Van Cleef & Arpels
Birth of the VCA imperium
The history of the famous Parisian jewellery house began in 1896 with the marriage of Estelle Arpels to Alfred Van Cleef. The company was founded in 1906 by Alfred and his brother-in law, Charles Arpels, at 22, Place Vendôme. Julien Arpels joined the family business in 1908, and Louis Arpels in 1913.
The creative early twentieth century
The design collaboration between René Sim Lacaze and René Puissant, the daughter of Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef, began in 1926, marking the start of two decades of highly creative design for the firm. The oldest son of Julien Arpels, Claude, joined in 1932, followed by his brothers Jacques and Pierre in 1936 and 1944.
VCA expands to the USA
An American boutique was opened by Claude in the Rockefeller Center in New York in 1939, soon relocating to its definitive address at 744 Fifth Avenue, and was the first of six boutiques in the US today.
Iconic new designs
The 1930s saw some of the company's most iconic designs: the house's arguable trademark, the Mystery Setting - where the mounting of the gemstones is cleverly hidden behind the continuous calibré-cut ruby and sapphire surface of the jewel - was invented in 1933; and the concept of the Minaudière, made in honour of Florence Jay Gould, was invented in 1930 by Charles Arpels. The versatile 'Passe Partout' range was also developed at this time. In the following decades, the firm upheld its reputation for innovation with the snowflake jewels of the 1940s, the zip necklace of the 1950s, the ballet jewels of the 1960s and the Alhambra theme of the 1970s. The Boutique Des Heures was inaugurated in 1972 to house the new watch designs launched by Pierre Arpels.