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Zip necklace transformable into a bracelet, 1955. Yellow gold, emeralds, diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels Collection. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

Santa Ana, Calif - The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, will host “A Quest for Beauty: The Art of Van Cleef & Arpels”, a heritage exhibition from October 27, 2013 through February 15, 2014. Spanning over 100 years of history, the exhibition will allow visitors to view jewelry, watches, and precious accessories, as well as archival drawings and documents of the Place Vendôme High Jewelry Maison.

More than 200 pieces from the private collections of Van Cleef & Arpels will be on display for the international exhibition. Visitors will go on a journey built around four themes that continue to inspire the Maison: Nature, Elegance, Exoticism, and Femininity. This immersion into the Van Cleef & Arpels’ style is also an opportunity to discover the Maison’s virtuoso craftsmanship, passed on by generations of Mains d’Or™, the magic of exceptional Pierres de Caractère™, not to mention the stories attached to some of the pieces that have achieved mythical status. From iconic pieces to the legendary women who wore them and contributed to the reputation of the Maison, “A Quest for Beauty: The Art of Van Cleef & Arpels” highlights the enduring legacy and constantly renewed creativity of the Maison.

This immersion into Van Cleef & Arpels’ style is also the opportunity to discover the Maison’s virtuoso craftsmanship, passed on by generations of Mains d’Or™, the magic of exceptional Pierres de Caractère™, not to mention the stories attached to some of the creations that have achieved mythical status. From iconic pieces to the legendary women who wore them and contributed to the reputation of the Maison, “A Quest for Beauty: The Art of Van Cleef & Arpels” highlights the enduring legacy and the constantly renewed creativity of the Maison.

Van Cleef & arpels, since 1906...

The history of Van Cleef & Arpels began with a love story when, in 1895, Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a precious stone merchant, married Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a lapidary and diamond broker. In 1906, their passion for jewelry and an entrepreneurial spirit led them into business with Estelle’s brothers, Charles, Julien and Louis, and together they opened a boutique at 22, Place Vendôme, in an area renowned for its elegance and luxury. Van Cleef & Arpels was born. The jeweler’s Parisian address has never changed, becoming its hallmark. The Maison’s reputation, which spread among the international elite, soon allowed it to open up branches in the most fashionable seaside and resort towns throughout the world.

In the 1930s, a second generation came on the scene. From 1926 to 1942, the daughter of Alfred and Estelle, Renée Puissant, great Artistic Director of the Maison, marked the collections with the stamp of her inspired creativity. Julien Arpels’ sons Claude and Jacques, who were joined by their brother Pierre after the war, were also initiated into the profession. Gifted with enormous energy and innate business sense, Jacques seemed destined to take over the main office in Paris. After a visit with his father and Uncle Louis to the United States, Claude decided to set up in New York in 1939, where he would head the business until 1990.

During this first half of the century, the Maison also developed new expertise and creations that would become genuine signatures: an ingenious clutch bag called the Minaudière™ case, the Mystery Setting™ technique whereby metal disappears beneath precious stones, the convertible Passe-Partout jewel or the innovative Zip necklace inspired by the zipper. 

The elegance and ingenuity of the creations, along with the use of the most precious and rare materials, allowed Van Cleef & Arpels to seduce royal and princely families, Hollywood icons and a discerning clientele whose highest standards and impeccable taste demand “only the best.” Some of these legendary names include Prince Aga Khan, the Empress of Iran Farah Pahlavi, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, and Maria Callas. 

Today, Van Cleef & Arpels continues to be renowned for its innovative techniques and designs which include only the highest quality gemstones. Successive collections have perpetuated a highly original style defined by poetry, culture, grace and femininity, which has allowed it to exert its influence throughout the world. As of the beginning of 2013, the Maison is present in Europe-CIS, the United States of America, Brazil, the Middle East and Asia via a network of 101 boutiques, including 3 Maisons: in Paris (Place Vendôme), New York (Fifth Avenue) and Hong Kong (Landmark Prince’s). 

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Pastilles clip, 1951. Platinum, yellow gold, rubies, diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels CollectionPhoto courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Dragon vanity case, 1923. Yellow gold, platinum, enamels, jade, diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels CollectionPhoto courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum. 

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Art Deco necklace, 1928. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Passe-Partout necklace, 1939. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Van Cleef & Arpels bird clip in platinum and yellow gold, set with sapphires, turquoise, coral and diamonds, created in 1963. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Spanish dancer clip, 1941. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Spirit of Beauty Fairy clip in platinum set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds from 1944, formerly in the collection of heiress and jewelry lover Barbara Hutton who purchased the clip in the 1940s. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Van Cleef & Arpels Cambodian Bracelet,1938 made of platinum and diamonds. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

 

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Aga Khan choker, 1971. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Callas clip, 1967. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Panka set, 1974. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Chrysantheum clip, 1937. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Colibri clip, 1925. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Curl Minaudiere, 1935. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Diamond padlock, 1940. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Dragon Clip, 1969. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Ludi Briquette Barbara Hutton Bracelet, 1935. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Stream of ribbons clip, 1937. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Van Cleef & Arpels Barquerolles yellow gold and diamond choker necklace, bought for Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton on the birth of her first grandchild in 1971, is transformable into two bracelets and a clip. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Transformable zip bracelet, 1955. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Two-sided decorative lapel pin, ca. 1918. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Van Cleef & Arpels platinum and diamond tiara was worn by the Princess Grace of Monaco on the occasion of her daughter Princess Caroline’s wedding in 1976. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.

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Replica of Farah Pahlavi’s Tiara, 1967. Photo courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels/ Bowers Museum.