A French jewelry company founded in 1896 on the basis of love and family, Van Cleef & Arpels had become a dominant force in the fashion accessory industry by the mid 20th century. The company was created by Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law Salomon Arpels, whose daughter shared and encouraged their love of jewels. After Salomon’s death in 1906, Alfred continued the business with two of his brothers-in-law.
It wasn’t long before the company started making a name for themselves all around the world. Here is a brief overview of how Van Cleef & Arpels went from a small-time jewelry company to a worldwide jewelry sensation whose early works are now big ticket items at antique auction houses in Dania Beach and other parts of the world.
Using Nature to Nurture
Similar to the style of Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels based the majority of their designs in a nature-inspired theme. Their style of choice often involved animals, flowers, and fairies. It’s this particular style that led them to create their unique bracelet which had both red and white roses that were made from rubies and diamonds, and ended up winning them the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in 1925.
From there the company took some massive steps, one of which was appointing Alfred Van Cleef’s daughter, Renee, in charge of the artistic direction. Only seven years after taking over creative control of the company, Renee led Van Cleef & Arpels to one of its biggest successes, the “mystery setting” patent. This patent gave them legal control over a particular method of setting gems in which the prongs are not visible. This painstaking task requires up to 300 hours of work per item, but it gave the company possession over a very distinct jewelry look.
It wasn’t until 1966 that the next massive step came for Van Cleef & Arpels, which was their commission to design and create the coronation crown to be worn by Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran. This emerald velvet crown ended up containing 36 emeralds, 36 rubies, 105 pearls, and 1,469 diamonds. It was a worldwide spectacle that pushed the company into the public spotlight even further.
Without a doubt, one of the most recognizable styles of the Van Cleef & Arpels brand is the mystery setting style, which gets applied to only a few pieces a year. However, they have also created many other signature items throughout the years such as the Passe-Partout necklace which is able to be customized to fit several different styles. This particular style of necklace is still revered in the jewelry auction industry, and a flawless edition of it was sold in 2008 for over $86,000.