Van Cleef & Arpels

The Story of Alhambra and How to Spot Fake Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Jewelry


The enigmatic beauty of lucky charms glorified by the magnificence of fine jewelry gives rise to a creation that has gone down in history as one of the most iconic jewelry designs ever made. Emblematic of the brand and its values, Alhambra is a beautiful tale of stones, metals, and fortune.

Luck as a theme has been central to the house of Van Cleef & Arpels since as far back as 1906. During the 1920s, the four-leaf clover motif, now a famous symbol, was first seen in the Maison’s archive. Jacques Arpels, the nephew of Alfred Van Cleef and Estelle Arpels, was a firm believer in luck. As a token of good fortune, he used to hand over four-leaf clovers, picked from the backyard of his residence in Germigny-l’Évêque, to his employees. 

Subsequently, the idea of luck and lucky charms fostered several avant-garde creations from the Maison. However, the most distinctive and groundbreaking was the Alhambra necklace. This iconic Van Cleef necklace made its debut in 1968. The original design was a long station necklace sculpted from gold featuring 20 clover motifs with beaded contours. 

Van Cleef necklace

Long Vintage Alhambra necklace in18k yellow gold featuring 20 clover motifs inlaid with malachite.

The Alhambra was an instant success. It became a revelation in an era when women began to be more interested in everyday staple pieces than high jewelry that was earmarked for grand, formal events. The design caught the attention of many famous women counting Romy Schneider, Françoise Hardy, Elizabeth Taylor, and Princess Grace of Monaco. She owned not one but several Alhambra necklaces, which she wore in heavy rotation.

The Evolution of Alhambra

The resounding success of the Alhambra necklace gave way to myriad beautiful renditions of the archetypal clover symbol. The Maison eventually introduced rings, bracelets, and earrings under the Van Cleef Alhambra collection featuring the clover motif inlaid with various colorful stones such as agate, turquoise, mother of pearl, carnelian, onyx, and more. 

Van Cleef Alhambra

Furthermore, Van Cleef & Arpels also launched a number of sub-collections in addition to the original Vintage Alhambra—Magic Alhambra, Sweet Alhambra, Pure Alhambra, and Lucky Alhambra. Each of these collections is unique in its own right while being in tune with the signature aesthetics and the philosophy of luck.  

How to Spot Fake Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Jewelry

The collection that has been reigning the jewelry realm for more than 50 years, transcending any season or trend that came by, is something everyone wants their hands on. Hence, if you’re meaning to give yourself up to the pleasure of buying an Alhambra creation, we caution you not to fall victim to a fake piece. Learn with us how to spot fake Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra jewelry.


The purity of metal is a patent sign of authenticity in Alhambra jewelry. Van Cleef & Arpels strictly use only pure 18k gold and platinum to model all their jewelry, including Alhambra. Necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings are made available in a choice of gold—rose, white, and yellow; each polished delicately to exude a sparkling glow.



Alhambra is a beautiful celebration of ornamental stones and their unmissable charm. Consequently, the Maison is highly selective about the stones used in Alhambra jewelry. Diamonds used are of the highest color grade, i.e., D, E, and F, and the clarity range FL (Flawless) to VVS2 (Very Very Slightly included). Other gemstones such as onyx, carnelian, and malachite are also picked only of superior quality. The house sources white mother of pearl predominantly from Australia, whereas the grey mother of pearl is specifically brought from French Polynesia. 

Any Alhambra jewelry that does not adhere to the gemstone quality as mentioned above is probably a fake one.



Every detail of an Alhambra creation speaks of excellence and unparalleled craftsmanship. Consistency in quality and precision in construction is gracefully evident in every piece. Hence, a minute inspection of the signature design elements and signs of construction can help distinguish the real one from a fake. Unpolished metals with a poor finish, loose clasps, joints, and prongs in a new piece, the irregular shape of the clover motif, unclean stampings and hallmarks, and the improper setting of stones are all signs that the Alhambra jewelry you own is fake.


Van Cleef & Arpels

Every Stone Tells a Story in Van Cleef & Arpels’s Newest High Jewelry Collection, ‘Legend of Diamonds’

Satin Mysterieux ring and earrings

A model wears the Satin Mysterieux ring and earrings composed of white and rose gold, diamonds and rubies. Photo: Marc de Groot. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Haute jewelry is so compelling because it encapsulates narratives. There are so many stories within: How were the stones discovered? For whom are the pieces made? Whose dreams are being realized? There’s enough backstory to fill several volumes on the latest collection of one-of-a-kind jewels from Van Cleef & Arpels, “Legend of Diamonds.”

Per tradition, the 126-year-old luxury maison unveiled their high jewelry line during the couture shows in Paris this week. “Legend of Diamonds” represents a years-long journey from rough stone to glittering collection.

Mysterieux necklace

The complex Mystery setting technique is revealed on the inner part of the Chevron Mystérieux necklace, if one can take their eyes off of the three detachable grenade-size diamond pendants. White gold, rose gold, three pear-shaped diamonds, traditional Mystery Set, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

The tale begins with the Lesotho Legend, the fifth-largest rough diamond ever mined (it was named after the South African country where it was discovered). The uncut gem weighed in at a stupendous 910 carats. It took almost a year of 3D mapping to develop how exactly Van Cleef & Arpels would unlock the wonder within. The diamond cutters then sliced, faceted, and polished the almost half-pound carbon mound into a family of 67 stones, all flawless to internally flawless. “Each one reveals the distinctive nature of the original rough stone, like clear, scintillating water,” states the release.

“This is the first time in decades that we have been involved in a project from its starting point—the extraction of the stone—to the creation of a high jewelry collection,” the brand’s president and CEO, Nicolas Bos, said in a statement. “The appearance of this extraordinary rough stone gave us this unique opportunity to tell a story around the diamond.” Almost four years after the discovery of the Lesotho, it is now distributed among “Legend of Diamonds.”


A vintage 1923 catalogue. Courtesy of Archives Van Cleef & Arpels.

The 107-piece collection is divided into two groups, the more colorful “25 Mystery Set Jewels” and the understatedly chic “White Diamond Variations.” But the Lesotho wasn’t the only inspiration; Van Cleef & Arpels plumbed its own storied archives for fitting homages to honor the historic gem. Echoes of some of the jeweler’s “greatest hits” appear in the collection, as in a nod to the stunning diamond necklace created for the marriage of Princess Fawzieh of Egypt in 1939, as well as in riffs on Chrysler Building-inspired Art Deco earrings, for which the artisans in the Place Vendôme workshop wielded the house’s signature “Mystery Set.” Patented in 1933, the complex technique allows gems to be fixed with no visible metal prongs.


Bos summed it up thusly: “An exceptional diamond can be the starting point for an extraordinary collection that will be a milestone in the history of the maison.”

Couture Mystérieuse ring

Couture Mystérieuse ring. White gold, rose gold, one oval-cut 18.32-carat diamond, traditional Mystery Set, rubies, and diamonds. Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Sparkling Jewels Found: Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels

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 oldest son of Julien Arpels, Claude, joined in 1932, followed by his brothers Jacques and Pierre in 1936 and 1944. An American boutique was opened by Claude in Rockefeller Center in New York in 1939, soon relocating to its definitive address at 744 Fifth Avenue. 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. In the following decades, the firm upheld its reputation for innovation with the zip necklace of the 1950s and the Alhambra theme of the 1970s. Today, Van Cleef & Arpels is part of the Richemont Group with more than 45 boutiques around the world.


There is of course Queen ­Nazli’s necklace. The 220-carat all-white-diamond bib was commissioned by the queen from Van Cleef & Arpels to celebrate the wedding of her daughter Princess Fawzia of Egypt to the shah of Iran. There is also the Medicis necklace, exhibited in 1937, a ribbon of mystery-set white diamonds overlaying rows of baguette-cut white diamonds dotted with round white diamonds. There are those geometric bandeau white diamond bracelets women loved to wear stacked on their newly bare arms in the 1920s. There is that white diamond piece Eva Perón is wearing in the picture of her with the Argentinean ambassador to France in 1947. There are those white diamond Haricot clips that Jackie Kennedy liked to wear with her pearls.

Van Cleef Haricot clips

Diamonds and Van Cleef, they go way back. “White diamonds have adorned Van Cleef & Arpels creations ever since the company’s founding, following the love story of Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef,” says president and CEO Nicolas Bos. But if you have followed the house’s more recent history (or if you read this magazine), you will note that the new Legend of Diamonds high jewelry collection seems like a bit of a departure. There is not the intricate narrative we have come to expect from Van Cleef High Jewelry—no French fairytale inspiration such as the 2014 Peau d’Ane collection had, or the eclectic references of last year’s Sous les Etoiles pieces, which included classical author Lucian of Samosata imagining a voyage in space and Camille Flammarion’s illustrated Astronomie Populaire from 1880, plus Cyrano de Bergerac’s tales of failed trips to the moon, 1970s comic books, and Barbarella. Nor is there the rare colored stone saturation or specificity of 2019’s Treasure of Rubies or 2016’s ode to emeralds. Don’t look for a turquoise skirt on the ballerina brooches.

legendary Van Cleef piece

Inspired by another legendary Van Cleef piece, the brooch they call the New Haricot (string bean) was née the Flame clip in 1934. Look closely and you notice the intricate work here: the gradation of two golds, the three stones at the center set with two-tone bezels, the last stone in the closed setting. Or you can ignore all this and just marvel at the beauty.


But also, don’t be fooled by the simplicity on display. “Even though it could seem a more minimalist design at first, this collection has challenged our teams in both creativity and know-how,” Bos says. “From the initial drawings through to stone-setting and the final polish, every detail has been designed to instill the creations with brilliance and life. Each diamond in the collection has been carefully selected by Van Cleef & Arpels’s expert gemologists with the strictest criteria, and they possess a diversity of cuts, from the classic ones to the most fancy,” he continues. “The combination of white and rose gold results from an extremely complicated technique achieved by our craftsmen in our Paris workshops. The pieces’ designs are inspired by different art periods, from the 1920s to the 1980s—architecture, painting, but also interlacing movement echoing couture symbols. One of our main challenges was to maintain the ability of some creations to transform, offering up to eight different possibilities for how to wear them.”


This one is named the Eva, and yes, Evita had one just like it. The upper band of diamonds here is what gives the necklace structure. The lower bands are more supple, both for comfort and perfect positioning.


Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels — A collector’s guide

Van Cleef & Arpels

The Van Cleef & Arpels story is founded in romance. The story starts with the founders Alfred Van Cleef, the son of a stone cutter, marrying his love Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a precious stone dealer. Together they took their passion for exquisite jewelry and precious stones and went into business in 1896. Van Cleef & Arpels opened their first store in 1906. The Parisian jewelry and watch maison has many famous designs including the Alhambra, a four leaf clover design that is supposed to bring the wearer luck, as well as butterfly and floral jewelry designs inspired by nature. FASHIONPHILE is home to a beautiful collection of authentic, preowned Van Cleef & Arpels necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings.

The history of Van Cleef & Arpels

Alfred Van Cleef (1872-1938), the son of a diamond cutter, married Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a dealer in precious stones, in 1895. The following year Van Cleef and his father-in-law, Salomon Arpels, formed Van Cleef & Arpels.

After Salomon died in 1903, Alfred and two of his brothers-in-law, Charles (1880-1951) and Julien (1884-1964), officially founded Van Cleef & Arpels with the opening of their shop in 1906 at 22 Place Vendôme, where the firm remains today. The third Arpels brother, Louis (1886-1976), joined the firm in 1912, no doubt to cope with their expansion, as branches had been opened in Nice, Deauville, Vichy, Lyon and Cannes, all between 1910 and 1920.

Alfred’s daughter, Renée Puissant (1897-1942), took control of the company’s artistic direction in 1926, and for the next 12 years worked closely with the talented designer René-Sim Lacaze.

An Art Deco multi-gem desk clock

An Art Deco multi-gem desk clock, by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1928. 13.5 x 13.5 x 15 cm. Sold for CHF 1,032,000 on 10 November 2020 at Christie’s in Geneva

Always at the forefront of innovation, Van Cleef & Arpels patented its ‘Mystery Set’ — a technique that allows for the setting of stones so that no prongs are visible — in 1933. Originally used for adorning minaudières, the Mystery Set allowed for swathes of colour unbroken by the flash of metal. 

Rare ruby and diamond Mystery Set necklace

Rare ruby and diamond Mystery Set necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Sold for CHF 387,500 on 10 November 2020 at Christie’s in Geneva

In 1935, the three sons of Julien Arpels — Charles, Jacques and Pierre — joined the firm. At the end of the 1930s, for a time, Van Cleef & Arpels transferred most of its business to the United States — it had opened a branch in Palm Beach in 1940, and a shop in New York was acquired in 1942 at 744 Fifth Avenue, where the jeweller still trades today. 

Retro sapphire and diamond

Retro sapphire and diamond Ludo Hexagone bracelet, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Old and calibré-cut sapphires, old and single-cut diamonds, gold (French marks), circa 1936. Sold for £50,000 on 27 November 2019 at Christie’s in London

ollowing the Second World War the firm continued to expand, creating jewels for royalty, film stars and wealthy entrepreneurs. A growing emphasis on a more relaxed type of jewellery, however, led Van Cleef & Arpels to introduce an accessible range in 1954 that became well-known for its naturalistic forms and light-hearted themes. Diamonds were still used, but only as highlights. These attractive and wearable jewels were very popular in the 1950s, as confidence returned to a world that had been ravaged by war.

Van Cleef & Arpels is now owned by the Richemont Group.


Van Cleef & Arpels’ Diamond Legend new collection of jewelry

Legends of Diamonds

Van Cleef & Arpels released its new high jewellery collection Legends of Diamonds at Couture Week 2022 and it was an ode to the venerable Parisian jeweller’s long heritage

This Paris Couture Week, Van Cleef & Arpels debuted its latest high jewellery collection, Legends of Diamonds, dedicated to the Maison’s long-standing love for the precious gemstone.

Back in 2018, Van Cleef & Arpels was presented with the Lesotho Legend, an extraordinary 910 carat rough diamond, by its long-time diamond partner Taché. Diamcad, a leading diamond cutter based in Antwerp, then helped to plan and cut the rough into a combination of large cut diamonds using 3-D technology, maximising their brilliance and beauty at the same time.

In all, 67 diamonds were produced with a total of 441.75 carats, all graded as ‘Flawless’ to ‘Internally Flawless’. These exceptional diamonds provided the started point for the entire Legends of Diamonds collection. “The first six months of designing the collection were particularly intense,” says Thomas Pozsgai, director of the Van Cleef & Arpels Design Studio. “We had to envision creations that embodied the Maison’s style, that highlighted its expertise, such as the Mystery Set technique, while also enhancing these diamonds…The challenge was to design harmonious piece that brought all of these elements together without one overshadowing the others.”

Van Cleef & Arpels new High Jewellery Collection

The first chapter of Van Cleef & Arpels’ new High Jewellery Collection is dedicated to its trademarked Mystery Setting

The resulting collection is a tale told in two halves. The first chapter consists of 25 shimmering pieces dedicated to Van Cleef & Arpels’ expertise with the ‘Mystery Setting’ – a trademark technique developed by the house in the 1930s, where gemstones appear in fluid lines, with no visible metal clasps. This first chapter took over 30,000 hours to create and showcases the very best of the Maison’s technical and artistic prowess.

One 79.35-carat oval-cut stone, the biggest diamond cut from the Lesotho Legend, has been set amidst dramatic swirls of Mystery Set rubies and diamonds for a magnificent necklace that plays on Van Cleef & Arpels’ love of couture and fabrics – its swagged shape was inspired by two historic pieces created by the house in the late 1930s for Queen Nazli of Egypt. The central diamond itself is detachable, and can be worn as a pendant on a chain.

Mystérieux transformable

Van Cleef & Arpels’ Atours Mystérieux transformable necklace is set with a 79.35 carat oval-cut diamond

Elsewhere, the Draperie Mystérieuse Clip was inspired by the draped gowns designed by the legendary French couturier Madame Grès in the 1950s. Rows of Mystery Set emeralds and sapphires meet snow set diamonds in a fluid, scarf-like form, ending in three tassel-like pear-cut drops. Other highlights include the Collorette Mystérieuse, a couture-inspired collar with alternating rows of diamonds and Traditional Mystery Set rubies, edged with pink sapphires and square-cut diamonds designed to replicate the look of delicate lace. Its largest diamond, a 51carat stone, can be separated and worn instead on a ring, or replaced with another Mystery Set ruby pendant.

The Draperie

The Draperie Mystérieuse clip was created in white and rose gold, with Mystery Set emeralds and sapphires and three pear-cut diamond drops, weighing over one carat each.

The second chapter of Legends of Diamonds is simply that – a collection of 82 white diamond jewels that demonstrate the house’s historic dedication to extraordinary diamonds. For these pieces, Van Cleef & Arpels once again drew inspiration from its own archives, harking back to its floral garland forms of the Belle Époque, the abstract shapes of the Art Deco period, and even the impactful, disco-like jewels of the 1970s and 80s.

One cuff, the Floraison de Diamants bracelet, has been crafted from white gold, in a nod to the sparkling effects of platinum and diamond jewellery from the 1920s. Its mesmeric ’embossed’ effect was achieved by overlapping ribbons of diamond-paved gold, along with the use of a variety of different diamond cuts and settings.

new Chrysler earrings

Van Cleef & Arpels new Chrysler earrings were inspired by the graphic architecture of the 1920s

More of the Roaring Twenties has been evoked in the form of a long, flapper-style diamond necklace that can be worn in eight different ways, as well as a set of earrings named Chrysler, after Manhattan’s legendary building. Much like architecture, these sleek earrings have openwork frames, set with alternating rows of round and pear-shaped diamonds on four tiers, allowing light to enter and creating an intense dazzle which is reflected on their wearer’s skin.

Optimistic, dynamic and intensely ambitious, this is a high jewellery collection that is destined to be discussed by jewellery lovers for decades to come. Nicolas Bos, Van Cleef & Arpels’ President and CEO, agrees: “I think we have successfully shown that an exceptional diamond can be the starting point for an extraordinary collection that will be a milestone in the history of the Maison.”


Van Cleef & Arpels Comes Full Circle With Its Perlée Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels

A piece of fine jewelry or classic investment timepiece is never just an accessory—there’s always a rich story behind it. In W’s new series Rock Stars, we delve into what makes past, present, and future heirlooms so unique.

In early June, shortly after the Cannes Film Festival ended, the seaside city continued to brim with energy. As red carpets were rolled up for next year and A-list actors decamped to their summer homes, jewelry experts and editors from across the globe descended upon the South of France to celebrate the unveiling of the new Perlée jewelry collection from Van Cleef & Arpels.

We only include products that have been independently selected by W’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

Perlée couleurs ring18K yellow gold, Diamond, Malachite

Perlée couleurs ring

Like its name, which translates to beaded in English, Perlée is distinguished by its spherical, golden beads. The motif has long been integral to Van Cleef, having existed on the house’s creations in various forms since the 1920s. First used to emphasize designs or outline the borders of a stone, the circular shapes were then featured in a number of significant Van Cleef collections. From Couscous and Bagatelle in 1948, which consisted of beads in various sizes, to Twist in the 1960s, a playful braided collection that combined gold with coral, turquoise, and cultured pearls. In 1968, the delicate golden spheres became an essential part of the still-iconic Alhambra collection.

Perlée watch, 23 mm18K yellow gold

Perlée watch

But it wasn’t until 2008 that the Maison launched Perlée. Its orderly lines of beads are produced from precious metals—rose, white, and yellow gold—using a lost wax-casting technique. They are then reworked individually by hand and mixed with precious stones, mother of pearl, and coral. The collection, having received several updates and new iterations over the years, has become a playful favorite of the house.

Its most recent unveiling was held at the Palais Bulles—the world famous bubble-like residence of the late designer Pierre Cardin. With its curving, circular modules, rounded pools, and bespoke, contemporary furniture, it was a fitting location that echoed the spherical collection.

Perlée couleurs bracelet, small model18K yellow gold, Diamond, Malachite

Perlée couleurs bracelet

The jewelry that was on view, and is now available for purchase, is joyful and lively in spirit. Five new rings, inspired by an archival design from 1968, are adorned with golden beads and feature vibrant, ornamental stones. A duet of open cuff bracelets in yellow gold and diamonds, with coral or lapis lazuli cabochons, achieve a balance of lighthearted elegance. And for the first time since its creation in 2008, the collection also features colored precious stones on a set of 3 sparkling rings.

Perlée couleurs ring, 5 rows18K rose gold, Ruby

Perle couleurs ring

Another first for Perlée is the addition of watches featuring delicate round faces, surrounded by rows of golden beads that sit daintily on a charming grosgrain strap.

To shop and learn more about Van Cleef & Arpels Perlée collection visit


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