Among various symbols and shapes that have been adopted as part of Van Cleef & Arpels’ precious icons, the most famous is the four-leaf clover. A born collector, Jacques Arpels (nephew of founder Estelle) gathered four-leaf clovers in the garden of his house in Germigny-l’Évêque, presenting them to his staff accompanied by the American poem “Don’t Quit”, an encouragement to never give up hope. The collection was born of Arpels’ belief in lucky talismans. “To be lucky, you have to believe in luck,” he once said. And those famous words continue to reverberate within the maison’s creative universe.
The first Alhambra design was a 20-motif yellow gold opera-length necklace introduced in 1968. It quickly gained popularity among the jet set and was seen on famous style icons like Lyn Revson, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace of Monaco, who was so fond of these necklaces she often wore different ones — in coral, malachite, rock crystal, and tortoiseshell — together.
Fast forward 52 years and the collection has grown exponentially to include rings, bracelets, pendant necklaces, and even timepieces dressed in gold and adorned with diamonds or a variety of hardstone splices. Besides introducing other talismanic symbols such as hearts, butterflies, leaves, and stars, it’s also been expanded with delicately sized versions of the motif in the Sweet Alhambra line, and enlarged pendants in the Magic Alhambra range.
This year, Van Cleef & Arpels adds four Magic Alhambra long necklaces to the collection, which feature pendants with motifs carved from chalcedony, grey mother-of-pearl, blue agate, and yellow gold. Faithful to the maison’s tradition of creating transformable jewellery pieces, each necklace can be worn in different ways: as a sautoir, adjusted slightly shorter, or looped twice around the neck and worn at the collar bone. They can also be wrapped around the wrist as bracelets or draped down the back.
Only the best specimens of stones have been selected, with each carefully matched to a specific shade of gold to bring out its delicate and nuanced colour tones. In the guilloché yellow gold variant, the maison pays tribute to the very first Alhambra piece from 1968. While the heritage piece was made up of creased gold motifs, this new design features guilloché, a gold decoration technique that results in highly reflective radiating striations. Perfectly paired with a yellow gold chain to offer an understated tone-on-tone style, it can be worn together with another new creation: a Vintage Alhambra ring in yellow gold that offers its surface similarly etched with these light-reflecting linear engravings.
Completing the line-up is the Sweet Alhambra watch; it bears a guilloché dial held by a bracelet composed of motifs in guilloché rose gold and pink mother-of-pearl. Both materials are used for the first time in the Alhambra collection, the latter chosen for its romantic pink undertones.
It may have been around for more than half a century but the Alhambra collection continues to be refreshed and revised with various iterations that reinforce the motif as an instantly recognisable symbol of the brand, as well as a cherished token of good luck and fortune.
This story first appeared in the October 2020 issue of A Magazine.