7 Iconic Looks from Van Cleef & Arpels

Updated: Jul 15

Today let's talk about one of the most influential jewelry design houses, Van Cleef and Arpels. A favorite of royalty and celebrities, they are known for their amazing craftsmanship. This fabulous French jewelry house was started with a marriage in 1896 between Alfred and Estelle. Both came from families in the jewelry industry. Alfred was the son of a stone cutter, and Estelle was the daughter of a gem dealer. These two loved jewelry and loved to travel. They had an eye for color and detail, and an appreciation for whimsy.

Van Cleef patented a number of design innovations. Their pieces were so distinctive and so memorable that they have a timeless appeal. I created a list of what I consider to be seven of their truly iconic pieces.

Here we go!

1. The Zip Necklace

This is one of those pieces that's so unique, nothing like it exists. It’s called the Zip necklace because you can actually zip it! Leave it open, it’s a necklace. Zip it closed, it’s a bracelet. Ingenious!

The Duchess of Windsor, style maven of her day, inspired the design. Zippers had just been added to clothing, and she was convinced you could do the same with jewelry. This kind of intricate work doesn't happen overnight. It took Van Cleef over a decade to get it just right. The results, though, were worth it. No other company has ever created anything like this.

Diamond zip bracelet from Van Cleef
Diamond zip bracelet from Van Cleef

2. Alhambra Necklace

The clover leaf-looking long necklace was introduced in 1968. After all the glitz and glamour of the 1950’s, it represented a more modern, understated design. It quickly became a favorite of Princess Grace of Monaco, who wore it frequently.

Princess Grace wearing the Alhambra necklace

The design was inspired by the beautiful Alhambra castle in Granada, Spain. It had numerous quatrefoils that you could find in the architecture of the arches and doorways. The quatrefoil design is actually quite iconic in its own right. It’s found in Gothic castles and cathedrals all over the world. Once you recognize the pattern, you’ll swear it’s everywhere!