The world famous French jewelry ‘Maison’ of Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in 1896 by Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law Solomon Arpels. VCA occupied their first store at 22 Place Vendome, where they still reside.
Fluid lines, graceful curves, color, and a poetic sense of movement, inherent in the Art Nouveau style, characterize the Maison’s pre-1920’s jewelry. In 1934, Van Cleef & Arpels created the ‘Ludo-hexagone’ bracelet also called the ‘honeycomb’ bracelet which remained in vogue for decades, widely copied and imitated by many other jewelers.
Designed as a wide band of invisibly articulated hexagonal links, often star-set at the center with a tiny ruby or diamond, it was usually decorated with a massive buckle or scroll clasp invisibly set with sapphires or rubies and decorated with small diamonds.
In the mid 1940’s VCA pioneered the ‘invisible setting’, a way of cutting and mounting colored gemstones in addition to pave-setting diamonds in yellow gold, prior to which, diamonds were invariably set in white metal.
With the return of ‘Naturalism’ in the mid- 1940’s, VCA excelled in the production of flower-head brooches, invisibly set with calibre-cut rubies and sapphires.
The first VCA ‘ballerina’ brooch was produced in 1945, the design remaining in vogue for some two decades. With the new fashion for earrings, Van Cleef and Arpels applied the ‘honeycomb’ design to their gold and diamond ear-clips and expanded their line of creation in the domain of naturalistically inspired designs.
These included floral sprays, animal motifs and the firm’s first production of ‘snowflake’ brooches. In the 1950’s their avant-garde ‘winking-cat’ brooch and other designs inspired by Walt Disney cartoons gained tremendous popularity.
For the coronation of Farah Pahlavi, the former empress of Iran, Van Cleef & Arpels received the order of designing and manufacturing a crown in 1967. The 4-pound pearl, ruby, diamond and emerald crown she received at her 1967 coronation took Pierre Arpels of Van Cleef & Arpels six months to make. This crown is kept as part of the Iranian Crown Jewels at the Iranian Central Bank in Teheran. Today, Van Cleef & Arpels boasts a total of ten boutiques in the United States.
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