Friday, April 17, 2009


While reading up on French jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels, I felt a distinct sense of romance and enchantment. It is not that the other designers I have discussed don't possess those qualities, there's just something about the allure of France. The origin of the longstanding company brought to mind a type of fairytale.

In 1896, the daughter of a precious stones merchant, Estelle Arpels, married the son of a sheet merchant, Alfred Van Cleef.  The Van Cleef family lived in Paris' 19th arrondissement (administrative district).
By the time Alfred and Esther married Estelle's father, Salomon Arpels, had already built their jewelry company. They later registered the Van Cleef & Arpels trademark in 1906 and opened a boutique.

In 1926, budding designer Renee Puissant (daughter of Alfred and Estelle), collaborated with designer Rene Sim Lacaze and began a 20 year wave of innovative, unusual designs.

After the deaths of Alfred and Estelle, Estelle's brothers carried on the company and emigrated from France to the United States. By 1939, the Arpels brothers had opened a boutique in New York's Rockefeller Center making Van Cleef & Arpels among the first European luxury firms in the United States.

The brand’s signature, fanciful design style is influenced largely by the mystical beauty of nature and in 1940 the company launched The Snowflake Collection. After the mid-seventies, the luxury brand would launch one of its most iconic collections The Alhambra Collection featuring their signature four-leaf clover design. Other incredible collections include, Dragonflies & Butterflies, Hawaii and Midsummer Night's Dream.

Like the House of Harry Winston, the Van Cleef & Arpels brand is famous for an innovative gemstone setting, the Mystery Setting. The Mystery Setting is a stone setting procedure that produces virtually invisible claws; an invention that highlights the unique beauty of such gemstones as aquamarine and mother-of-pearl. Over the years, the procedure has been further develop and refined.

Queen Nazli and King Farouk of Egypt, Princess Grace of Monaco, Jacqueline Kennedy and a slew of Hollywood celebrities, have worn Van Cleef & Arpels' designs. The collections are just stunning. The detail is stunning. The artistry is stunning.

For more on the Van Cleef & Arpels brand, check out's interview with the company's President and CEO, Emmanuel Perrin.

For more affordable interpretations on classic designer jewelry, check out
Photo: Nereide clip from Kingdom of Neptune Collection
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