Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels: French jewelry

Van Cleef & Arpels is a French piece of jewelry. The creations of the Parisian Maison — founded in 1906 by Alfred Van Cleef (1873-1938) and his cousins ​​Charles, Julien, and Louis Arpels, experts in precious stones — have truly made history. The main office was and is in Place Vendome, but within a very few years, it was joined by shops in Nice, Deauville, Vichy, and Cannes.

Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels negozio

From the early 1920s

The early 1920s saw Van Cleef & Arpels jewels timely interpret the oriental and neo-Egyptian style that was all the rage in French salons. Deco was upon us. In 1929 the New York shop was inaugurated and in 1935 that of Montecarlo. In the 1930s, the style of the Maison was defined and it proposed innovative creations by adopting a type of frame never used before: the invisible serti. This technical device, which made it possible to present the gems without allowing a glimpse of the underlying metal, gave way to a production that played above all on floral-inspired models – roses, camellias, chrysanthemums, ivy leaves – and animal prints.

bracelet dates back to the same period Ludo Hexagone, built on geometric links in the shape of beehive boxes. The clips are also highly appreciated, including the famous Passe-partout (’38), to be worn separately on the lapel of the jacket or, together, mounted on a chain-snake necklace.

Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels jewels: Ludo Hexagone bracelet


It was above all thanks to Louis Arpels, with his multiple acquaintances in the jet set, that the Maison met with such success all over the world. Sensitive in capturing the suggestions offered by taste trends and current events, the Maison launched various innovative creations such as the zip necklace (or “fermeture éclairé”), inspired by the zipper, and the “coriphée” collier, composed of a tight row of gold ballerinas with diamond tutus. In the 1950s, the lacework of woven, twisted, and knurled metal wire triumphed. clips were born cristaux de Neige.

Diamond necklace with earrings

In the 70s jewels reflected what was happening in the world. The use of bold and vibrant colors saw the use of coral, malachite and turquoise. The Maison launches a collection to honor the Christmas rose called Rose de Noel. This floral design was set with pink coral and diamonds.

During the 1980s, the House’s designs mirrored fashion with the creation of the Col Claudine necklace. This necklace, which was shaped like a collar, was made of finely woven gold and adorned with diamond floral motifs.

Brooch with love birds

The 1990s and early 2000s

The firm also made history as regards precious accessories. The minaudières of the 1920s, evening bags in the guise of gold and gem cases, are still famous today. The company, established internationally with jewellery, perfumes, and watches (the expansion on oriental markets is noteworthy), is currently led by the third Arpels generation who kept 20 percent of the shares, while in ’99 60 percent was purchased by Richemont. The remaining 40% was divided between an Italian firm and the heirs of Monsieur Claude Arpels. Then, in 2001, the Richemont group acquired a further 20% of the company, and in 2003, became the fullest owner of the Van Cleef & Arpels brand.

Julia Roberts at the 2001 Oscars wearing Van Cleef & Arpels

In early 2000, Van Cleef & Arpels launched the popular Frivole design. For its 100th anniversary in 2006, the Maison launched its most extensive fine jewelry collection to date, comprising 100 pieces featuring rare stones. Additionally, she’s putting out a limited edition 100th Anniversary Magic Alhambra necklace in mother of pearl.

Emerald necklace

The Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibitions

In 2015, Van Cleef & Arpels showcased some of its infamous designs at the Masterpiece London exhibition, and the firm has an ongoing relationship with The LA Dance Project which continues to choreograph Van Cleef & Arpels-inspired ballets Arpels. In 2014, a ballet entitled Reflections by Benjamin Millepied was presented. Reflections is the first part of a trilogy, called Gems.


In 2016 Van Cleef & Arpels goes on show in Singapore with The Art and Science of Gems. The exhibition was created in collaboration with the French National Museum of Natural History and explores the artistic skills involved in the creation of jewelry, together with the natural processes in the formation of gems.

The Art and Science of Gems

Van Cleef & Arpels celebrates its history in 2018 through two exhibitions. The first Precious art deco objects at the Ecole des arts joailliers bring together creations from the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. The other exhibition Van Cleef & Arpels, when elegance meets arts at the Today art museum in Beijing is made up of 400 pieces, in chronological order to insist on the evolution of creativity and also draw a map of the tastes of the various eras.

The exhibition, already presented in 2012 at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris, also highlights the technical inventions introduced by the Maison, such as the Serti mystérieux or the Zip necklace.

Precious art deco

In 2018, Cleef & Arpels named Helen King as the new president and CEO for the Americas, replacing Alain Bernard.

Van Cleef & Arpels is the exceptional partner of the Natural History Museum of Paris in the exhibition «Pierre précieuses», officially presented in 2020. The scenographic Galerie de l’évolution of the Jardin des Plantes was chosen for this choreographic exhibition and the set-up is been entrusted to the Jouin-Manku studio, the two architects who also designed Maison’s boutiques.

Pierre précieuses

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