A journey with Van Cleef & Arpels
Lola Saab embarks on a tour with Van Cleef & Arpels, taking in its latest designs in Paris on la Place Vendôme and examining its history at the CooperHewitt in the Big Apple
& ARPELS highlights the wonderful
aspects of colour, detail and design, transforming any jewel into
a truly appealing and extraordinary piece.
In 1896, two people, Salomon Arpels and Alfred van
Cleef, were to create an array of splendour for decades to come.
In 1906, only ten years after the company was founded, the first
Van Cleef & Arpel boutique opened at la Place Vendôme
in Paris. What started off as a family affair and a family business
transformed into a familiar name representing style, sophistication
Many leading ladies bought and wore Van Cleef &
Arpels jewellery, including Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Brigitte
Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Princess Grace of Monaco, and, of course,
Elizabeth Taylor. As they shone on the red carpet, a number of actresses
did not hesitate to show off their jewels on-screen as well.
Van Cleef & Arpels marvellously masters a technique
called the mystery setting. This method was created
not to reveal the settings between the stones, to keep the mystery
behind the detailed craftsmanship.
On January 27, 2011, during haute couture week in Paris, Van Cleef
& Arpels presented four new interpretations of one of the maisons
most classical pieces, the Zip Necklace. As visitors arrived in
the beautifully decorated and serene boutique located at la Place
Vendôme, a few people were escorted to the second floor where
|Many leading ladies bought and wore Van Cleef
& Arpels jewellery, including Marlene Dietrich, Sophia
Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Princess
Grace of Monaco, and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor|
The idea of an actual zipper is what the collection
revolves around, hence the title. It was first created on the
suggestion of the Duchess of Windsor in 1951.
The traditional model of the Zip is in yellow gold
and diamonds. Using the same innovative techniques
and design, the company has taken the traditional piece
and transformed it into a colourful and modern creation.
Precious stones used in the new Zip designs include lapis lazuli
accompanied with stunning mother-of-pearl. The necklace is made
to provide the wearer with two options: she can either literally
zip the piece up to create a bracelet or can zip it down to transform
it into a necklace that gracefully fits on a her neckline. Delicate
to the touch, each detail is beautifully exemplified to create a
work of art. Small hooks perfectly fit one into the other as the
tassel slides up and down.
From Paris to New York City, Van Cleef & Arpels
landed at the Smithsonians CooperHewitt, National Design
Museum, and so did we!
The museum holds an exhibition that will share with
the general public the history, as well as a complete story, behind
the work and beauty of Van Cleef & Arpels. From February 18
to June 5, 2011, people will have the opportunity to virtually set
themselves in style, as they walk around from one room
to the next in an almost fantastical space. The exhibition, entitled
Set in Style: the Jewellery of Van Cleef & Arpels, contains
a few spacious rooms, each filled with a number of stunning pieces.
The exhibitions designer, Patrick Jouin, beautifully
forms a majestic scene for many to indulge in. Jouin, along with
the exhibitions curator, Sarah Coffin, both create a story
to tell, from the design to the collection; everything delightfully
For visitors to comprehend fully the transformation
of the designs over a period of time, the exhibition focuses on
six main themes: Innovation, Transformation, Nature, Exoticism,
Fashion, and concluding on Personalities. Although the designs and
creations changed over the years, the high quality material remained
Some pieces occupy their own space in glass domes,
while others are set to bring a particular piece to life as three-dimensional
The famous Mystery-Set Bouquet Brooch in the exhibitions
conservatory is an example of a piece that visitors can closely
study at every angle. With its detailed workmanship and its bright
diamonds and rubies, visitors can make a 360-degree turn to view
closelyone of Van Cleefs many pieces of beauty. With a display
of more than 350 pieces, guests can satisfy their curiosity and
wonder of Maison Van Cleef & Arpels. The exhibition also includes
several commission books and drawings.
|During World War II, Van Cleef & Arpels
moved to New York. They brought their European expertise
along with them, yet they had to incorporate American taste
into their work. As soon as Van Cleef & Arpels went international,
so did their jewellery|
The large collection of jewels vary, from convertible
jewellery pieces to brooches, beautifully detailed necklaces
and other breathtaking pieces, each wonderfully attractive
and overly seductive.
In the Transformation room, one piece that welcomes
visitors is the Walska BroochPendant. Little do we know that
this piece contains several pieces in itself. The wings can be detached
to form a pair of earrings, the tail can be worn as a brooch, or
the piece can be kept whole and be worn as a pendant. The ensemble
is an artistic creation that comes to life.
During World War II, Van Cleef & Arpels moved to
New York. They brought their European expertise along with them,
yet they had to incorporate American taste into their work. We begin
to notice certain differences as we make our way through the exhibition.
As soon as Van Cleef & Arpels went international, so did their
jewellery. Wonderful pieces include a beautiful goddess head as
well as numerous Egyptian designs incorporated on bracelets and
bags, all spectacularly detailed.
Celebrities were greatly attracted by the brilliance
and extravagance of Van Cleef & Arpels. The final room that
visitors arrive upon is dedicated to a number of personalities that
wore and adored Van Cleef & Arpels, including Jacqueline Kennedy
Onassis, Florence Gould, Maria Callas and Eva Péron.
For those wanting to attain a deeper understanding
of certain pieces, visitors are invited to pick up an iPad on their
way in. The iPad consists of ninety pieces to choose from: upon
tapping on the item of interest one can attain a brief detailed
description about the piece.
Van Cleef & Arpels have created masterpieces over
the years and the brand continues to do so for generations to come.
As an haute couture jeweller, it aims for high standards and successfully
reaches them, happily fulfilling peoples tastes. Walking through
the presentation in Paris and the exhibition in New York, beauty
and elegance each changes, according to the generations desires
Lola Saab is Paris editor of Lucire.
Beautifully cut baguette, pear and princess cut
diamonds, cluster together upon white gold to transform into a bracelet,
or unzipped to be worn as a necklace.
Yellow gold embellished with princess-cut diamonds
and minature gold hearts around the edging; unzip to create a luxurous
necklace, complete with a tassel of threaded gold hanging off the
end off the zip stopper.