Van Cleef & Arpels is a famous French High Jewellery House; its origins in 1896 lay in the hands of Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law, Salomon Arpels.
Van Cleef & Arpels was born of a love story. At the dawn of the 20th century, the union of Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef brought together beauty and charm, talent and elegance, and a dynasty of jewellers began. In 1906, Alfred Van Cleef joined forces with his brothers-in-law Charles and Julien Arpels to establish Van Cleef & Arpels at 22 Place Vendôme in Paris, which has been the company’s home for a century; the success was instant and international expansion began in the 1930s.In 1942, the founders opened their boutique in New York, on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, the first of six now in North America. Today there are more than 45 boutiques all over the world, in Europe, USA, Middle East, Japan and South East Asia.
Certain key themes are a timeless inspiration to Van Cleef & Arpels, among these;
- The use of only the most exceptional gems. From the very beginning Van Cleef & Arpels has insisted on selecting only the most beautiful gems for their creations.
- Extreme attention to craftsmanship and quality. One of the defining characteristics of the brand is the continuing presence and importance of its Place Vendôme Atelier, situated in the original building and one of the last of its kind.
- Nature as a major source of inspiration. Jewels seem to be in movement as if suspended in time. Van Cleef & Arpels jewels often seem to be carried by the wind, butterflies and dragonflies are constantly in flight, flowers are blossoming, ice crystals at their most beautiful, just about to melt… The House strives to capture the cyclical movements of nature at its most fleeting moments - when Nature`s vital force and its intense fragility bloom simultaneously.
- The world of Couture; like kindred spirits, haute couture and high jewellery unite in a world of exceptional craftsmanship characterized by unique artistry and demanding standards. Van Cleef & Arpels celebrated this union with its Couture Collection in 2005: where fabric becomes jewellery and jewellery becomes fabric. The renowned ornaments and accessories of high fashion are transformed into rare objects such as shimmering gold lace, tassels in precious stones, detailed embroideries, ribbons and knots covered in rubies, magical zippers, and buttons for the Boutonnière collection.
- Technical innovation to serve the art of jewels. Remarkable technical innovation has always been the Van Cleef & Arpels hallmark, such as the Mystery Setting, patented in 1933, in which the world’s most perfectly cut gems are enhanced by magically invisible settings. In the Pivoine and Rose clips, for example, rubies and emeralds become the curves and whirls of resplendent blossoms.
- Symbols of luck and happiness. Alhambra’s iconic four-leaf clover as a charming talisman of good luck, butterflies flitting here and there without a care in the world, sumptuous roses that have no thorns , a fresh and tender green as a corporate colour : these are some of the symbols of the House that convey its core values that are grace and charm .
- Constant creativity. Van Cleef & Arpels’ creativity makes its mark in every new Collection, driven by the conviction that continuity is above all a question of being true to one’s heritage and most profound values:
A number of signature creations have marked Van Cleef & Arpels’ history, like the Cadenas watch, designed in 1935 and reissued since 2000 with varied straps and fasteners, or the Minaudière, a precious little box with secret compartments that served as an evening bag in the 1930s, or the Passe-Partout, born in 1938, that can be transformed from a necklace to a clip or bracelet, or the four-lobed flower in the Alhambra, born in 1974.
Today, Van Cleef & Arpels continues to be a pioneer in design with a constant renewal in its new High Jewellery Collections. A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Couture, Trésors Révélés and L'Atlantide all transcend the boundaries between reality and dreams. The Pierres de Caractère collection celebrates Van Cleef's 100 years of excellence with 100 exceptional pieces featuring rare stones.
Pursuing its pas de deux with dance - first created when George Balanchine on his daily walk past Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery salon on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue was so taken by the beauty of the creations in the window he immediately went inside to talk to Claude Arpels about a jewel inspired ballet. The result 'Jewels' premiered at the Lincoln Center on 13 April 1963, danced by New York City Ballet - Van Cleef & Arpels has created the Ballet Précieux collection around four themes: the ballet, the emerald, the ruby and the diamond… A scintillating collection where each jewel pays homage to an art which is both enchanted and enchanting.
Van Cleef & Arpels, whose style is defined by Glamour and Femininity, has always been associated with Fashion and Haute Couture.
It is not surprising that designer Albert Elbaz adorned some of his most beautiful dresses in his 2005 Lanvin show with Van Cleef jewellery. This collaboration with the most prestigious Fashion Houses goes back a long way, starting in the 30’s when all the most successful names complemented their creations with exquisite Van Cleef pieces. Jean Patou, Vionnet and Maggy Rouf were among the first of these great names, followed by Balmain and Rochas,in the 50’s and Azzaro, Givenchy, Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Armani after them. Since 2001, partnerships have been created with Viktor & Rolf, Gaspard Yurkievitch, Julian McDonald, Karl Lagerfeld, Galery, and new talents as Benhaz Sarafpour in New York or Igor Chapur in Moscow.
Van Cleef & Arpels has always been a pioneer in many other ways: The first to establish an address on Place Vendôme, now known the world over as the mythical Mecca of High Jewellery. The first to create a “boutique” concept in Paris in 1954 and modernise the way people bought and enjoyed Jewellery. The first to open selling points in Japan, in 1974, going on to expand all over the world. The first jewellers to offer an exclusive Fragrance, aptly named “First” in 1976…
On 20 March 2008, the first day of Spring, Maison Perrier-Jouët launched their first tailor-made champagne, the most expensive in the world, the Belle Époque Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2000. To celebrate this unrivalled vintage, Van Cleef & Arpels has created a stunning clip, inspired by the emblematic anemone designed by Art Nouveau leader Emile Gallé in 1902 for Perrier-Jouët. It is the House’s first ever piece of jewellery created in partnership with another brand. A tribute to Nature, a theme dear to Van Cleef & Arpels, the clip is made of delicate flowers in gold and diamonds lined with yellow sapphires blossoming on a curved stem in diamonds. It will be available by order from Van Cleef & Arpels boutiques in select countries, and only seven clips will ever be made in the world.
Elegant and aristocratic women have always prized Van Cleef & Arpels, and members of the world’s best-known royal families as well as Hollywood legends have worn Van Cleef & Arpels creations. Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Maria Callas, Princess Grace of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor and Queen Sirikit of Thailand are just a few of the icons of our world who have chosen Van Cleef & Arpels. Today, the most glamorous women seek out the exquisite creations of Van Cleef & Arpels: Julia Roberts, Sharon Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Kristin Scott Thomas, Diane Kruger, Uma Thurman, Zhang Ziyi, Keira Knightley, Eva Longoria, Cat Deeley and Maria Carey amongst numerous others adorn themselves with Van Cleef & Arpels jewels.
The firm's pre-1920 jewelry is characterised by fluid lines, graceful curves, color, and a poetic sense of movement, evident of the Art Nouveau style.
Gucci produces a line of beauty products using the Van Cleef & Arpels brand name.
For the coronation of Farah Pahlavi, the former empress of Iran, Van Cleef & Arpels received the order of designing and building the Empress's Crown in 1967. The 4-pound pearl, ruby, diamond and emerald crown used at her 1967 coronation took Pierre Arpels of Van Cleef & Arpels six months to make. Although the Palahvi Dynasty was overthrown in 1979, the Empress's Crown is now on display at the Central Bank of Iran as part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.