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Van Cleef & Arpels is certainly one of the most internationally recognizable names in luxury jewelry, so much so that they are considered a reference to others in the industry. A name called upon by the best collectors and auction houses due to their well-deserved reputation, the joaillerie’s clients in the past hundred years include celebrities and royalty abound. “We stay true to ourselves and create pieces relevant to our world,” explains Nicolas Bos, Vice President and Worldwide Creative Director for Van Cleef & Arpels, and President and CEO to the Americas. Bos shared with me the genesis of the House, and the significance depicted in some of their most magnificent jewelry fit for even today’s princesses, pieces created by jewelers they call their golden hands.

“All of the jewelers in our workshop are considered golden hands,” Bos proudly states when asked who they are and why they are considered as such. At this consistent level for the authoritative brand, the materials, designs and techniques become crucial to each piece, which can take up to three years to develop. “The Serpent Chain demands remarkable technical mastery,” as do the jewels created in their patented Mystery Setting where stones in the jewelry have no visible setting. Bos explains that since there is much less metal involved in the setting, “it allows much more light to reach the stones, thus enhancing their brilliance.”

Size does matter, but it is not the end all. “We have had a 30 carat diamond of exceptional quality,” Bos reveals, “and we have had a 5 carat blue diamond which is considered huge for a blue diamond.” It is intimidating knowledge, however in a humble and authentically French manner, Bos reminds me, “The value and beauty is in the rarity and quality within the category of stone.”

Another example of true mastery is the Zip Necklace, part of the Couture Collection inspired by fashion, of course. Paris is known as the fashion capital of the world, so a couture collection came naturally for the French company. In couture jewelry you find gold lacework, tassels made of rubies and diamonds, and buttons of precious metal. Back to the Zipper Necklace: yes, it is an operable zipper though one unlike any other you have seen. This zipper, completely covered in diamonds, is also a Van Cleef & Arpels transformational piece, so it can be worn open as a necklace, or closed as a bracelet.

As an haute joaillerie, the House will cater to the individual client request. “We do a lot of custom pieces for our clients. It is an interesting process as it involves what the client wants to be created by us, yet it is their life and their taste,” says Bos. Some famous clients include Elizabeth Taylor (the inspiration behind Bals de Légende,) Brigitte Bardot and of course, Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco. “She often wore our formal pieces for those [royal] occasions, and other daily pieces, like the Alhambra Necklace for instance, when playing with her children,” Bos notes of the late Princess.

“Time changes, the spirit remains,” as expressed by Van Cleef & Arpels principles. So naturally, the luxury jewelry brand won the heart of the new Princess of Monaco, Charlene, who selected the Ocean Necklace out of numerous other jewels as a wedding gift from Prince Albert II. The necklace, a transformational piece that can also be worn as a tiara, was customized for the Princess who was a former Olympic swimmer. The piece is designed with waves of over 1200 diamonds and sapphires. The Magic Alhambra set is now named in honor of Princess Charlene and sold exclusively at the recently renovated Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in Monaco.

A love story was the genesis for the brand, and one that continues throughout the brand’s creations filled with nature and fairytale themes. You will find many fairies at Van Cleef & Arpels, along with other fluttering beauties such as beaming butterflies, glimmering dragonflies and dancing ballerinas. As some fly, others fall, like the Snowflake jewelry, a brilliant collection in platinum and diamonds; seemingly all the most glorious fallen stars the night sky has to offer.

I ask Bos what he admires most about the company after 12 years with the brand, and how it has been able to sustain this level of expertise. “Our identity is our inspiration. There is such a strong history and legacy, yet freedom to explore new designs,” he says. In my opinion, this is their foundation for greatness. “I really like working with this quality where we do not compromise. We only work with the best designs, techniques and stones, or we will not create it. Our customers recognize and respect this.” Though with such talent comes responsibility. Bos clarifies, “At the end of the day, we are blessed for this and cursed, because we have to create at that standard to seduce our clients, always surprising them and staying at that level of excellence and enchantment.”

Over a century after it first opened, the first Van Cleef & Arpels boutique is still located at the affluent Place de Vendome, Paris. As Stanislas de Quercize, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels once said, “The love story is our strength.”

For more information, visit VanCleefArpels.com.

Photo Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

By Slavica Monczka