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PAmid the biggest jewelry houses, Van Cleef & Arpels is undoubtedly the most inventive brand. His many creations have advanced jewelry know-how and his collections are still very topical.

The mysterious setting: an emblematic creation

The history of the house begins with a love story bringing together two families from Holland thanks to the marriage in 1895 of Alfred Van Cleef and Esther Arpels. In 1906, Esther's brother, Salomon dit Charles Arpels founded with Alfred Van Cleef the company Van Cleef & Arpels and set up their first boutique at 22, place Vendôme in Paris. The period was prosperous with in particular the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and the emergence of a bourgeois society. The many orders allowed Van Cleef & Arpels to open several shops in holiday resorts such as Deauville or on the Côte d'Azur. Their daughter, Renée Puissant took over the artistic direction of the house in 1926 and showed great creativity and daring. She collaborated with the designer René-Sim Lacaze and they created a real brand identity thanks to the technical innovation of the Mystery Setting in 1933. A real patented technical revolution, the stones (rubies, sapphires and diamonds) are set on a rail allowing them to be positioned edge to edge without claws. The first pieces were unveiled in 1937 in Paris, during the International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Modern Life, such as the Peony, Chrysanthemum or Rose brooches. Some pieces are currently to be discovered in the exhibition on Precious Stones at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

The 50s : zip collar wire to wire

Based on an idea from the Duchess of Windsor, married to Edward VIII, Renée Puissant designed in 1938 the first zipper in gold and set with diamonds. Called the Zip necklace, it was not until 1951 to see the first piece come out of the workshops, as this model was a technical challenge. The world of couture is a source of inspiration for the house, which in the 50s created collections with twisted gold threads or worked in terrycloth or positioned in chevrons. The Twill set ending on pompoms or filigree gold bracelets are very characteristic of the 50s, often offering a contrast between yellow gold and diamonds.

Animal and humorous brooches 60 years

Currently staged in its Galerie du Patrimoine at 20, place Vendôme in Paris, animal and humorous brooches are particularly sought after in auction houses. The emblematic pieces are the Ruffled Lion with his battle mane, but also the Rabbit clip with its little diamond tail and its coral carrot or the Normandy Duck clip wearing a hat and a fishing rod. Personalities like Grace of Monaco have worn these charming brooches bringing a touch of eccentricity to her outfits. In addition to the animal theme, recurring characters have emerged such as the Scarecrow, the Harlequin or the Pirate, very popular with American customers.

The iconic collection: the Alhambra

This model saw the light of day in 1968 and created a real revolution in the history of jewelry with an iconic collection famous throughout the world and particularly envied. It is true that this success is global and that many brands have tried to be inspired by this form of 4 leaf clover so recognizable. The first creation in 1968 consisted of a long necklace entirely in yellow gold. But the Alhambra quickly saw many variations, notably with hard stones such as malachite, carnelian, lapis lazuli or mother-of-pearl. In the 70s, personalities like Romy Schneider and Françoise Hardy appear with this long necklace bringing a breath of freedom. The model is then available as a bracelet, earrings, ring and watch. And since the 2000s, collections have multiplied such as the Magic Alhambra, Lucky Alhambra or Byzantine Alhambra.

Flower Power

Van Cleef & Arpels is particularly known for its four-leaf clover from the Alhambra collection, but it also pays tribute to the botanical diversity of our planet. Its Flower motif, composed of blue sapphires and luminous citrines, reminds us of fields of sunflowers. The delicacy of the coral is also transformed into a double flower ring to wear between two fingers. Butterflies fluttering around the neck cling to a necklace or a pendant, illuminated by diamonds, emeralds or coral.

Oriental and inspired influences

In the 70s, Van Cleef & Arpels offered sets with generous and colorful patterns, inspired by different backgrounds. The line of conduct is the harmonious mixture of colors with amethyst and coral pompoms reminiscent of oriental paintings. On a necklace, the sculpted tourmalines are inspired by Indian jewelry and the Draped set in white and orange coral seems to be taken from a painting in The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Coral is also a material particularly used and combined with amethysts or turquoise. The colored sets are also transformable like the three bracelets of 3 different stones making up a mini-long necklace once the bracelets are assembled.

A magical world

As if to ward off the fate of an overly digital and futuristic era, the Van Cleef & Arpels house is inspired by tales and legends recalling our childhood memories. The little Fairies brooches take us to an aquatic world with the Atlantide collection or invite us to dance in the legendary balls. The Mystery Setting technique is used on new stones such as sapphires of different colors creating magical adornments. As a final, the Van Cleef & Arpels house introduces us to a Bird of Paradise and Mysterious Phoenixes evolving gracefully in an imaginary garden.

To find out more about the Precious Stones exhibition: