All text, and images © 2014, Debra Healy
unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

French jewelry Today, Part 4-Van Cleef and Arpels, 22 Place Vendôme

Van Cleef & Arpels was fully acquired by Compagnie Financière Richemont SA in 2003. Since then it appears they have been applying many of the proven strategies they have learned with Cartier.  They appointed Nicolas Bos, who has been with Richemont since 1992, he is now vice president and worldwide creative director of Van Cleef, he is also president and chief executive officer of the jeweler’s Americas division. Van Cleef & Arpels recently  mounted an exhibition at the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels.  There is also a beautiful book with the same title.
A joint website was created (link), analyzing their history and the evolution of the their style told through their stellar client's jewels, one iconic piece at a time.

Alfred Van Cleef, and his two brothers-in-law Charles Arpels (1880-1951) and Julian Arpels (1884-1964) founded Van Cleef & Arpels in 1896. Both of the families had been in the gem business for several generations. In 1906 they open a shop at 22 Place Vendôme, where they are still located today. They were joined in 1912 by the youngest Arpels brother, Louis Arpels (1886-1976). 

Image from the Jeweled Garden by Suzanne Tennenbaum and Janet Zapata
Flexible bracelet, diamonds, buff cut rubies, and emeralds.
In 1925 Van Cleef & Arpels won the Grand Prix at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs for the above bracelet . A distinguishing aspect of of all Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry is the focus on gem stones and flawless gem cutting.

 1935 They pioneered and patented the Serti invisble or mystery setting.

Through out the 1930's they developed many innovative jewels like this
  necklace which can be worn with either side facing forward.

1930's-1960's, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced a prescious metal ornmental evening clutch for women. it was complete with compartments and accessories,  it was called 
 La Minaudière, which was a trademark and  a patent.

1938 Another patent, the Passe Partout
was an interchangeable jewelry concept. The gold gas-pipe (tobogas) chain with its clip-on ornaments one could wear it as a belt, a necklace, a bracelet, hat or hair ornaments, or dress clips.  The flowers were set with multi-colored sapphires and rubies.

Van Cleef & Arpels opened a New York branch twice, in 1929, and again permanently in 1939.

through out the 1940's they developed a narrative-style with natural themed 
gem-set flowers, birds, ballerinas, and magical faeries.

 Louis Arpels, was a friend of Marlene Dietrich's he had this bracelet made from gems in her collection. 

Grace Kelly  1955
Grace Kelly wears the pearl and diamond jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels 
commisioned by His Majesty Prince Rainier of Monaco to celebrate their engagement.

During the 1950's Claude Arpels (1911-1990) traveled to India to acquire important stones. 
After Indian Independence Maharajas were eager to exchange gems for currency.
He brought back dazzling gems, and antique Indian jewelry which influenced the development of a  lavish  Indian style. These evocative jewels were exotic, bold, and colorful.
Van Cleef & Arpels Indian Style jewels
American Vogue 1963
In 1954 Van Cleef & Arpels was the first major jeweler to create a boutique next door
to sell  a line of less exclusive jewels.
Alhambra necklace gold, lapis lazuli, and malachite.
The boutiques line continues to this day

The new collection
Elizabeth Taylor Photographed by Cecil Beaton 1971

Nicolas Bos, said the new collection, Les Bals de Legend was inspired by a photo of Liz Taylor taken by Cecil Beaton in 1971 at the Proust Ball given by Baron and Baroness de Rothschild.  She wore a major gold and diamond necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels, woven into her hair.

Van Cleef & Arpels new collection  is debuting along with the publication of a beautiful book
Bals: Legendary Costume Balls of the Twentieth Century’ by Nicholas Foulkes published by Assouline.  Read about the  book and jewelry party here
The inspirations are the themes, personalities, and locations of these legendary balls. This evocative concept taps the yearning for a time of refined splendor and celebration.
Guests attending these fancy dress balls dressed extravagantly,  they were resplendent and bejeweled.  These were lavishly designed events, with dancers and music.   Attendance was by invitation-only.  The were famously photographed, and chronicled these balls are still talked about all of these years later;
I can't recall another jewelry launch tied-in tothe publication of a book where the book is about the source of the inspiration, and not the collection itself.  What a brilliant source this is, one that is so identified with luxury and desire.
Image WWD
A piece form the new collection "the kingfisher necklace" inspired by Baron Alexis de Redé’s  
‘Le Bal Oriental’, 1969, which was one of the most extravagant parties ever given in Paris. The form of this jewel is that of a Chinese jewel. These jewels were made with actual kingfisher feathers,  This Van Cleef & Arpels jewel is made with turquoise, diamonds, and pinkish-red spinels.
The windows

The current windows are an ultra-modern chinoiserie,  with shocking pink manga-colors. They communicate a progressive global aesthetic that is very trendy,  feminine, and a little playful. The new jewels are deeply enriched by  heritage of this house. Their fine jewelry competence is evident in the exquisite stones and flawless workmanship.

Emerald and diamond beads, with diamond set elements, in this multi-strand oriental style necklace,
which was inspired by  the Le Bal Oriental.

 Diamond necklace with round, calibré-cut diamonds, and a diamond briolette drop.
  The opulence of this new collection is heralding a new age of elegance. 

An elegant diamond necklace which evokes a lace collar, with  tassels.
This style necklace taps deeply into the the heritage.

 A heritage jewel from the archives  it belonged to the Pincesse de Réthy
( born, Mary Lilian Baels, 28 November 1916 –  June 2002) the second wife of King Leopold III
of Belgium.Van Cleef & Arpels produced a number of collar and ruffle inspired necklaces.

Brooch inspired by Le Bal Oriental

This necklace is reminiscent of  Chinese passementerie.
I imagine the last dowager Empress of China, who had a preference for pearls.

"With regard to jewelry, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels were top performers during the year", said  Richard Lepeu, deputy ceo of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA,   “a very broad base of merchandise and price points were driving sales in the jewelry division overall. He added, however, that sales of the ultrahigh-end items — those costing more than $1 million — were “less buoyant.” WWD May 19, 2011

This comment was made before the debut of this new collection.
This article was written in the summer of 2011, and first published last fall.

1 comment:


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