SWEET MYSTERIES Van Cleef & Arpels’ new jewellery collection is a whimsical display of craftsmanship and true artistry
Van Cleef & Arpels’ new jewellery collection is a whimsical display of craftsmanship and true artistry.
Some of the greatest love stories of the last century have the fine jewellery of Van Cleef & Arpels embedded in their narratives. Its new collection, Le Secret, pays homage to this romantic history, which includes tales of great sacrifice for the sake of love. King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936 so he could marry divorcée Wallis Simpson, commissioned many pieces from the maison. He would spend hours with the designers, adding his own touches, and have the unique pieces inscribed with private messages for her. During the engagement between the Shah of Iran and Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari in 1950, his bride-to-be became ill with typhoid fever and the wedding had to be postponed until the following year. According to legend, each morning during her convalescence, the Shah would lay a jewel on her pillow. The iconic maison also became part of the love story between Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly, when
the couple selected a matching pearl set at the New York boutique a few months before their wedding in 1956. Princess Grace then became a regular client at the maison’s Monaco salon. Fittingly, Van Cleef & Arpels grew from a love story. It was founded in 1906 in Paris by a young married couple, Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a stonecutter, and Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a precious stones dealer, and the maison is still connected to this. “Our inspirations always come from our identity and heritage,” says Catherine Rénier, president of Van Cleef & Arpels Asia Pacific. “We are not a maison with a marketing strategy thinking about what is in fashion. Everything we do is always in deep respect for our past.” Its most recent collection, Le Secret, launched in late 2017, was two years in the making and combines the maison’s signature playful aesthetic with its commitment to innovative craftsmanship. There are more than 100 one-off pieces in the collection — from necklaces and rings to clips and bracelets — each with its own secret message or unexpected metamorphosis to discover. Every item features changing colours, hidden characteristics or the ability to transform from one object to another. For example, a clip — inspired by an Alexander Pushkin poem — transforms from a princess into a swan when the back of the piece is rotated, and a set of diamond and pink sapphire earrings has detachable pendants that fasten together to create a heart-shaped clip. Another piece, a diamond, sapphire and emerald ring, rises when turned to reveal a quote by Oscar Wilde written in French that translates as ‘a life without love is like a sunless garden’. “This collection has an extra step in the creations, where it’s not only what you see, but also what’s hidden within,” says Rénier. ››
‹‹ “And if you own the piece, you can share it with everyone or keep it for yourself as your own secret; that’s the beauty of it.” The maison is renowned for its ingenuity and precision. In 1933, Van Cleef & Arpels invented and patented the Mystery Set technique, and this remains one of the most complex procedures in jewellery-making to this day. The method involves positioning specially cut precious stones onto gold rails to give the illusion that the gems are freestanding. According to Rénier, the Mystery Set was initially used for simpler designs. “It was very flat, maybe a little curve, but nothing too fancy,” she says. “Decades later, we now create pieces with 3D effects — it’s a technique that has really evolved.” Each individual creation in Le Secret collection took up to 10 artisans to produce — from designers and stone experts, to mock-up artists and jewellers, to stonecutters and polishers — with one particular piece taking 850 hours to complete. Rénier’s favourite piece in the collection is a parrot clip made from rubies, pink and yellow sapphires, spessartite garnets, black spinels, coral, onyx, grey mother-of-pearl and diamonds. It has a moveable wing that lifts to reveal a baby chick and, says Rénier, it embodies everything Van Cleef & Arpels stands for. “You have nature, flowers, animals and a mechanism that opens up onto a baby parrot under the wing. It is a positive vision of life and it’s very feminine and graceful. And on top of that, it has amazing work with stones and there is a Mystery Set — it’s a great symbol of who we are.” Visit vancleefarpels.com
Each individual creation in Le Secret collection took up to 10 artisans to produce — with one taking 850 hours
clockwise from left: Victoria Regia necklace; Delphinium necklace; Demeure D’Asterion necklace; Couers Enlacés bracelet; Colombe Mystérieuse clip. VAN CLEEF & ARPELS’ LE SECRET COLLECTION
above, from left: Pierre Arpels, Estelle Arpels’ nephew, who joined the maison at the end of WWII, pictured with French actress and former Bond girl Claudine Augier. Sophia Loren wearing Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival.