Established in Paris, France in 1906 by Alfred Van Cleef and his in-laws the Arpels, the famed Van Cleef & Arpels (VCA) is world-renowned as one of the greatest high-end jewelry design houses. Though the company was created in the midst of the Art Nouveau jewelry trend, it quickly set itself apart from its competitors through its tendency toward clean geometric lines, exceptional craftsmanship and incredible gemstones. Van Cleef & Arpels were instrumental in the Art Deco movement, crafting exquisite abstracted Cubist landscapes of fine metals and impeccably cut gemstones.
Van Cleef & Arpels have been far more than simply a design firm. For over a century, the jewelry house has been a leader in innovation in their field. In the early 1930s, the company created and patented the “Mystery Setting” — a technique which utilized uniformly colored, specially cut gemstones placed in grooves so that the setting is completely invisible. The company also developed the “Ludo” bracelet — which was quick to become a signature style. The bracelets featured a buckle as the central design element and the style ranged from simplicity, in its earliest incarnations, to complex articulated hexagonal bands and Mystery Set buckles in the later forms. Another innovation was the inception and creation of the “Zipper” design. The style features a functional zipper element, crafted in fine materials, which allowed the wearer to make adjustments to the size of the opening. The “Snowflake” design has been one of the brands longest-produced style. First crafted in the post-war 1940s, the sleek geometric style recreates a snowflake through the use, typically, of gold and scintillating diamonds. Though the design has been modernized and updated, the collection is still one of the most renowned.
Perhaps the most famous collection introduced to the world by VCA is the “Alhambra”. For decades, the company had been creating exotically inspired jewels of exceptional quality and style, yet the introduction of the Alhambra in 1968 was a different, subtler and ultimately more wearable design. Simple chains are set with quatrefoil clover motifs fashioned from various colored semi-precious materials. The Alhambra style is a signature look from VCA which has become synonymous with high-fashion since it began to grace the necks of such style luminaries as Her Royal Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco in the late 1960s.
Beloved and admired by style icons the world over, Van Cleef & Arpels has remained firmly entrenched as one of the premier fine jewelry design firms.