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STAR JEWELLERY: VAN CLEEF & ARPELS’ CELEBRITY CLIENTS

FROM ROYALTY TO RED CARPETS:
DISCOVER VAN CLEEF & ARPELS’ CELEBRITY CLIENTS & THEIR MAGNIFICENT JEWELS

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS: THE JEWELLER CELEBRITIES
CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF

Adored by the rich and famous, Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery has graced palace galas and more red carpets than Meryl Streep. The French High Jewellery brand’s star-studded client list reads like a who's who of Hollywood greats, international royalty, and discerning trendsetters. So, who are the captivating women who’ve helped make Van Cleef & Arpels famous — and which of VCA’s iconic jewels have shone brightest?

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS’ ICONIC ROYAL CLIENTS

H.S.H. PRINCESS GRACE OF MONACO

The epitome of elegance, when Academy Award-winner Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, she dazzled in a Van Cleef & Arpels suite of jewels. A wedding gift from the Prince, the exquisite parure consisted of a triple-strand pearl necklace with diamond swirl motifs, a triple-strand pearl bracelet with diamond blossom motifs, pearl earrings accented with a swirl of baguette and marquise-shaped diamonds, and a pearl ring with a diamond blossom surround. (Janus Jewels’ Director, John Kulukundis, once owned the parure’s sister necklace!) Has a woman ever looked more beautiful in diamonds and pearls? We think not.

Grace Kelly hollywood studio portrait 1950s
GRACE KELLY HOLLYWOOD STUDIO PORTRAIT 1950'S
angle jewels left

“A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.”

GRACE KELLY

angle jewels right

Grace Kelly had become a Van Cleef & Arpels celebrity client while ‘merely’ Miss Kelly. But the royal engagement changed everything. A shrewd businessman, Louis Arpels sent a letter of congratulations to Ranier, together with a gold minaudière as a “small memento for his fiancée”. Product placement at its most ingenious, Louis’ chutzpah paid off. The happy couple chose VCA to mark Kelly’s transformation from actor to aristocrat. Shortly afterwards, Van Cleef & Arpels was named “Patented supplier of the Principality of Monaco”.

Kelly also received a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet as a wedding gift from the National Council of Monaco. Set with brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds, the articulated platinum bracelet graced the Princess’ wrist on numerous official appearances. Together with her much-loved VCA diamond ‘floral’ earrings (a first-anniversary gift), the bracelet now resides in the Palais Princier Collection.

But it wasn’t all high jewellery. Princess Grace adored the Maison’s more frivolous designs, including La Boutique’s animal clips and Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra famous clover necklace. Her extensive Alhambra collection included pieces in coral, malachite, rock crystal, and tortoiseshell, and she was regularly photographed wearing several contrasting Alhambra sautoirs and/or an Alhambra pendant. A fairy tale princess as your poster girl? VCA could not have hoped for finer publicity.

Even today, the late Princess remains eternally linked to the Maison. In 2022, VCA unveiled a new Vintage Alhambra collection in support of The Princess Grace Foundation-USA.

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS AND THE EGYPTIAN ROYAL HOUSEHOLD

During King Farouk’s reign (1936-1952), Van Cleef & Arpels was a regular attendee at the Egyptian royal court. Renowned for their exceptional beauty — and equally breath-taking jewels — the King’s sisters were big-time VCA clients. Most notably, Van Cleef & Arpels designed Princess Fawzia’s jewellery for her 1939 wedding to the future Shah of Iran, Crown Prince Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The platinum and diamond parure comprised a streamlined double-strand necklace, earrings, ring, and tiara set with 54 pear-shaped and 530 baguette-cut diamonds. Meanwhile, Princess Faiza’s VCA collection included one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ most celebrated jewels, the exquisitely crafted Mystery Set Pivoine Clip (1937), and a 1929 Art Deco emerald and diamond necklace. (Featuring ten Colombian emerald drops, the platinum necklace sold at auction at Christie’s Geneva in 2013 for CHF 3,861,000.)

Not to be outdone, the Queen Mother, Queen Nazli Fouad, commissioned a Van Cleef & Arpels Art Deco platinum and diamond necklace and matching tiara for Princess Fawzia’s wedding. The graduated line ‘sunburst’ necklace was centred by an articulated round diamond of approximately 6.00 carats and set with round and baguette diamonds with a combined weight of more than 210 carats. (In 2015, Sotheby’s New York sold the Van Cleef Arpels necklace for $4,282,000.)

VCA’S CORONATION CROWN OF EMPRESS FARAH PAHLAVI OF IRAN

the crown created by Van Cleef and Arpels for the empress Farah Diba
THE CROWN CREATED BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS FOR THE EMPRESS FARAH DIBA

In 1966, Van Cleef & Arpels was tasked with creating the Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran’s coronation crown. One of VCA’s most prestigious commissions ever, the crown would mark the first coronation of a female ruler in Iranian history. The break in tradition came about via Iran’s 1963 White Revolution, an ambitious modernisation programme that included the emancipation of women. Consequently, King Mohammad Reza, Shah of Iran, declared that his 1967 Imperial Coronation would see his (third) wife, Queen Farah Pahlavi, Shahbanou of Iran, also crowned the first Empress of Iran.

It was ground-breaking stuff. The problem was that no ‘Empress-worthy’ crown sat gathering dust in the royal vault. A wardrobe crisis unlike any other, new crown jewels were required. Cue problem number two: tradition stated only gems held in Iran’s Imperial Treasury— none of which could leave the country—could be used. Pierre Arpels made 24 visits to select the perfect stones, and VCA had to install a workshop in the Treasury Chamber. Six months in the making, the resulting white gold and green velvet crown featured 36 emeralds, 36 spinels and rubies, 105 pearls, and 1,469 diamonds. The most important of these were great historic Mughal gems.

the Van Cleef and Arpels necklace worn by the empress on her coronation day
THE VAN CLEEF & ARPELS NECKLACE WORN BY THE EMPRESS ON HER CORONATION DAY

Van Cleef & Arpels also crafted matching emerald pendant earrings and a necklace of emeralds, diamonds, and pearls for the Empress, together with coronation parures for the Shah’s daughters and sisters.

Despite its significance, the crown’s official use was short-lived. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Shah and Empress fled into exile. The crown is now held in Tehran’s Central Bank.

HOLD TIGHT: WALLIS SIMPSON AND VCA — THE DUCHESS OF WINDSOR ZIPS IT UP

Ok, so she caused a constitutional crisis and King Edward VIII to abdicate. And her political connections were, at times, downright iffy. But Wallis Simpson sure had style. Of all the jewellery collections we’ve lusted after, the Duchess of Windsor’s shines brightest. She and the Duke were the ultimate jewellery geeks. Edward spent hours liaising with Van Cleef & Arpels’ designers to create jewels for the woman he adored.

Of particular historical importance are the Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond jewels that Edward gave his lover while (shockingly) she was still ‘Mrs Simpson’ and he was still King. Commissioned in 1936, the first of these legendary pieces was a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet featuring 40 cushion-cut Burmese rubies and bearing the inscription “Hold tight 27-Ⅲ-36”.

The duchess of windsor wearing the Van Cleef and Arpels ruby necklace gifted to her by the duke
THE DUCHESS OF WINDSOR WEARING THE VAN CLEEF & ARPELS RUBY NECKLACE GIFTED TO HER BY THE DUKE (RIGHT)

The second piece, created for Wallis’ 40th birthday, was a ruby and diamond bib necklace with the inscription, “My Wallis from her David 19-VI-36” (David being the royal family’s pet name for Edward). Wallis would later have VCA’s master jeweller, Renee-Sim Lacaze, transform the piece into her to-die-for Cravate necklace — one of the most avant-garde jewels of the age. The final jewel, a diamonds and Mystery Set rubies Deux Plumes clip, completed the trio. One of VCA’s earliest Serti Mystérieux jewels, the clip sold at auction in 1987 for an almighty $806,000.

Then, on the couple’s (civil) wedding day, Edward gifted Wallis a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond headpiece and the Van Cleef & Arpels sapphire and diamond Jarretière bracelet. With the couple’s wait finally over, the bracelet’s inscription read: “For our Contract 18-V-37”.

Important jewels that tell of one of the most important love stories of our time; romance doesn’t get much more magnificent. And as if that wasn’t high-fashion fabulous enough, legend has it that the Duchess came up with the concept for VCA’s Zip necklace, too.

QUEEN CAMILLA & CATHERINE, THE PRINCESS OF WALES

Fast forward to today, and both Queen Camilla and Catherine, The Princess of Wales, are Van Cleef & Arpels celebrity admirers. Indeed, we’d be so bold as to suggest VCA is Queen Camilla’s favourite jeweller. The Queen’s sizeable Van Cleef & Arpels collection features a platinum and diamond pendant and matching earrings from VCA’s Snowflake collection and countless VCA brooches. Whether diamond and sapphire Libellule Dragonflies, a diamond Cosmos, or one of her menagerie of Lucky Animals (think hedgehogs to hummingbirds), you can count on Camilla for a classic clip. She has fun with them, too: she wore her Van Cleef & Arpels Ballerina brooch to meet dance icon Mikhail Baryshnikov and her Lucky Animal ‘pooch brooch’ to visit Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

Queen Camilla wearing one of her many Van Cleef and Arpels brooches
QUEEN CAMILLA WEARING ONE OF HER MANY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS BROOCHES

But Queen Camilla’s go-to collection is VCA Alhambra. She owns many pieces, including white gold and diamond Magic Alhambra earrings, and her much-loved blue agate and gold Vintage Alhambra bracelet that’s seldom off her wrist. Meanwhile, Princess Catherine’s ‘fashion fallback’ is a mother of pearl and yellow gold Magic Alhambra. She’s worn the collection’s necklace and earrings at several official engagements, including the 2020 BAFTA Awards and the Coronation Concert.

VCA: FROM THE SILVER SCREEN TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Van Cleef & Arpels’ iconic ruby and diamond Jarretiere bracelet — one of its most instantly recognisable jewels — was commissioned by Marlene Dietrich in 1937. Worn by Dietrich to the 1951 Academy Awards, the gem-encrusted cuff was reportedly the one jewel that she kept for her entire life. In 2023, it sold at Christie’s New York for a staggering $4.5 million…rumour has it to Madonna!

But while the Queen of Pop’s purchase remains unverified, the contents of another first lady’s jewellery box are undisputed. Jackie Kennedy’s extensive collection ranged from VCA’s diamond Haricot clips (that she’d often pin on her pearl necklace) to her diamond and emerald ‘toi et moi’ VCA engagement ring and tenth-anniversary emerald eternity band from John F. Kennedy. VCA shone brightly, too, during her subsequent marriage to Aristotle Onassis. Her cabochon ruby and diamond earrings — a wedding gift from Onassis — were a particular favourite. Featuring detachable pear-shaped cabochon ruby pendants totalling approximately 76 carats, the earrings sold to a private collector for $325,000 in 1996.

Marlene Dietrich wearing her iconic Van Cleef and Arpels ruby bracelet
MARLENE DIETRICH WEARING HER ICONIC VAN CLEEF & ARPELS RUBY BRACELET

Jackie Onassis only had to look at a jewel for it to become ‘iconic’. In 1977, she was famously photographed with Muhammad Ali whilst wearing VCA Creole gold hoop earrings and Etruscan-inspired gold ‘Manchettes’ cuff bracelets. Both gifts from Onassis, today the designs remain hugely sought after.

Onassis lavished his previous love, Maria Callas, with VCA jewellery, too. “Ari’s total understanding of women comes out of a Van Cleef & Arpels catalogue”, the opera singer was famously quoted as saying. Callas both commissioned and borrowed many VCA jewels during her lifetime. Her private collection included a yellow gold and diamond Minaudiere evening bag (sold at auction for $44,875 in 2004) and the remarkable Burmese ruby, diamond, and platinum Cinq Feuilles clip. An exquisite example of the jewellery brand’s exacting artistry, the Van Cleef & Arpels collection now owns the historic brooch.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing her Van Cleef and Arpels kunzite, amethyst and diamond sautoir
ELZABETH TAYLOR WEARING HER VAN CLEEF & ARPELS KUNZITE, AMETHYST AND DIAMOND SAUTOIR

But for sheer variety, Elizabeth Taylor’s VCA collection, enriched by gifts from Richard Burton, took some beating. Burton’s promise to find Taylor the perfect ruby resulted in her 1968 Christmas present: the Van Cleef & Arpels 8.24 carat Puertas ruby and diamond ring. Elizabeth later wrote of the ring, “…I couldn’t stop screaming. I knew I was staring at the most exquisite ruby anyone had ever seen”. Part of Christie’s New York’s 2011 auction of Taylor’s “Legendary Jewels”; the ring fetched $4,226,500 (then a record-breaking price-per-carat for a ruby).

Burton also favoured amethyst (we’re guessing to compliment Liz’s famously violet eyes). The same auction featured nine Burton-bought amethyst jewels by VCA, including a kunzite, amethyst, and diamond “Triphanes” sautoir and matching ear pendants, and a 1970s ‘boho’ collection of coral, amethyst, and diamond high jewellery.

But for an unforgettable high jewellery moment, look to Charlotte Rampling. Helmut Newton famously photographed the actress wearing a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond parure and her birthday suit.

VCA AND HOLLYWOOD TODAY

Margot Robbie dazzling in van cleef and arpels at the 87th oscars
MARGOT ROBBIE DAZZLING IN VAN CLEEF & ARPELS AT THE 87TH OSCARS

Margot Robbie was still a ‘rising star’ when she attended the 2015 Academy Awards. But before the night was over, her image was everywhere. Not because Robbie had won an Oscar (she wasn’t even nominated), but because she’d emerged Queen of the Red Carpet, thanks to the $1.5 million Van Cleef & Arpels Zip necklace she’d borrowed for the evening.

Contemporary stars Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett, Hillary Swank, Michelle Yeoh, Anne Hathaway, and Charlize Theron have all worn Van Cleef & Arpels to important events like the Golden Globes, Oscars, and Cannes Film Festival. Whether Viola Davis in a 1973 “Valadon” pearl and diamond necklace or Scarlett Johansson in Cosmos ear clips and a Snowflake bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels encapsulates luxury and sophistication for today’s Hollywood elite.

Viola Davis wearing Van Cleef and Arpels on the Oscars red carpet
VIOLA DAVIS WEARING VAN CLEEF & ARPELS ON THE OSCARS' RED CARPET

And then there are the musical megastars. Think Jennifer Lopez in Rose de Noel earrings, Celine Dion with her couture Années Folles baguette diamonds and white gold ring, and Madonna’s W.E premier appearance in Bel Canto earrings, Fleurette bracelet and Flying Butterfly ring. Not forgetting Taylor Swift. All eyes were on the floor at MTV’s 2023 Video Music Awards when the best-selling artist lost the central diamond from the vintage VCA ring she’d borrowed!

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS ALHAMBRA COLLECTION

But are you even genuinely famous if you haven’t been snapped by paparazzi while wearing Van Cleef & Arpels iconic Alhambra jewellery? That’s the question we’ve been pondering here at Janus Jewels. Showbiz royalty and actual bona fide royalty are rocking VCA’s famous clover necklace everywhere you look. Frankly, you’d be forgiven for thinking the A in A-list stands for Alhambra. Adele, Reese Witherspoon, Blake Lively, Christina Hendricks, Christina Ricci, Jessica Alba, Charlize Theron, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Maria Carey, and Tina Turner are just some of the stars who’ve been spotted flaunting Van Cleef & Arpels’ signature Alhambra collection. Meanwhile, on Instagram, you’ll find Olympian Simone Biles wearing a VCA Sweet Alhambra bracelet and Cardi B’s entire family (kids included) decked out in the ‘charms’.

Van Cleef & Arpels magic alhambra
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS MAGIC ALHAMBRA

Further proof of the Alhambra’s ‘anytime, anywhere’ versatility was served when Aryna Sabalenka wore a Vintage Malachite Alhambra necklace when she won the 2023 Australian Open. But it’s not just female celebrities who’ve fallen for VCA. J-Hope of BTS, rap superstar Drake, billionaire NBA basketball player LeBron James, and premiership footballer Jack Grealish have all been seen sporting VCA’s timeless Alhambra motif.

SHOP OUR COLLECTION OF VCA VINTAGE JEWELLERY

We have a stunning array of Van Cleef & Arpels vintage jewellery available, some of which can be viewed on our website. To find out more about buying or selling Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery, just get in touch.

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