Van Cleef & Arpels: tales of fortune
As Van Cleef & Arpels celebrates another collection milestone, we talk to Alessandro Maffi, managing director of the Middle East and India, about the maison’s illustrious heritage. A name synonymous with luxury, Van Cleef & Arpels has created a legacy encompassing exceptional craftsmanship. Championing designs that are bold, daring and oh-so-extravagant, it’s little wonder the French maison has long been considered the jeweller of choice to society’s elite.
“This year is significant for Van Cleef & Arpels as we celebrate Alhambra’s 50th anniversary” –
Alessandro Maffi,Van Cleef & Arpels managing director of the Middle East and India.
Each Van Cleef & Arpels creation, from the delicate Frivole collection to the decadent designs of Le Secret, tells a tale that extends beyond its aesthetic. Infused with a sense of romance and charm, the maison’s allure is often linked to its fabled beginnings.
It was the start of a love story like no other when, towards the end of the 19th century, Estelle Arpels – the daughter of a dealer in precious stones – met Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a stone cutter. They married in 1895 and their union set the foundation for a brand built from a shared desire to create pieces that would incite wonder and defy time.
Passionate about the maison’s origins, Alessandro Maffi, managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East and India, says: “This legacy is something all of us working with Van Cleef & Arpels hold dear. And me, being Italian, well, it is in our nature to believe in love.
“The maison’s love story resonates incredibly well with me. The fact that it derives from a tale of a happy marriage, and two families joining together, remains key to Van Cleef & Arpels’ poetic essence.”
Maffi tells us that since opening its first boutique on Place Vendôme in Paris in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has played a revolutionary role in the development of the art of jewellery design. Just a few of these milestone moments include the iconic mystery setting technique, a paving procedure that uses no visible claws to contain the stone, the Zip necklace in 1951, and the iconic Alhambra motif in 1968.
An appreciative look through the archives illustrates the maison’s penchant for stones that shine with vibrancy and energy. As Maffi explains: “For over a century, exceptional stones have been at the heart of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations. Claude Arpels, Estelle Arpels’ nephew, used to say ‘Every stone has a soul of its own’. He travelled the world in search of these wonders.”
Following an initial selection process based on criteria such as purity, colour, cut or weight, only one or two percent of the stones examined are approved. “Pierres de Caractère, or Stones with Character, are carefully selected by our gemologists. We invest a lot of time and resources into sourcing the very best stones. At Van Cleef & Arpels, it is all about the feeling these stones project, each and every one of our creations should trigger a unique feeling that instils deep emotions.”
Earlier this year, at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced several new additions to some of its well-known ranges, as well as unique pieces like the Pâquerette watch – which uses a spellbinding display of diamonds and yellow sapphires.
Maffi tells us that it is designs like these that resonate with the Middle East clientele. “Women in this region have a huge appetite for personalisation as well as bespoke and handcrafted items. They like to stand out. Whether it is to wear every day, or for that special occasion, she will choose a creation that she can relate to. At Van Cleef & Arpels, we cater to this segment by offering unique pieces and creating special orders that fit the maison’s pillars and sources of inspirations.”
Additionally, there were several other designs that created plenty of buzz at the annual showcase. The launch of Lady Arpels Planétarium Poetic Complication sees Van Cleef & Arpels now offering an original women’s edition to the Midnight Planétarium watch collection. While the stunning Dandelion Secret timepiece, a bracelet brimming with precious stones, offers a sense of mystery with its hidden dial. It’s this eye for clever aesthetics that is reflected in many of Van Cleef & Arpels’ elegant collections, especially in the Extraordinary Dials range inspired by miniature art. The 2018 collection is no exception with the Lady Arpels Nuit Féerique and Lady Arpels Jour Féerique proving to be remarkable examples of this.
Another significant launch saw the Alhambra collection welcome the dynamic Sweet Alhambra watch. “This year is significant for Van Cleef & Arpels as we celebrate Alhambra’s 50th anniversary,” says Maffi. “The motif was first inspired by the four-leaf clover, which is synonymous with luck. Although the first piece was created in 1968, long before that, Jacques Arpels would write motivational poetry for his staff and he would personalise each letter by pressing a four-leaf clover from his garden onto the paper. ‘To be lucky, you must believe in luck’ is something he would often say.”
Bringing together the skills of the maison’s craftsmen, from lapidaries and jewellers to stone-setters and polishers, with a stunning selection of materials including turquoise, onyx and diamonds, the Alhambra collection is a playful ode to nature that is perfectly in keeping with the maison’s timeless appeal.
Looking ahead, Maffi says: “This year, we are going to be celebrating this icon of luck throughout the world, revealing its history and savoir-faire, along with new creations marked by timeless elegance. We will be introducing a number of exquisite variations on the form, colour and dimensions of the motif to join our Vintage Alhambra pieces. For the first time, you will also see special stone combinations of Alhambra in grey mother of pearl, rock crystal, onyx, and lapis lazuli.”