Van Cleef & Arpels has landed in New Zealand

To celebrate the arrival of Van Cleef & Arpels in Aotearoa, we speak exclusively about the French High Jewellery Maison’s storied past, explore some of its most iconic pieces, and take a peek at what’s in store at the brand’s dazzling new Auckland home.

Few names, just by their mention, bring to mind a bijouterie legacy as distinctive and timeless as that of French High Jewellery Maison, Van Cleef & Arpels. Synonymous with class, couture and creations that transcend both the passing of time and the coming and going of trends, the house breathes elegance and endurance into everything it touches, thus solidifying itself as the authority on quality stones, impeccable craftsmanship, and rich storytelling.This last point is important. It was a love story that started it off, after all.

The origin story 

In 1895, Estelle Arpels – the daughter of a dealer in precious stones – married Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a lapidary and diamond broker. It was a match that would change the world of fine jewellery forever. In 1906, the pair went into business with Estelle’s brothers Charles, Julien and Louis, to open the first Van Cleef & Arpels boutique at 22 Place Vendôme, a part of Paris famous for its refined establishments and equally refined clientele. To this day, the Maison’s legendary address remains unchanged. 

Since its inception, the brand has recruited and retained the most talented artisans with the skills to create true masterpieces out of the finest metals and most precious of stones sourced from around the world. With a wealth of inspiration to be drawn from the fascinating family at its helm and the loves and lives of these key individuals, the Maison has explored various themes over the years, creating collections and pieces that are at once delightfully eccentric and characteristically Van Cleef & Arpels. Over time, stand-out motifs have emerged and come to represent their own special chapter in the Van Cleef & Arpels story. 

Lucky charms

A concept cherished by the Van Cleef & Arpels family, luck is said to have guided their path forward at times, and appropriately inspired some of the Maison’s most characteristic creations – namely the Alhambra collection. Born in 1968, the collection was centred around the four leaf clover motif, a symbol of luck which had itself appeared in Van Cleef & Arpels’ archives since the early days. Later expanded to include wooden talisman jewels, charms and lucky pendants, by paying homage to luck in all its different forms, these motifs are said to imbue the wearer with a little bit of the Maison’s good fortune. 

Of course, no round up of Van Cleef & Arpels’ thematic library is complete without mention of symbols of love. Inextricable from the Maison’s founding story and utterly entrenched in its brand values and aesthetic, love is everything to Van Cleef & Arpels, and unsurprisingly it inspired the very first piece of jewellery sold in 1906 – a diamond heart. 

Elsewhere, themes of fairy tales, nature, dance and astronomy are prominent across countless collections, the opportunity for movement and symmetry within these design motifs a joy for both jewellers and wearers to delight in, melding artistry with wearability in a way that is uniquely Van Cleef & Arpels.

The Zip Necklace

Less whimsical and more of a technical showstopper, the Zip Necklace is a testament to the engineering that goes into Van Cleef & Arpels’ most innovative pieces. Opening and closing like a real zipper, the Zip Necklace is a triumph of design in the universe of high jewellery, its fastener elevating it to masterpiece territory and securing its status as a true icon of modern jewellery making.

A bold expression of the Maison’s quietly innovative modus operandi, the jewelled Zip Necklace works with a closure that slides up and down, allowing the creation to be altered in length and style, and even worn as a bracelet. This transformative ability lends it a playful yet functional character, which matches the Maison’s interest in the transformative function of jewellery. Uniting wit and creativity through design, the Zip Necklace reinvents a seemingly mundane domestic object into something that exudes luxury and desire. 

As to how such a bold piece was conceived of, the idea is credited to the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, whose infamous love story with King Edward VIII served as inspiration for many Van Cleef & Arpels creations. In the 1930s, Simpson was fascinated by this new zip function that had started to appear on clothing, and suggested to Renée Puissant – the Maison’s artistic director and daughter of the founding couple – to create a piece based on the zip fastener. With that, the necklace was crafted in yellow gold with platinum-mounted diamonds, and produced in 1950. 

Famous fans

In terms of celebrity muses, Van Cleef & Arpels has come a long way since then. With pieces being adorned and adored by some of the biggest names of the past several decades, the Maison’s reputation continues to glimmer as brightly as the jewels that dazzle on well-known necks. From crown royalty such as Grace Kelly and Princess Faiza of Egypt to Hollywood royalty including Margot Robbie and Blake Lively, Van Cleef & Arpels is the one to call when dressing to the nines. Of course, an A-List name is far from essential to get your foot in the door…

New in town

Exciting news for New Zealand lovers of exquisite jewels and impeccable customer service, the iconic Maison has finally landed on our shores, with its first boutique located in the heart of Auckland’s city centre on the landmark corner of Customs and Queen Streets. The New Zealand flagship store echoes the Maison’s earliest sources of inspiration, with flowers, birds and patterns from nature embellishing the space while soft lines and precious materials contribute to its poetic atmosphere. 

Van Cleef & Arpels makes the ordinary extraordinary, respectfully reinvents the classics and injects its subtle yet unmistakable design signatures into every piece it makes. Known for its iconic collections, technical innovations and the care with which it brings exquisite gems to life, Van Cleef & Arpels, through creativity, imagination, and a limitless love for the craft, creates pieces that will stand the test of time. Be a part of the French High Jewellery Maison’s rich history and delight in the profoundly poetic experience that is discovering Van Cleef & Arpels for the first time.