Van Cleef & Arpels are definitely a firm favourite for royalty and celebrities wanting to add a little bit of sparkle to their outfits. The jewellery house was actually started by a marriage between Alfred and Estelle in 1896. Their families were both into jewellery making, which inspired them to make their own jewellery house.
The charm about Van Cleef & Arpels was that their designs were fresh and unique. People remembered their designs and wanted to own them due to their timeless nature. Interestingly, some designs stand out more than others. Here are five of the most iconic pieces of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery.
We’ll begin with probably the most iconic piece of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery of all time. It’s extremely recognisable and is pretty popular all over the world. If you’ve never heard of the Alhambra collection, it’s probably time you should have. The four-leaf clover design was first introduced to us in 1968 and has since stuck as the symbol of Van Cleef & Arpels. It was originally inspired by the quatrefoil motifs which are found on the tiles inside the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain. This collection has been spotted on famous faces for years, including Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and more recently, the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Zip necklace is seen as one of the most interesting and innovative pieces to exist. No other jewellery house makes a design even remotely similar. The necklace zips! If you leave the necklace open, it can be worn as a necklace. If you choose to zip it up, it can be worn as a bracelet. It’s rumoured that the piece was inspired by the Duchess of Windsor when zips were seen as a new addition to women’s clothing.
The very first ballerina pins were created in 1939 and were inspired by Russian dancer Anna Pavlova. The ballerina jewels are again, extremely distinctive, as they feature a set of dancers in different poses. Their costumes are designed with rows of diamonds, turquoises, rubies or emeralds. Some of the famous faces these charming pins have been spotted on include Barbara Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post. Unfortunately, this is one piece of jewellery that Van Cleef & Arpels have stopped making now. However, in 2018 they did bring the pins back for a special collection of ballerina’s inspired by a Grimm’s fairytale.
An element of mystery in your jewellery collection just makes it that little bit more exciting, doesn’t it? Van Cleef & Arpels Mystery Set is named that because it is a jewellery collection adorned in gemstones, yet no prongs are visible. Yes, in 1933 Van Cleef & Arpels mastered a technique of inserting gemstones in their pieces, without the tongs being visible. This makes this collection of jewellery look extremely seamless, as there are no breaks in the stones for the tongs. It’s an extremely time-consuming process, and for one piece of average-sized jewellery, it can take over 300 hours of craftsmanship to get right.
Like some of the other jewellery on this list, the Passe-Partout necklace is another transformative piece. The unique thing about this collection is that it allowed the individual wearing the piece to shape it to the size or shape of the other pieces of jewellery they were wearing at the same time. Essentially, so that everything matched. The jewel has two large flower clips which are attached to a flexible gold chain by metal rails. These rails can detach from the necklace, therefore meaning the necklace could be changed into a bracelet, choker or two brooches.
It’s only fair to say that over the years, Van Cleef & Arpels have had some pretty iconic pieces of jewellery. Since the designer began, it has always been associated with the rich and famous. As well as creating some of these timeless pieces we have spoken about in this list, Van Cleef & Arpels have also created many custom pieces of jewellery for high profile individuals. Most of the pieces on this list would still be worn now, which truly does show how ahead of their time Van Cleef & Arpels were.