Van Cleef and Arpels resulted from the collaboration of Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. Originally based in France, the house still stands for Old World elegance, but Van Cleef jewelry is in a class of its own. It’s inspired by the ethereal, by nature’s spontaneity, fleetingness, and ever-changing quality. Hence, much of its jewelry is fluttering in appearance, and evokes movement through ingenious designs and subject matter. The Van Cleef website expresses nature’s liveliness and ethereality through its animation and videos showing jewelry traveling through landscapes.
There is a metaphorical and narrative element in much of Van Cleef’s jewelry that marries the technical difficulty of its intricate designs and stonework.
Van Cleef continually comes out with pieces bearing birds, flowers, and animal motifs. For instance, the Oiseaux de Paradis (Birds of Paradise) earrings shown above pay homage to Van Cleef’s love of plumage and the bird as a symbol of movement. When hanging side by side, one on each ear, the bird on the right seems about to put a fruit (a juicy amethyst stone) into the mouth of the smaller bird, whose lower position evokes acceptance. The gemstone tendrils they suspend from are fruity vines.
The house’s top quality watches come in different styles from simple to ornate. The most luxurious dials have gem-inlaid scenes and motifs that evoke time’s passage and precious moments to be remembered.