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Lucire: Fashion

Van Cleef and Arpels On the fly Van Cleef & Arpels continue to dazzle and surprise, reinventing one of their most classic pieces, the Zip necklace.


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 Cooper–Hewitt in the Big Apple



VAN CLEEF & 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 and exquisiteness.

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 maison’s 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 beauty glistened.

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 Smithsonian’s Cooper–Hewitt, 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 exhibition’s designer, Patrick Jouin, beautifully forms a majestic scene for many to indulge in. Jouin, along with the exhibition’s curator, Sarah Coffin, both create a story to tell, from the design to the collection; everything delightfully comes together.

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 the same.

Some pieces occupy their own space in glass domes, while others are set to bring a particular piece to life as three-dimensional holograms.

The famous Mystery-Set Bouquet Brooch in the exhibition’s 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 Cleef’s 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 Brooch–Pendant. 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 people’s tastes. Walking through the presentation in Paris and the exhibition in New York, beauty and elegance each changes, according to the generation’s desires and demands. •


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.


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photographed by Pascal Le Segretain, Marc Piasecki and Marc Ausset-Lacroix for Getty Images, and courtesy Bulgari



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