Van Cleef & Arpels
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|Industry||High Jewelry, Jewelry, Watches, Perfumes|
|Founder||Alfred Van Cleef, Salomon Arpels|
Van Cleef & Arpels is a French jewelry, watch, and perfume company. It was founded in 1896 by Alfred Van Cleef and his uncle Salomon Arpels in Paris. Their pieces often feature flowers, animals, and fairies, and have been worn by style icons such as Farah Pahlavi, the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law, Salomon Arpels, founded the company in 1906. In 1896, following Arpels’s death, Alfred and two of his brothers-in-law, Charles and Julien, acquired space for Van Cleef & Arpels at 22 Place Vendôme, across from the Hôtel Ritz, where Van Cleef & Arpels opened its first boutique shop. The third Arpels brother, Louis, soon joined the company.
Van Cleef & Arpels opened boutiques in holiday resorts such as Deauville, Vichy, Le Touquet, Nice, and Monte-Carlo. In 1925, a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet with red and white roses fashioned from rubies and diamonds won the grand prize at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts.
Alfred and Esther’s daughter, Renée (born Rachel) Puissant, assumed the company’s artistic direction in 1926. Puissant worked closely with draftsman René Sim Lacaze for the next twenty years. Van Cleef & Arpels were the first French jewelers to open boutiques in Japan and China. Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A. acquired the firm in 1999.
In 1966, Van Cleef & Arpels was charged with the task of making the crown of Empress Farah Pahlavi for her upcoming coronation in 1967. A team was sent to Iran to choose the major gems to use for the crown. After 11 months of work, the company presented the empress with a crown made of emeral velvet set with 36 emeralds, 36 rubies, 105 pearls and 1,469 diamonds.
Van Cleef & Arpels has stores in the Middle East and South East Asia, with its products offered in standalone boutiques, boutiques within major department stores, and in independent stores. Standalone boutiques are located in Geneva, Zurich, Munich, London, Milan, Shanghai, and Paris, where the company has multiple locations, including its flagship store at Place Vendôme.
In the United States, the company operates standalone boutiques in New York City, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Houston and Las Vegas. It also maintains stores in Naples, Palm Beach, as well as a location in Aspen. The Chicago boutique opened in 2001 at 636 North Michigan Avenue and moved to a larger location within the Drake Hotel in November 2011 while the New York City flagship store was redesigned in 2013.
The Mystery Setting
On 2 December 1933, Van Cleef and Arpels received French Patent No. 764,966 for a proprietary gem setting style it calls Serti Mysterieux, or "Mystery Setting", a technique employing a setting where the prongs are invisible. Each stone is faceted onto gold rails less than two-tenths of a millimeter thick. The technique can require 300 hours of work per piece or more, and only a few are produced each year.
In 2010/2011, the company's estimated sales were €450 million in total sales and €45 million in watches.
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