Van Cleef & Arpels is a Parisian jewellery house famed for iconic designs such as the Alhambra four-leaf clover motif, the Zip necklace and its innovative Mystery Set technique.
The history of the brand began in 1895 with the marriage of Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a dealer in precious stones, to Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a diamond cutter. The company was founded in 1906 by Alfred and his brother-in law, Charles Arpels at 22 Place Vendôme.
Julien Arpels joined the family business in 1908, and Louis Arpels in 1913. The oldest son of Julien Arpels, Claude, joined in 1932, followed by his brothers Jacques and Pierre in 1936 and 1944. Claude opened a boutique in Rockefeller Center in New York in 1939, soon relocating to its definitive address at 744 Fifth Avenue.
The 1930s saw some of Van Cleef & Arpel’s most celebrated designs. The house’s trademarked Mystery Set — where the mounting of the gemstones is hidden behind the calibré-cut surface of the jewel — was developed in 1933. The concept of the Minaudière, made in honour of Florence Jay Gould, was invented in 1930 by Charles Arpels. The house’s Passe-Partout necklace, patented in the late 1930s, allowed its owner to adapt her jewel to match her mood.
In the following decades, the firm upheld its reputation for innovation. The intricate Zip necklace of the 1950s, which can be transformed into a bracelet, is still sought-after at auction today. In 2022, a ruby and diamond Zip necklace set a new auction record for the design when it sold at Christie’s for €819,000.
Van Cleef & Arpels introduced the Alhambra motif in 1968. Four-leaf clover necklaces, bracelets and rings remain emblematic of the brand more than 50 years later, crafted in materials such as mother-of-pearl and malachite. Other lucky motifs have since been added to the series, including butterfly and heart pendants. Today, Van Cleef & Arpels is part of the Richemont Group, with more than 100 boutiques around the world.