by Kasey Caminiti | June 17, 2019 11:00 am
Two new Van Cleef & Arpels boutiques have opened recently in New York (Hudson Yards) and Boston (Newbury Street), ensuring ample opportunities to see some of the famed French jeweler’s extraordinary collections firsthand, should your summer travels take you to the Northeast. One unique feature of the Boston location is that it’s the first in the U.S. to house a Salon 1906, a curated showcase of the brand’s heritage and iconic jewels. Because to truly enjoy newly minted Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry with the appreciation of a seasoned collector, it pays to have an understanding of the company’s history.
As CEO and president Nicolas Bos explains, “The maison is over 110 years old, so we always refer to our heritage and look through the archives for inspiration, but we bring a contemporary vision to our creations. It’s a question of balance between historical sources of inspiration and aesthetic or technical renewal.” The company’s newest collections reflect this past-meets-present point de vue with a compelling array of jewels, from stacking rings to museum-quality masterpieces. They’re set to start arriving in stores in early summer, bringing all the glamour—and color—you need for this season and beyond.
One of the maison’s most enduring contemporary collections, Perlée is distinguished by tiny golden beads. The distinctive motif, in use since the 1920s, reached its fullest expression in the 1960s, when Van Cleef & Arpels’ Twist series (mainly torsade bracelets) came into vogue; the little gold beads also popped up on the famous four-leaf clovers of Alhambra, the company’s very chic answer to the flower power movement.
Perlée launched in 2008, as Mad Men was heading to the peak of its popularity, prompting many heritage brands to consult their archives for inspiration. Over the years, the collection has expanded to pair the shimmering handworked beads with diamonds, lapis, malachite, and other gemstones.
This summer, Van Cleef & Arpels welcomes several new additions to the Perlée range, including a long necklace featuring a pendant formed by three rings; one may be swapped with one of three different circles made of turquoise, coral, or onyx beads.
For the first time, the maison is also introducing a series of Perlée timepieces. Playful yet practical, the bracelet watches borrow several design elements from the Couscous watch (circa 1949), including a similar peekaboo mechanism and mushroom-cap shapes. All three Perlée watches conceal and reveal a mother-of-pearl and diamond dial, while the exterior adornments are available in all-diamond, malachite/coral, or lapis/diamond variations—the latter two would seem particularly suited to poolside looks, or as something to pack for that Mediterranean cruise.
In July, Van Cleef & Arpels will release its latest high jewelry designs, including Brume de Sapphir, which highlights variegated sapphires in light-as-air openwork settings. Available in two pastel-to-vivid color stories—lilac/pink and sky blue/cornflower—each stone is intended to represent a droplet of water, as in a veil of mist.
The cascading earrings and the drape of these bracelets and collars invoke the design vocabulary of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Palmyre collection from 1978. Named for an oasis in the Syrian desert, the pieces were composed of diamonds secured by four-claw rounded bezels and had a fluid quality, a subtle movement that made the jewels feel as supple as cloth, like a second skin. This gentle articulation is reprised in the new Brume de Sapphir creations, while the colored gems feel uniquely suited to the season. The blue sapphires alternately evoke underwater bubbles or undulating waves. Meanwhile, the pinks point to sunny landscapes, says Bos: “The pinkish gradation reminds you of the beauty of a sunset.”
Unveiled this spring in Bangkok and currently touring internationally, Treasure of Rubies encompasses 60 one-of-a-kind high jewelry pieces. More than 3,000 carats’ worth of rubies have been worked into the designs. “This is really a major first for the maison,” says Bos. “When we started to work on this collection a few years ago, we did not have certainty that we would be able to bring together enough rubies that met Van Cleef & Arpels’ stringent criteria. The challenge was high, as rubies are much sought-after and often even rarer than diamonds. Because of that, it might be more and more difficult to create a comparable collection in the future.”
As such, the sheer magnitude and caliber of the collection is an extraordinary opportunity for connoisseurs to invest in a part of what’s destined to become a history-making debut. (It’s also a chance to fete a very special July birthday girl with an unspeakably luxurious birthstone bauble.)
“Ruby is probably the stone which is the most associated with Van Cleef & Arpels, in particular with our great historic Mystery Set pieces,” says Bos. Patented by the maison in 1933, this technique places tiny stones within a design without revealing any metal prongs or supports, creating a seamless, velvety wall-to-wall carpet effect. It’s perhaps the brand’s most recognizable signature.
In Treasure of Rubies, the new Amour Sacré clip embraces a floral theme, its heart-shaped petals accented with Mystery Set rubies paired with round brilliant white diamonds. Other Van Cleef & Arpels stylistic signatures are also represented, from a double-finger ring (a style beloved since the 1970s) to the collection’s many convertible jewels, like the Rubis Impériale transformable necklace that can be worn in variations of four, five, or nine rows of fiery ruby beads.
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