Chiswick Auctions has been offering fine jewellery in its dedicated sales for many years now and sold a few significant and interesting pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels (VCA) amongst other jewellers.
The story of VCA started in 1895 with the wedding of Alfred Van Cleef – the son of a diamond cutter to Esther Arpels – the daughter of a dealer in precious stones. A year later, the company was founded by Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law Salomon Arpels. They opened their first boutique in 1906 in Paris at 22 Place Vendome - an address now extended to number 20 and 24. Opposite the Ritz, this would prove to be the first of many boutiques that the Maison would open around the world. The mid 1930s and 1940s were times of great growth and expansion with the opening of boutiques in the United States, Japan and China.
As one of France’s leading jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels have been in the vanguard of fresh design and new development. In 1933, VCA adopted and patented the invisible mount or ‘serti invisible’ – a gem setting technique consisting of setting the gems in such a way that no metal was visible from the front. The stones were cut in rectangular or square shape and slid on to metal rails which ran into groves cut at the back of the stones thus rendering the setting invisible.
The same year saw one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ important innovations: the creation of the Minaudière. Following inspiration from the French American socialite and salon-holder Florence Jay Gould, Charles Arpels created the Minaudière as the perfected beauty compact, designed with compartments to hold the various accessories indispensable for a woman of the world. Chiswick Auctions has sold a number of these iconic items.
A sapphire, diamond and styptor minaudière, by Van Cleef & Arpels for Asprey, circa 1945
Sold in May 2019 for £1,600 including buyer’s premium
Inspired by flowers, animals, and enchanting creatures, Van Cleef & Arpels has been expressing the beauty of nature for over a century. It has focused particular attention on the world of flora and produced a large number of jewels connected with the aesthetic of flowers and plants.
A gem-set giardinetto brooch, 1959 by Van Cleef & Arpels
Sold in September 2022 for £6,875 including buyer’s premium
Fauna has also been an important source of inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels. They have always endeavoured to capture the wonder of nature in movement. Delicate butterflies are amongst the most sought-after animals in the precious forest of VCA for their symbolism. They represent the soul, personified by Psyche, but also a certain fragility and fleetingness of life.
A sapphire and diamond butterfly brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels
Sold in March 2022 for £1,750 including Buyer's premium
In the 1950s the general tendency for jewellery was towards lightness and movement. Volutes, helixes, spirals, and turban motifs characterised creations of more abstract inspiration. The tourbillon earrings curated in our last June sale perfectly illustrate Van Cleef & Arpels’ constant quest to impart movement into precious materials.
A pair of sapphire earrings by Van Cleef & Arpels
Sold in June 2022 for £9,000 including buyer’s premium
Over the years, Van Cleef & Arpels created many emblematic collections including the zippers, perlée, ballerinas, ‘cheveux d’ange’, ‘passe-partout’ – to name a few. However the most iconic collection remains unquestionably the Alhambra. In 1968, the emblematic Alhambra motif was unveiled. It is inspired by the four-leaf clover found on the Moorish tiles of the Alhambra Palace in Granada. It has led to a wide variety of creations (Vintage, Magic, Sweet, Lucky, Pure, Byzantine) with the Vintage Alhambra being one of the impressive results we achieved last year.
A white gold and mother-of-pearl 'Vintage Alhambra' necklace, 2015, by Van Cleef & Arpels
Sold in September 2021 for £12,500, including buyer's premium
Van Cleef & Arpels has used many lucky charms such as ladybirds and the four-leaf clover. Jacques Arpels, nephew of Estelle Arpels, would pick four-leaf clovers in the back yard of his house, offering them to his employees along with an English poem, “Don’t Quit.”
In the 1920s, possibly due to the scarcity of materials after the war, VCA created the touch wood collection. “To be lucky, you must believe in luck,” as Jacques Arpels liked to say. The jewellery was of bombé rounded design, some with gold bezel mounts set flush to the surface of the wood, similar to the inlaid gold in the lot offered at Chiswick Auctions in 2019.
A wood and gold brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1980
Sold in February 2019 for £2,600, including buyer's premium
Since the first half of the twentieth century the firm has added watches and timepieces to their products and in our past few Chiswick Auctions Fine Watches sales, we have been delighted to offer a number of fine watches from the Van Cleef and Arpels range. With a refined approach to their watch designs Van Cleef & Arpels state that “each watch narrates a moment of grace, luck or happiness, inscribed in the Poetry of Time®©.
A Van Cleef & Arpels men's 18k Yellow Gold Quartz bracelet watch, circa 2010
Sold for £3,000 including buyer's premium
If you are thinking of consigning jewellery for the sale or for a valuation, Raphaëlle Godfrey is available to help and advise.