Van Cleef & Arpels' icon of luck
A symbol of love and luck, Van Cleef & Arpels returns with the iconic Alhambra collection
Jacques Arpels once said: “To be lucky, you have to believe in luck.” For the nephew of Estelle Arpels (one of the Van Cleef & Arpels founders), luck came in droves. And luckily for Van Cleef & Arpels, Jacques was eager to share his beliefs – and, by extension, his luck – with the Maison’s fervent admirers.
The man was a self-help guru of sorts, even before the term came into vogue. Each January, Jacques would send greeting cards inscribed with aphorisms on love and happiness to those who needed gentle reminders and encouragement since a little positive energy went a long way. Il est des signatures auxquelles on tient (“There are signatures for which one cares”) was one of Jacques’ favourites, one that he readily passed on to those he met. The Jewellery Maison took this saying to heart, creating signature pieces that people for generations to come would care about. It may have been good karma or the affections of Lady Luck – but whatever it was, it catalysed the success of Van Cleef & Arpels.
On one particularly memorable occasion, Jacques gathered clovers in his garden and presented them to his staff, accompanied by the poem Don’t Quit – an optimistic piece that urged its audience to never give up hope and to face adversity head on. As luck would have it, it was Jacques’ infectious positive attitude and maxims that inspired what would become one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ signature collections: Alhambra.
In 1968, the first long necklace of the Alhambra collection was created based on Jacques’ penchant for the Alhambra motif, a classic symbol of luck. Drawing upon the Maison’s reputation for perfection, the Alhambra culls the varied skills of lapidaries, jewellers, stone-setters and polishers for each piece. Selecting only the very best of raw materials, just 1 per cent of mother-of-pearl, turquoise, onyx, carnelian, chalcedony, malachite and letterwood make the cut.
Each piece is meticulously hand-finished by skilled jewellers, who have perfected what is called the snow-setting technique, a method that reduces the space between the stones. This space reduction employs round diamonds of varying diameters to create the illusion of an entirely covered surface, producing a stunning play of light. This 15-step process of selection, production and verification culminates in a final polish that brings out the lustre and luck of the Alhambra.
The mother-of-pearl and onyx pieces are among the favourites of those who love Van Cleef & Arpels. Sourced from Indonesia and Japan, the mother-of-pearl is noted for its subtle and uniform shades, with a paleness that starkly contrasts the blackness of the onyx. Brazilian in origin, but mythically born out of the clipped nails of the Roman goddess of love, Venus, onyx is highly valued by the Maison for its reflective properties and its dark hue.
Today, Alhambra continues to charm. Adding to the Magic and Vintage Alhambra lines are eight new models of yellow gold and malachite. Malachite, primarily sourced from Australia, is distinguished by its homogeneity and pattern regularity of alternating light and dark green hues. The dark green stone is believed to protect travellers from harm and has been used to aid success in business.
So bring love and luck your way and view the stunning new collection at the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in Starhill Gallery.
This article has previously appeared in the May 2013 issue of Malaysia Tatler: Jewels & Time.