Cleef & Arpels means in first place understanding their enduring relationship with nature. That’s “Nature” with a capital “N” because, for decades, it has been the source of inspiration for the brand's jewellery and watches. Some of Van Cleef & Arpels’ most recognisable collections are inspired by flora and fauna: Flowerlace, Voyages Extraordinaires, Fleurette, Snowflake and so on. With creative designs and innovative techniques, such as the mystery setting created in 1933, Van Cleef & Arpels' craftsmen bring nature to life in their workshops, one precious stone at a time. Every collection has instantly recognizable designs that not only translate into stunning jewellery pieces, but that continue to evolve and develop over the years.
For example, in the Flowerlace collection, an organic silhouette expresses the delicacy of wild blossoms, while Snowflake jewellery pieces suggest the structure of icy crystals. The vitality of dragonflies and butterflies is translated into fluid lines that represent the lightness of motion...
The butterfly, in particular, has been a major inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels for decades. The butterfly itself has long been the symbol of beauty for many cultures. The high jewellery collection named Papillons is really the essence of Van Cleef & Arpels’ world. Exquisite craftsmanship brings the butterfly’s energy and fragility to life. Selecting, measuring, cutting and chiselling every stone during gem-setting, matching each curve and motif, and using the appropriate colour combinations, are techniques that are pivotal in capturing the butterfly’s immortal beauty in a jewellery piece.
A few highlights from the collection include the Fée clip with the maison’s iconic fairy design, the Vanessa clip with an Art Deco-inspired silhouette, the Kallima ring with mystery-setting rubies and diamonds, and the Aliris earrings with an asymmetrical design. Diamond, turquoise, sapphire, lapis lazuli, black spinel, mandarin garnet, mauve and pink sapphire are impeccably set in white gold.
Another iconic collection is Alhambra, which was launched in the Sixties. The distinctive motif with a rim of gold pearls resembles a four-leaf clover, or one could think of it as an abstract flower shape. Since its creation, Alhambra has become an icon among contemporary jewellery designs, and its various styles have become truly collectible items.
This year, Van Cleef & Arpels have launched Magic Alhambra Pavé, which features pavé diamonds and white gold. In the collection, eight jewellery pieces develop the motif in four different sizes, which represent luck, health, wealth and true love. Van Cleef & Arpels' jewellers have designed a unique pavé in which the gold is actually hidden from view by the diamonds. The honeycomb openwork allows light to strike the round diamonds from all directions, giving the jewellery piece an exceptional brilliance.
Such innovative techniques are proof that Van Cleef & Arpels is a maison that stays ahead of its times. Drawing further inspiration from the 1968 Alhambra collection, and more specifically its signature beaded contour (or "pearled" edge), Van Cleef & Arpels have developed this motif into the Perlée collection. Young and modern, Perlée in a way expresses the radical changes that were occurring in society in 1968. It comprises a set of white and pink gold jewellery pieces that can be worn alone or in combination with each other. Hoop earrings, rings and bangles come in many styles with different bead dimensions, engravings, and the exclusive pavé. The combinations are endless, so Perlée can be worn anywhere, any season.
Besides great designs and craftsmanship, timelessness is what truly sets Van Cleef & Arpels apart from other contemporary jewellers and watchmakers. It is lovely to think that it all started when the daughter of a precious stones dealer fell in love with a stone cutter, towards the end of the 19th century. It was the start of a new era. In Paris, excitement, innovation and hope were in the air. Estelle’s and Alfred’s youthful enthusiasm, their passion for the art of jewellery-making, and their pioneering spirit led to the registration of the “Van Cleef & Arpels” brand and the launch of their business on Place Vendome 22 in Paris. For them, it was a dream come true. For jewellery enthusiasts today, it’s just the start of another dazzling story.