Located on the corner of 57 th Street and Fifth Avenue, Van Cleef & Arpels is a New York institution. The firm’s great success was due to the harmonized skills of three men: Alfred Van Cleef, the visionary and business strategist; Julian Arpels, the talented gemologist; and Julian Arpels, the skilled salesman.
Founded in 1896 in modest surroundings at 34 Hotel Druot in Paris, Van Cleef & Arpels picked up steam when it moved nearby the newly opened Ritz Hotel in 1906. In the following years, the company opened branches in Nice, C annes, Vichy, and Monte Carlo. Then, in 1939 it leaped over the pond to New York, eventually moving the company’s headquarters to NYC during the Second World War.
As with the Cartier house, Van Cleef & Arpels won recognition in the early 1900s as purveyors of the fashionable garland style of fine jewelry. Then with the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, echoes of the orient propelled a new age of design inside the company. During the 1920s, much of its jewelry showcased lotus flowers, sphinxes, scarabs, hieroglyphics, and other decorative motifs inspired by Persian and Chinese art. Despite their enormous popularity, it was a surprising diamond and ruby rose intertwined with emerald leaved which won Van Cleef & Arpels the highly coveted Grand Prix at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs.
Success was crowned in the 1930s when King Edward VIII commissioned Van Cleef & Arpels to create a jewelry collection for his soon-to-be American wife Wallis Simpson. During the latter half of the decade, the firm’s designers created the famous Passe-partout jewelry and the Zip necklace, which would remain highly fashionable for decades to come.