A Lucky Find: Van Cleef & Arpels and their Alhambra Line. What’s In a Name?
If it’s the right name, quite a lot. Such is the case with Van Cleef & Arpels, one of the foremost jewelry, watch, and perfume boutiques in the world. The designer jewelry buyers at Diamonds by Raymond Lee will purchase a single jewelry item or a whole collection of pieces with particular interest in top designers of iconic pieces. Such as, the Alhambra Collection by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Based in France, the Van Cleef & Arpels is a famous boutique with beautiful jewelry pieces. They sell to people from all over the world, from the beaches of South Florida to the ski lodges of Switzerland.
Moreover, fashion icons such as The Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, and Eve Perón have all worn Van Cleef & Arpels pieces proudly. Proving that this boutique is far from just another jeweler.
But, how did such a power player in the jewelry game begin? And, what makes their work stand out in a crowded marketplace? Founded in 1896 by Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law Salomon Arpels, the boutique quickly became notable for beautiful pieces for featuring flowers, animals, and fairies.
Van Cleef & Arpels
In 1906 the company opened a jewelry store in the famous Place Vendôme in Paris, and expanded their empire further from there. Soon enough, they would open shops in major French vacation destinations. Destinations included the spa-filled Vichy and the beachside Monte Carlo. Also, they were the first French boutique to open stores in Japan and China. Notably, they made their mark on culture, working heavily with the famous French jeweler René Sim Lacaze. They worked with Lacaze from 1926 to 1946, at the time when he was instrumental in creating the Art Deco movement that’s still influential decades later.
Today, the boutique has shops all over the world. The boutique is located in diverse cities, such as Geneva, Milan, Paris, New York City, Shanghai and Las Vegas. They are internationally renowned, with a huge loyal following and iconic style. Their jewelry is known for being whimsical and gorgeous. The pieces are instantly recognizable. In fact, Van Cleef & Arpels frequently release collections that capture a magical feeling. In recent years, the collection was inspired by the fairy world in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’
Works of Art
The collections feature genuine works of art. For example, large and brilliant gems that blend seamlessly with their settings. Uniquely, it creates something akin to miniature works of sculpture cast in precious metals and gems. Diamonds by Raymond Lee purchase large jewelry estates and are experts in the field of designer jewelry. We help clients sell inheritance pieces.
Of course, many clients are happy to sell their jewelry outright. Oftentimes, older jewelry pieces are traded for something newer or more modern. Van Cleef and Arpel designs catch the eye, not just with their arresting and unique shapes, but also for their careful creation.
With such a long and storied history and such artistry on display, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Van Cleef & Arpels have dominated international headlines before. In 1925, a bracelet made by the boutique, displaying red and white roses fashioned from rubies and diamonds, won the Grand Prize at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts.
The Crown Worn by Empress Farah Pahlavi
Even more famously, the company was tasked with creating the Crown that Empress Farah Pahlavi. She wore the crown at her 1967 coronation. A team of jewelers working in Iran took eleven months to select the jewels and painstakingly craft the piece. Finally, they presented the empress a wondrous crown set with thirty-six emeralds, thirty-six rubies, 105 pearls and 1,469 diamonds.
Today, that crown is part of the official Iranian Crown Jewels. This beauty on display at the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran. By far, the most famous and timeless line born out of Van Cleef & Arpels is their Alhambra collection. Launched in 1968, the line quickly became synonymous with the boutique itself. The collection became wildly popular among French and American women. Moreover, making the line extremely successful.
In addition, the collection attracted the world’s foremost fashion icons of the time. The Alhambra collection pieces found their way to the likes of Lyn Revson, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace of Monaco.
Characterized by a minimalist style and elegant grace, the pieces unite beautiful materials and unparalleled workmanship with a shape old and storied: the four-leafed clover. The symbolism behind the Alhambra line was initially inspired by the unique view of luck espoused by the boutique. Jaque Arpels, the nephew of Alfred Van Cleef, was often fond of saying that “to be lucky, you must believe in luck.” For Van Cleef & Arpels, luck has always presented itself to the lucky as an opportunity. Certainly, a chance to be taken by those who dare.
This is one of the company’s founding beliefs. They have long paid homage to luck in their pieces, with figures like ladybugs, fairies and unicorns. Pieces all allude to the quality in some way or another. However, with the Alhambra line, the connection was explicit for the first time. On the other hand, the general style of the collection has its roots in a real location. The Alhambra is a 9th century fortress located in Granada, Spain. It is a perfect example of moorish architecture of that period surviving into the present day.
The Intricate Design of Alhambra
The soaring arches and precise flowing lines are breathtaking. The intricate geometrical patterns are beautiful. It’s a place whose beauty inspires an entire line of jewelry. Notably, its influence is clear to see in the way the Alhambra collection prioritizes beautiful and elegant lines over ostentation and flash. Finally, the collection’s materials appealed to women in their twenties and thirties. In the 1950s, Van Cleef & Arpels started crafting jewelry from semiprecious stones, making these offerings more affordable.
As a consequence, young women started buying Van Cleef & Arpels pieces for frequent daytime wear. This boosted the brand’s popularity even further. This trend continued with the Alhambra collection, and is undeniably the reason that the collection became so popular and timeless. With all this in mind, the first piece in the Alhambra line was crafted, a long yellow gold necklace and set with four-leafed clover stations made of mother-of-pearl. It is edged with gold beads.
The Alhambra Evolution
Over the years, more and more designs joined the Alhambra line, and a wide variety of stones used in the designs. Many of our clients have Alhambra pieces that sit in a drawer or bank vault. They find that although they wore the Van cleef & Arpels Alhambra designs and enjoyed them for many years, their lives have changed. Moreover, they are ready for a different type of diamond or gold jewelry piece to suit their current lifestyle.
The shape’s symbolism evolved over the decades. It now represents health, fortune, and love. However, the line will always have delicate lines, exquisite craftsmanship and the classic clover shape. The Van Cleef & Arpels has never wavered from these focuses. In the years since, the Alhambra line expanded into a range of stylish and elegant watches. Again, all with faces in the shape of a four-leafed clover.
The most common and representative watches have a black face and band, harkening back to the simple Alhambra line elegance. In addition, they offer watches with white faces, pink bands, or the clover set in silver. The band is replaced by a bracelet formed by four-leafed clovers.
Grace and Style of Alhambra
They all, however, capture the grace and style unique to the Alhambra line. It is styled with a single-color face and includes the ever-present clover shape. Today, the line covers an extensive range of jewelry. The line offers everything from necklaces to bracelets, earrings, and rings, and even between-finger rings. Again, the pieces feature a pair of four-leafed clovers connected by a half-circle band. This way, the clovers appear to rest between fingers rather than on them.
Their gold bands and chains come in a wide range of colors. Colors include white pink and yellow, and set with centerpieces of great variety, including malachite, onyx, mother of pearl, diamond, carnelian and turquoise.
With so many choices and diversity, the collection will truly excite just about anyone. As a result, it is still in high demand for sale and resale. Additionally, the Alhambra collection is divided into a series of sub-collections, each having it’s own subtle, unique flavor. Vintage Alhambra is by far the largest line. It is characterized by all the hallmarks one expects from the Alhambra line, collecting every aspect of the style.
Another variation of the Alhambra collection is Sweet Alhambra. It’s a slightly lighter line characterized by the heavy use of rose and white gold. More diamonds than any other stone are used, preserving a softer feel. Pure Alhambra changes things up slightly by removing the beading that defines most of the Alhambra line, letting the smooth setting frame simple centerpieces either white or black. Notably, Magic Alhambra features a number of charms on the same piece of jewelry and diamonds. While Lucky Alhambra pieces often place a butterfly motif alongside the ever-present clover. Furthermore, featuring a vibrant collection of green, red and brown charms.
Finally, the Byzantine Alhambra collection is a small minimalist line. It consists of a simple gold bracelet and necklace, each with a clover charm. However, there are a few themes that set the Alhambra collection apart and make it instantly recognizable. Simplicity is one of the collection’s biggest calling cards, as few of the pieces contain flashy or complicated styling.
That simplicity is usually exhibited in gentle curves and the iconic beaded style of the Alhambra collection. Finally, the ever-present motif of the four-leafed clover is another enduring aspect of the Alhambra line. Although, butterflies are another common shape found in the collection. If a piece has all of these elements in a graceful display of beauty, the odds are that it’s the Alhambra collection.
The Timeless Collection of Alhambra
Another remarkable thing about the Alhambra collection is how consistent its identity has remained over time. The very first piece in the Alhambra collection wouldn’t look out of place among its descendants today. No matter what collection piece or when it was created, you can count on it to be elegant and gorgeous. This consistency gives the collection an incredibly strong identity. Again, this is what makes it appealing to customers and jewelry stores alike.
No matter how old or young an Alhambra piece is, it will still embody the qualities and values that make the collection famous. But, what makes this collection so enduring and timeless and beautiful? In part, it’s the symbolism of the closer shape itself. Luck, health, fortune, and love will always be in vogue. The shape that symbolizes these qualities will naturally be a great gift between loved ones.
In addition, the style of the pieces contributes to their enduring popularity. Elegant, simple jewelry is popular because anyone can wear such pieces happily, no matter their personal style. These simple and elegant pieces can be passed down from generation to generation.
With a company like Van Cleef & Arpels, a brand with a long history and whose pieces can be passed down from one generation to the next for years and years, a piece perfect for one person may be not quite right for the person who is gifted or has inherited it. Fortunately, one of the best things about Van Cleef & Arpels, and especially the timeless Alhambra collection, is that the pieces have excellent resale value. At diamonds by Raymond Lee in Boca Raton, we are proud to accept Van Cleef & Arpels pieces.
Van Cleef & Arpels Pieces at Raymond Lee Jewelers
Our professionals will be more than happy to appraise your piece and give you a strong offer. Of course, these pieces are always at their most valuable when they come with their original box and paperwork. However, we realize that this is not always possible and we are happy to purchase your authentic Van Cleef & Arpels piece or collection without the box or papers.
So, if a timeless piece isn’t your style, Diamonds by Raymond Lee will offer a trade. We will also exchange on an enormous range of Diamond and gold jewelry that you would wear and enjoy.