Van Cleef and Arpels
For more than a century, the name Van Cleef & Arpels has symbolized the most prestigious name in luxury jewelry. Connoisseurs and celebrities worldwide appreciate the splendor of the precious stones, exquisitely set by expert designers and artisans, as well as Van Cleef & Arpels’ subtle fusion of fantastical boldness and timeless classicism.
The Van Cleef & Arpels saga started with the dynastic marriage of Leon Arpels' daughter Estelle to Alfred Van Cleef. Both sides of the family were renowned diamond merchants at the time, and Estelle's husband teamed up with his brothers-in-law in 1906 in opening up a store at 22 Place Vendome, the epicenter of the jewelry trade. The elegance of their designs and the high quality of their jewels made the firm an instant success. Since then Van Cleef & Arpels pioneered the minaudiere, a jeweled vanity case for ladies' cosmetics, patented a legendary invisible setting for stones, and invented the fabled diamond "zip," among other renowned achievements.
The Legendary Standards
All Van Cleef & Arpels pieces begin with gems, and not just any gems, but the finest stones on the market. Summarized as rare and mysterious, the precious stones used by Van Cleef & Arpels are the epitome of emotion and perfection.
A member of the Van Cleef & Arpels team relates that his job in the company is to look at stones all day. The company first sends out an open request for a stone or stones, and then waits for a reply. Because of the nature of the gems desired by the company, many dealers do not carry such stones, and even though the jewel buyers at Van Cleef & Arpels know all of the major dealers, some big shots simply don't have what Van Cleef & Arpels wants. It may take days or months (!) for a request to be fulfilled.
Gems that are classified as “jewelry quality” account to only 5-6% of the total gems produced in the world. Because Van Cleef & Arpels quality standards dictate that stones must be of D or E quality, namely the best, this makes up only 1% of the 5-6% of jewels in the world.
When the stones come through, they are to be inspected. The inspection process starts with the big stones, the ones bought individually and not in lots. These stones are inspected for quality and color and upon passing inspection, are prepared and given to the workmen to be made into exquisite works.
The Diamonds of Van Cleef & Arpels
Because many of Van Cleef & Arpels pieces employ diamonds, these diamonds must be inspected and verified before they make their way to the workmen's table. The inspection process follows a similar workflow to most other stones, but due to the nature and uniqueness of each individual diamond, it must be separately and meticulously inspected. First, the color is checked. The diamonds used by Van Cleef & Arpels are among the purest and this must be verified. The stones are lined up and observed through a light. The color emitted by the gems must match the color of the inspection paper to insure the quality of the color. Next, the quality of the cut and purity must be inspected. If any gem is found to be lacking in quality of cut or its purity, it is sent back to the seller.
In addition to the high standards of the diamonds themselves, Van Cleef & Arpels uses the Kimberley Process to ensure that the stones themselves do not come from conflict regions and are sourced responsibly. Each stone comes with a certificate and an ID card that specifies its dimensions and criteria. The inspector checks and validates the accuracy of the certificate, and if the cut and purity matches the one described, the stone is deemed acceptable and ready to go into the workshop.
The process of examining the stones is a tiresome one, the examiner needs to have a clear mind in order to arrive at accurate conclusions. As one of the Van Cleef & Arpels experts explained, one needs to take breaks after every hour of looking at the diamonds. Though meticulous, it is this dedication to high standards that has set Van Cleef & Arpels apart.