Glass celebrates … Van Cleef & Arpels

THE story of Van Cleef & Arpels is every bit as romantic as the jewels that the maison creates. It began with the marriage of Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a precious stone dealer, to Alfred Van Cleef, the son of diamond broker and engraver, in 1895. The pair went into business together in 1906 along with Estelle’s brothers and opened their first boutique at 22 Place Vendôme where the flagship maison still resides to this day.


UntitledAlfred Van Cleef (right) and his brother-in-law Charles Arpels (centre)

They would go on to create jewellery for the world’s most notable names, from royal families to stars of the silver screen, opera and ballet. The maison broke boundaries with its technical inventiveness, and landmark creations include the diamond zip necklace and the Passe-Partout jewels which feature an ingenious system of detachable clips which enables necklaces to be shortened into bracelets or lengthened into belts. Today the maison continues to reinvent the very nature of fine jewellery and watchmaking and have a presence throughout the world.

1906 Marks the opening of the original Van Cleef & Arpels boutique by Alfred Van Cleef and his brother-in-law Charles Arpels. Up until 1939, they would open a further 10 boutiques in Dinard, Nice, Deauville, Lyon, Cannes, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, Lille, Vichy-les-Bains, Roubaix and Monte Carlo.

1922 The legendary butterfly clip is created, cementing nature as one of the main emblems of the maison. Orders are placed by the royal Maharajas of Hyderabad, Indore, Kapurthala, Nawanagar and Nepal.



Van Cleef & Arpels legendary butterfly clip

1925 The World Expo of Decorative Arts and Modern Industry is held in Paris. Here an international public are exposed, many for the first time, to the work of Van Cleef & Arpels

1930 A second generation takes over. Estelle and Alfred’s daughter, Renée Puissant becomes Creative director in collaboration with designer René Sim Lacaze.

1933 Charles Arpels creates the Minaudière, and essentially the first clutch purse. Seeing elegant ladies toss their personal accessories into metal tins, he sets about creating a refined version with compartments for necessities such as lipstick, powder compact, cigarette holder and pill box. The new creation is christened Minaudière by Alfred Arpels in tribute to the mannerisms – minauderies – of his wife Estelle. This is also the year of the invention of the ‘Mystery Setting’ – a technique with which precious stones could be set without showing any visible trace of a metal setting, seemingly allowing stones to ‘float’ alongside one another.


A watch by Van Cleef & Arpels

1967 The coronation of Farah Pahlavi and Empress of Iran takes place. The crown, necklace and earrings of the royals are produced by Van Cleef & Arpels as well as the jewellery sets for members of the imperial family.

1972 With the creation of so many iconic watches, Van Cleef & Arpels opens a store dedicated entirely to watches, the Boutique des Heures, on place Vendôme.


The Van Cleef & Arpels  store dedicated entirely to watches, Boutique des Heures, on Place Vendôme, Paris

1976 The house launches its first fragrance, First.

1990 Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations are the object of a first retrospective at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, followed by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

2000 Van Cleef & Arpels is acquired by the Richemont group. The maison takes part in the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris for the first time.

2005 The maison opens their first boutique in China.

2011 The maison creates the Ocean Tiara, which, in trademark Van Cleef & Arpels fashion, can also be transformed into a necklace, for HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco to present to his bride Charlene Wittstock.


2016 Van Cleef & Arpels participate in the prestigious Masterpiece London Fair for the second year running and present Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems exhibition at the Singapore ArtScience Museum, Singapore.


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