Van Cleef & Arpels – Legendary Jeweler

Nicolas Luchsinger

Nicolas Luchsinger

Mr. Luchsinger’s presentation provided an insightful and fascinating look at Van Cleef & Arpels. Van Cleef & Arpels (VCA) is a family love story between Alfred & Estelle. Founded in 1906 by Alfred Van Cleef and his brothers-in-law Charles and Julien Arpels on 22 Place Vendome in Paris, the firm has since expanded across the globe and become known for creative design, top-quality materials, and iconic trademarks.

Alfred Van Cleef & Estelle Arpels

Alfred Van Cleef & Estelle Arpels

Van Cleef and Arpels made numerous contributions to the history of jewelry design, in 1930, a new type of accessory: the minaudière. The fore-runner of the ladies compact. The minaudière is a type of vanity case. Constructed from gold or silver, it takes the form of a box.

Minaudière When opened, it reveals various lady-like essentials: a comb, a case for lipstick, a lighter, small compartments for cigarettes, change, and powder.

Minaudière OpenedThe inspiration for the design came from a friend and client: Frances Gould, wife of American railroader Jay Gould. Gould apparently rushed to a meeting with Charles Arpels, tossing her necessities into a tin Lucky Strike cigarette case. Arpels took the idea and made it his own.

He named it for his wife. The French verb minauder means, roughly, to simper or smile coyly. Madame Van Cleef’s simpering was famous. The minaudière was wildly popular for decades. Women carried them in custom-made, fabric pouches.

Another major contribution was the introduction, in 1935, of a technique of gemstone setting called invisible setting (serti invisible). The setting is named for its appearance. When gems are invisibly set, it appears as if nothing is holding them in place: no prongs, bars, or bezels. One is simply presented with a collection of continuous, geometric gems. As a matter of fact, the gemstones are secured on their undersides by a metal grid into which each stone is fitted and held in places by small grooves. Setting gemstones in this way allowed for a new aesthetic in jewelry design. Many of VCA’s signature pieces feature this technique.

Mystery Set JewelryMystery Setting 1From 1909 to 1939, Van Cleef & Arpels prospered and opened boutiques in holiday resorts such asDeauville, Le Touquet, Nice and Monte-Carlo.

VCA ExpansionProgressively, the second generation joined the business. In 1942, the Arpels family emigrated toAmerica and opened their first boutique inNew York, on5th Avenue.

VCA has created impressive pieces in every design period throughout the twentieth century.

Art Deco, Asian & Egyptian Influences

Art Deco, Asian & Egyptian Influences

Birds of a Feather ....

Birds of a Feather ....

In the 1940’s, for instance, it created widely-copied, charming ballerina brooches.

Ballerina BroochesVan Cleef & Arpels has been associated with events that have marked the lives of princely, royal and imperial families around the world, like that of His Royal Highness Don Antonio of Orléans and Grand Duke Dmitri in the 1920s, Princess de Faucigny Lucinge, Baron Thyssen, the Duchess of Windsor and the Duke of Westminster in the 1930s, Queen Nazli and King Farouk of Egypt, Baron James de Rothschild, Countesses de Rohan Chabot and d’Harcourt, the Maharani of Baroda, Queen Sirikit of Thailand in the 1950s, and then, in the following decades, Baron Guy de Rothschild, the Queen of Spain, the Princess of Wales, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Shaw of Iran, etc.

IRAN Coronation 1967

IRAN Coronation 1967Duchess of Windsor

Numerous actresses have also favored Van Cleef & Arpels jewels. Examples of faithful clients include Madeleine Carroll, Michèle Morgan, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Claudia Cardinale, Romy Schneider, Brigitte Bardot, as well as Florence Jay Gould, Barbara Hutton and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Famous Women

Gould Necklace

All VCA pieces are Numbered and documented in VCA Archives.

Van CleefVisit Van Cleef & Arpels web page.

We thank Mr. Nicolas Luchsinger once again for sharing his knowledge, time and the above slides & pictures with us, as we appreciate the opportunity to learn from experts in the trade.

Meeting Recap – Charlie Marts

Picture of Speaker and Members – Melanie Marts

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2 Responses to Van Cleef & Arpels – Legendary Jeweler

  1. Richard says:

    Alfred Van Cleef a épousé sa cousine Esther Arpels (et non Estelle) le 9 juin 1895 Il s’était associé avec Salomon Arpels en 1896 . Salomon Arpels est décédé en 1903 et les frères d’Esther rentrerent dans la nouvelle société Place Vendome en 1906. En 1938 Alfred Van cleef Meurt et lègue tout a sa fille unique Renée Rachel Puissant/Van Cleef qui dirige la société car elle est majoritaire dans l entreprise. La maison est aryanisée, Renée Rachel part en Zone libre à Vichy ou elle a une succursale et Jacques Arpels part à Cannes . Jules Arpels et Claude étaient partis aux etats unis en 1939, et seront rejoints par Louis Arpels. Renée Rachel Van Cleef meurt a Vichy le 12/12/1942 il n’y aplus de Van Cleef seul restent les Arpels

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