Extracts from the handout prepared by Patrizia Meloni for use by LAO© students.
At the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” in 1925, Van Cleef & Arpels won the Grand Prix by presenting a bracelet with roses in precious stones. In 1926, Renée Van Cleef, Alfred’s daughter, took over as artistic director.
In the 1930s, the Maison began to produce items other than conventional jewellery: thus the “minaudiére” was born, a slim box that could be decorated with a wide range of materials and which, when opened, revealed compartments designed to hold objects of different uses (photo 4); the “minaudiére” rapidly replaced the elegant evening bag.
In 1933, Van Cleef & Arpels created “serti mysterieux”, a type of invisible setting used mainly with rubies and sapphires and applied to all kinds of jewellery.
Standing out among the collections of this period was the “Ludo Exagone” bracelet, a soft band composed of hexagonal, articulated elements that can have a “star” setting with a small gemstone the same decorative theme was also used for clips, watches, rings, and earrings. The clips of the “Passe-partout” collection offered different possibilities for application, either on parts of the dress, or on a bracelet or necklace
Between the 1930s and 1940s, the second generation, the three sons of Julien, Claude, Jacques and Pierre began working in the family business. In 1942, the New York shop was opened on Fifth Avenue and the family members began to divide their time between Europe and the United States.
In the early 1940s, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced two collections in New York destined to last over the years. The “Danseuse” line, born from Louis’ passion for the world of ballet, with clips depicting ballet dancers in precious multicoloured dresses, caught in different dance poses
The clips from the “Féerie” collection depict the enchanted world of fairies: fragile, winged figures moving with grace and delicacy.
These collections were renewed over the years, in the wake of encounters and collaborations with important personalities from the world of ballet, and in 2007 they gave rise to the ”Ballet Précieux” high-jewellery collection.
In the 1940s-1950s, Van Cleef & Arpels created some of its most famous jewellery pieces with naturalistic subjects: the “Oiseau de Paradis” brooch, which was later reworked in a 2009 high-jewellery collection.
The “Feuilles de Houx” brooch, an excellent example of invisible setting, and the “Bouquet” brooches. The flower theme, in all botanical varieties, was a recurring theme in the Van Cleef & Arpels collections, always renewed and adapted to the tastes of the times.
During the 1950s, the company created a piece of jewellery that was remarkably interesting from a technological point of view: the “fermeture éclair” model, an openable and closable zip fastener which, when open, forms a necklace (photo 18), and when closed, turns into a bracelet.
Since then, this jewel has been produced in different precious and semi-precious materials, turning into an enormous success for the Maison, which still produces the “Zip” high-jewellery collection.
During these years, the Maison considered the need to produce jewellery for everyday wear, which could meet the taste of young people; therefore, it created “La Boutique”, a collection where less demanding, entertaining and more modestly priced pieces were offered; these soon became objects that were also very popular with the American high society.
Professor Patrizia Meloni’s complete handouts on the history of jewellery are given to students attending one of the annual goldsmith’s or drawing courses, however external students can also follow this subject alone on https://www.artiorafe.it/corsi/brevi-e-seminari/