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Top 10 Most Expensive Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery Ever Sold at Auction as of 2023
May 15, 2023
Van Cleef & Arpels is a luxury jewellery brand that has been synonymous with sophistication, elegance, and beauty for over a century. Known for its exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail, the company has created some of the most stunning and iconic pieces in the history of jewellery design including jewellery worn by world-famous actresses and stars.
Among these pieces is a handful that stands out not only for their beauty but also for their extraordinary price tags. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most expensive pieces ever made by Van Cleef & Arpels, delving into their design, materials, and the stories behind their creation.
From diamond-encrusted necklaces to intricately crafted watches, these pieces represent the pinnacle of luxury and exclusivity, and offer a glimpse into the world of high-end jewellery that Van Cleef & Arpels has helped to shape.
The history of Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels is a French luxury jewellery, watch, and perfume brand that has been captivating customers with its intricate and elegant designs for over a century. The company was founded in 1896 by Alfred Van Cleef and Salomon Arpels, two jewellery craftsmen from France who met in Paris.
The early years of the company were marked by the founders’ meticulous attention to detail and their commitment to using only the finest materials. They quickly gained a reputation for creating exquisite pieces that were both beautiful and functional, and their designs became popular among the wealthy and fashionable elite of Paris.
In 1906, Salomon Arpels died and instead, Alfred Van Cleef ran the business with two of his brothers-in-law, Charles and Julien. They acquired space for the brand opposite the Ritz Hotel in Paris and opened their first boutique jewellery shop. The third Arpels brother, Louis, joined the company in 1913.
During the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s, Van Cleef & Arpels expanded its offerings to include watches and other luxury accessories. The company’s reputation for quality and innovation continued to grow, and it soon became a favourite of celebrities and royalty around the world.
One of the company’s most famous clients was the actress Grace Kelly, who wore a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace at her wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. The necklace, which was made up of three strands of diamonds and platinum, was later named the “Princess Grace” necklace in honour of the actress.
Today, Van Cleef & Arpels is owned by the Richemont Group, a Swiss luxury goods company that also owns brands such as Cartier, Dunhill, and Montblanc. Despite being part of a larger corporation, the company remains committed to its heritage of craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The brand’s current CEO and creative director, Nicolas Bos, has been with the company since 1994 and has played a key role in its expansion and modernisation. Under his leadership, the company has opened new boutiques around the world and introduced new collections that combine traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design.
In addition to its jewellery and watches, Van Cleef & Arpels also produces a range of perfumes that are inspired by the same sense of luxury and refinement that characterises the brand’s jewellery. The company’s fragrances are known for their complex and sophisticated compositions, which often incorporate rare and exotic ingredients.
Despite the challenges of operating a luxury brand in the modern era, Van Cleef & Arpels remains committed to its core values of quality, craftsmanship, and beauty. Whether it’s a diamond necklace or a bottle of perfume, every piece that bears the brand’s name is a testament to the founders’ vision and the company’s enduring legacy of excellence.
10 Of The Most Expensive Pieces of Van Cleef & Arpels
Jewellery Ever Sold at Auction as of 2023
1. The Walska Briolette Diamond brooch
Sotheby’s Geneva set a world auction record in 2013 for the most expensive item of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery ever sold at auction when they sold the Walska Briolette Diamond Brooch for over $10.5 million, well over its high estimate.
The Walska Briolette Diamond Brooch is a stunning piece of jewellery that was created by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1971 after they purchased the Walska Briolette Diamond from opera singer Ganna Walska, a well-known collector of fine jewellery. The company transformed the fancy vivid yellow diamond into this beautiful diamond brooch soon after.
The diamond itself is around 96 carats and is a fine example of a vivid yellow diamond.
2. The Coronation Set of Empress Farah Pahlavi
Perhaps one of the most special and famous commissions that Van Cleef & Arpels have ever created is the Coronation Set of Empress Farah Pahlavi, who was crowned as the last Empress of Iran in 1967. The set is made up of a tiara, necklace, earrings, brooch, and bracelet, all set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls.
Pierre Arpels made 24 trips to Tehran to select stones from the country’s National Treasure to be used in the set. The tiara features a central emerald weighing 150 carats and is surrounded by diamonds. The necklace and earrings are adorned with a combination of pear-shaped and round diamonds, emeralds, and pearls. The bracelet features a central diamond surrounded by smaller diamonds, emeralds, and pearls, and the brooch is a beautiful composition of diamonds and emeralds.
In total, the crown worn by the Empress at her coronation is covered with 36 emeralds, 36 spinels and rubies, 105 pearls and 1,469 diamonds. While the set has never been sold at auction, it’s likely to be worth many millions of dollars – potentially around $20 million.
3. The Chevron Mystérieux necklace
The Chevron Mystérieux necklace is one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ most famous and valuable creations. The necklace is a stunning example of the brand’s use of the Mystery Set technique, which allows gemstones to be set without visible prongs or settings, creating a seamless and flawless appearance.
The necklace features a chevron-shaped design, made of diamonds and Mystery Set rubies, with a central diamond, sapphire, and emerald motif. The diamonds and sapphires are arranged in a pattern that gives the impression of a three-dimensional chevron, with each gemstone seamlessly fitting into the one next to it.
The necklace is created from a series of stones cut from the famous $40 million Legend diamond, which is the fifth-largest gem-quality diamond ever mined. The exact value of the necklace itself isn’t known, although it’s likely to be worth many millions of dollars.
4. The Princie Diamond
Today, the “Princie” Diamond is in the hands of the Qatari royal family, who paid $40 million for the gemstone at an auction in 2013. But the stone has a long and illustrious history that includes Van Cleef & Arpels.
The Princie Diamond is a rare and exceptional 34.65-carat pink diamond that was originally mined in the Golconda mines in India over 300 years ago. It was sold at auction in 1960 and was acquired by Van Cleef & Arpels, who named it the “Princie Diamond” in honour of the young prince of Baroda, who was present at the auction. The diamond was later sold to a private collector but resurfaced in 2013 when it was sold at auction.
Van Cleef & Arpels played a significant role in the history of the Princie Diamond, having acquired it in 1960 and displaying it in their New York showroom for many years. The diamond’s unique and exceptional beauty, combined with Van Cleef & Arpels’ reputation for exceptional craftsmanship and design, helped to cement its place in the annals of diamond history.
5. The Zip necklace
One of the most innovative and daring creations by Van Cleef & Arpels is the Zip necklace. Renée Puissant, the Maison’s Artistic Director and daughter of Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef, was inspired by the zipper, a new fastener appearing on garments in the late 1930s, to develop a piece of jewellery. The Duchess of Windsor, a friend of Puissant’s, is said to have suggested the idea.
The original Zip necklace, created in 1950, is an extraordinary example of the Maison’s innovative spirit and technical ingenuity. Its versatility is remarkable; it can be worn as a necklace when open and as a bracelet when closed.
The exceptional design and functionality of the Zip necklace made it an instant icon of Van Cleef & Arpels, and the Maison went on to create versions of the piece in gold and platinum, adorned with precious and ornamental stones. The value of the Zip necklace has been estimated to be around $1.5 million to $2 million.
6. Bleu Absolu necklace
Another famous Van Cleef & Arpels pendant is the Bleu Absolu necklace, a stunning pendant set with five Kashmir sapphires totalling almost 86 carats. The sapphires used in the necklace used to be long to the Maharani of Baroda, a fact that only serves to increase the fame and value of this unique necklace.
The Bleu Absolu pendant is an exquisite example of Van Cleef & Arpels’ ability to transform rare and precious materials into timeless pieces of jewellery. Since its creation, the pendant has been displayed at exhibitions around the world. It has never been sold at auction, but it’s likely that this necklace would fetch millions of dollars.
7. Grace Kelly’s Diamond and Pearl wedding set
Grace Kelly’s wedding jewellery, created by Van Cleef & Arpels, is one of the most iconic and memorable examples of the brand’s exquisite craftsmanship. Kelly, a Hollywood actress who became the Princess of Monaco, wore a stunning set of jewellery for her wedding to Prince Rainier III in 1956.
The set included a necklace, a bracelet, and a ring, all set in platinum and adorned with diamonds and pearls. After creating these bespoke pieces for the wedding in 1956, Van Cleef & Arpels was named the “Patented supplier of the Principality of Monaco”.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ involvement in Kelly’s wedding was a testament to the brand’s reputation as a purveyor of exquisite and timeless jewellery. The pieces created for Kelly’s wedding remain some of the most iconic and sought-after examples of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations, and they continue to inspire designers and jewellery lovers around the world.
8. Heures Florales watch
The most expensive wristwatch created by Van Cleef & Arpels is the Heures Florales watch, which carries a price tag of $256,000. This watch is a stunning example of the craftsmanship and elegance of Van Cleef & Arpels’ watchmaking.
Featuring a delicate floral motif on the dial with individual flowers representing each hour of the day, the Heures Florales watch is crafted from a variety of precious gems including diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. The Heures Florales watch is not only a beautiful piece of jewellery but also a functional timepiece.
The watch is powered by a high-quality mechanical movement and is housed in a case made from white gold or rose gold, depending on the model.
9. The Passe-Partout necklace
The Passe-Partout necklace is an iconic piece of jewellery by Van Cleef & Arpels that allows the wearer to customise the shape and size of the necklace to suit a variety of looks and styles. The necklace has two large flower clips that are fixed to a flexible gold chain by metal rails which can detach from the necklace to alter the necklace into a bracelet, a choker, or brooches.
Its name, which translates to “master key,” is fitting as it is designed to be versatile and worn with a variety of outfits. What sets the Passe-Partout necklace apart from other necklaces is its ability to complement any outfit, whether casual or formal. Featuring blue and yellow sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds, it’s a bright and valuable piece that would fetch a lot at auction.
10. The Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra necklace
Not actually one of the most expensive pieces of jewellery ever sold at auction but still worth an entry on this list is the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra necklace, no doubt one of the most famous and iconic pieces of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery in the world. Alhambra jewellery is adorned with a distinctive four-leaf clover design inspired by the motifs found on tiles in the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain.
Since the first Alhambra necklace was unveiled in 1968, it’s been considered the signature piece of jewellery by Van Cleef & Arpels. Worn by celebrities and royals including the Duchess of Cambridge and Elizabeth Taylor, no list of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery would be complete without mentioning this famous piece. Many Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra necklaces sell for many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
All about the Van Cleef & Arpels collections
If you’re interested in buying yourself some Van Cleef & Arpels pieces, or if you want to secure a loan on Van Cleef jewellery, it’s important to know your way around the brand’s contemporary jewellery collections.
1. Van Cleef & Arpels rings
Van Cleef & Arpels are known for creating beautiful rings, including engagement rings and wedding bands, in a variety of styles. Van Cleef jewellery is set in various precious metals including yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum, and their rings are set with gorgeous precious stones including white diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds.
Among their most popular rings are the Alhambra rings, which like other pieces of Van Cleef Alhambra jewellery, sport the unique four-leaf clover Alhambra motif. The Alhambra design comes in various gemstone variations such as mother-of-pearl, onyx, carnelian, and malachite.
Van Cleef & Arpels also offers a range of contemporary rings that feature intricate designs, unique gemstone cuts, and unusual settings. Their “Perlée” collection features a series of rings adorned with small gold beads that create a textured and elegant effect and their “Between the Finger” rings feature two separate rings connected by a delicate bridge that sits between the fingers.
2. Van Cleef & Arpels watches
Alongside Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery, Van Cleef & Arpels watches are some of the most sought after pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Their watch lines feature intricate designs, unique materials, and advanced technical features. One of their most popular collections is the “Poetic Complications,” which features watches that showcase miniature works of art and intricate mechanical movements. These watches are adorned with precious gems and intricate designs that showcase the brand’s expertise in jewellery making.
Another popular collection is the “Charms” line, which features playful and colourful watches with dials that resemble Van Cleef & Arpels’ iconic charm bracelets, while Van Cleef & Arpels’ “Midnight” collection is a more classic and refined line of watches that features simple yet elegant designs. These watches are made with high-quality materials such as rose gold and diamonds and are perfect for formal occasions.
3. Van Cleef & Arpels necklaces
Van Cleef & Arpels necklaces are known for their exceptional craftsmanship and exquisite designs. One of the most iconic Van Cleef pendants is the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra pendant, which sports the famous Alhambra four-leaf clover design seen in many of the other Alhambra pieces.
The Alhambra collection is iconic and has been worn by celebrities around the world including Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow. Alhambra necklaces are available in a wide range of styles and designs, using different precious stones and metals to create unique displays.
Another famous Van Cleef pendant range is the Lucky Spring collection, which features quirky and whimsical springtime designs including flowers, ladybirds, and hearts set in rose gold and platinum. The Lucky Spring collection is a fun and playful take on the symbols of springtime and it combines the elegance of Van Cleef jewellery with light-hearted but delicate designs.
4. Van Cleef & Arpels earrings
Van Cleef earrings are some of the most famous pieces in the Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery range. With Van Cleef earring lines including Alhambra, Lucky Spring, and Frivole, it’s possible to wear Van Cleef earrings that match the rest of your outfit or contrast with other pieces.
Like other collections by the brand, some of the most iconic Van Cleef earrings are the Alhambra earrings, which feature the signature clover motif that has become synonymous with the brand. The Alhambra earrings are available in different sizes and materials, including yellow gold, rose gold, and white gold, with options for gemstones like mother-of-pearl, onyx, and diamonds.
Alongside Van Cleef earrings sporting the Alhambra motif, Van Cleef & Arpels also create earrings in the Perlée range. The Perlée earrings collection features delicate beadwork and elegant designs, creating a beautiful and understated look.
Another popular range of Van Cleef earrings, the Frivole earrings collection is inspired by nature and features floral designs. These earrings are available in a variety of styles, including stud earrings and drop earrings. The Frivole earrings are crafted with exceptional attention to detail, creating a stunning look that is both delicate and refined.
5. Van Cleef & Arpels bracelets
Some of the most popular Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery in the UK is Van Cleef bracelets, which can be worn around the wrist and paired with other Van Cleef accessories including necklaces and rings. Van Cleef & Arpels bracelets are available with all of the brand’s most popular motifs including Alhambra and Lucky Spring designs.
The Alhambra bracelet collection is one of the brand’s most iconic lines, featuring the signature clover motif. These bracelets are crafted with a variety of precious materials, including gold, mother-of-pearl, onyx, and diamonds. Alhambra bracelets are available in different sizes and styles, including single and double-wrap bracelets, bangles, and charm bracelets.
The Lucky Spring bracelet collection is inspired by the beauty of nature and features delicate floral designs. These bracelets are available in a range of styles, including bangles, cuffs, and charm bracelets. The Lucky Spring bracelets are crafted with meticulous attention to detail, making them both stunning and unique.
6. Van Cleef & Arpels clips and cufflinks
Alongside traditional jewellery pieces and watches, Van Cleef & Arpels also create jewelled accessories including cufflinks for dress shirts and jewellery clips. Some of the most popular Van Cleef & Arpels clips include the Lucky Animals collection, which features a range of bright, bejewelled animal-themed clips.
The Lucky Animals clips collection showcases the brand’s creativity and technical expertise, featuring a range of animals such as elephants, monkeys, and butterflies. Each clip is crafted with precious materials, including gold, diamonds, and colourful enamel, making them both stunning and unique. These clips are perfect for adding a touch of whimsy to any outfit.
Van Cleef & Arpels also offers an impressive range of cufflinks, including classic styles and contemporary designs. The brand’s cufflinks are crafted with the same attention to detail as their other jewellery pieces, featuring a range of materials, including gold, silver, and enamel. The cufflinks come in a variety of shapes, including round, square, and oval, and are perfect for adding a touch of sophistication to any suit or dress shirt.
3 things you may not know about Van Cleef & Arpels
If you’d like to know everything there is to know about Van Cleef & Arpels, why not start with some lesser-known facts about the company and its history? Here are three fascinating facts that you might not know about Van Cleef & Arpels.
1. They are known for a technique called ‘Serti Mystérieux’
Van Cleef & Arpels is renowned for its use of the “Serti Mystérieux” technique in its jewellery. This technique involves setting diamonds or other gemstones into gold so that the prongs are hidden from view, creating a smooth and seamless surface. The effect is often compared to the appearance of a stained glass window, where the individual pieces of glass are held together by lead strips.
The “Serti Mystérieux” technique requires a high level of skill and precision, as each stone must be carefully cut and shaped to fit into the gold setting. The prongs are then carefully manipulated and bent around the stone so that they hold it in place without being visible from the surface. The result is a stunning piece of jewellery that appears to be made entirely of gemstones, with no visible metal or prongs to detract from its beauty.
Van Cleef & Arpels has used this technique in a variety of jewellery designs, from necklaces and bracelets to earrings and brooches.
2. One of the most famous Van Cleef & Arpels designs is inspired by a board game
Van Cleef & Arpels invented the “Ludo Hexagone” motif in 1935, which was inspired by the board game Ludo. The hexagonal shape was used in many of their jewellery and watch designs and has since become a signature element of the brand’s identity. The motif was a stroke of genius by Van Cleef & Arpels, as it allowed them to create intricate, geometric patterns using a simple and easily recognizable shape. The hexagon, with its six sides, lends itself well to symmetry and repetition and can be combined with other shapes and colours to create a variety of designs.
One of the most famous examples of the “Ludo Hexagone” motif is the “Alhambra” collection, which was first introduced in 1968. This collection features simple, yet elegant necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings, all adorned with small, golden hexagons. The hexagons are arranged in a clover shape, with each leaf made up of four hexagons, creating a delicate and timeless design.
3. Van Cleef & Arpels run their own school of jewellery arts
Van Cleef & Arpels is one of the few luxury jewellery brands that has its own school of jewellery arts, known as the “L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels”. The school offers courses on jewelry design, history, and craftsmanship, and is open to both professionals and the general public.
Founded in 2012 in Paris, L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels has since expanded to include satellite locations in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The school’s curriculum is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the art and science of jewellery making, from the history of precious stones to the techniques used to set and polish them.
Courses at L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels are taught by a team of experts, including master jewellers, gemologists, historians, and designers. Students have the opportunity to learn from these experts through a variety of classes and workshops, including courses on gemology, jewellery design, watchmaking, and art history.
If you are looking to learn more on the top most expensive luxury jewelry and its history, you can also visit our articles on Chopard, Tiffany & Co, Boucheron, Harry Winston, Graff, and Cartier .
Get in touch
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If you want to secure a loan against Van Cleef jewellery in the UK, contact us today and speak to one of our experts.
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