Check out our complete guide of Van Cleef Jewelry – from the history, main lines, stone recommendations and prices.
Van Cleef & Arpels combines the names of Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef who got married in 1895. A few years later in 1906, the Maison Van Cleef & Arpels was born when Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law opened their first boutique in Paris.
- In 1942, the luxury jewelry house opened its first boutique in New York, on Fifth Avenue.
- In 1956, VCA became the official supplier for the Principality of Monaco after Prince Rainier III of Monaco offered Grace Kelly a pearl and diamonds jewelry ensemble designed by the house.
- The 60s marked the creation of one of the most iconic pieces of jewelry, the Alhambra necklace. Inspired by the four leaf clover, The Alhambra collection remains one of VCA’s most popular collections to this day.
- In the 2000s, VCA launched two other sought after collections: The Frivole in 2003 and the Perlée collection in 2008.
What are the most sought after VCA pieces
The most popular collections are the Alhambra, Frivole and Perlée collections.
For most of us, when you hear Van Cleef & Arpels, we’re probably imagining a stunning piece of jewelry featuring one or more clover motifs. The 6 variations in VCA’s Alhambra are:
- The Sweet Alhambra, is the smallest size clover motif
- The Vintage Alhambra, which is the classic, medium sized motif
- The Magic Alhambra is the biggest sized motif, perfect for making a statement
- The Lucky Alhambra combines the clover motif with other motifs such as hearts, stars, butterflies in a variety of stones
- The Pure Alhambra is a reinterpretation of the Vintage Alhambra but it is made with smoother lines, giving it a slightly different look
- The Byzantine Alhambra collection is inspired by the clover design but it’s made only in solid gold without any center stones
What are the most popular stones that Van Cleef uses?
- Mother of pearl
MOP is an organic gemstone and refers to the iridescent lining that’s found in nacre producing molluscs’ shells. Another term for mother-of-pearl is “nacre”, which can be defined as “the substance formed by some types of pearls when they grow over years with layers upon layers until it forms this beautiful lustrous surface.” It’s made out of calcium carbonate called aragonite, which comes from oysters or other shellfish like freshwater mussels. The beautiful Mother of Pearl is a symbol for good luck, prosperity and success.
The mother of pearl is one of Van Cleef’s most popular stones for a few reasons. Firstly, it looks absolutely amazing and it’s soft ivory color makes it easy to pair with everything, secondly, it’s one of VCA’s more affordable stones and at the same time being one of the most recognizable variations especially if you choose the Alhambra in MOP.
Van Cleef and Arpels Mother of Pearl Care
Mother of pearl is a more delicate stone, so if you choose a VCA MOP jewelry piece you should be aware of the following:
- Refrain from showering or swimming with your MOP jewelry as in time the stone may shrink
- Avoid contact with hairspray or perfume
- Do not use ultrasonic cleaners as the MOP is quite delicate and you may damage it
- Carefully store your jewelry pieces when you’re not using them both to avoid scratches and to avoid extra moisture
The green mineral, malachite is a stunning copper carbonate that can be found in limestone. Malachites have been known to blend with other stones such as azure and even turquoise! It gets its color from copper and has the rare ability of not changing or fading its color when exposed to the sun which is a great benefit (altough moisture can alter the color). The malachite symbolises fortune and success.
Van Cleef and Arpels Malachite Care
If you choose a VCA Malachite jewelry piece you should be aware of the following:
- The malachite is a soft gemstone which means it has the potential of stretching or even breaking
- Keep your malachite pieces away from sources of heat and hot water as it’s sensitive to heat and moisture that can potentially darken it over time
- Protect your jewelry pieces when doing vigorous activities, especially bracelets
- Be careful when you’re storing and cleaning your pieces as the stone can scratch easily
The carnelian gem is a variation of the silica mineral chalcedony and gets its reddish color due to the iron oxide impurities. Typically, the VCA’s carnelian tends to be a darker red although the exact shade differs from piece to piece. Van Cleef mainly uses Brazilian carnelian which have a uniform color and a beautiful gleam.The carnelian symbolizes courage and leadership.
Van Cleef and Arpels Carnelian Care
- Keep your carnelian pieces away from other jewelry when storing them to protect them from scratches
- Be careful with your carnelian bracelets or rings when doing things like gardening or housework to prevent them to fracture
4. Tiger Eye
Tiger eye is a quartz gemstone that is brown to amber in color. Most of the tiger eye reserve is found in South Africa, but it can also be found in the USA, Australia and Namibia. It symbolizes courage and fearlessness.
Van Cleef and Arpels Tiger Eye Care
- Tiger eye can be sensitive to some chemicals, so avoid spraying hairspray or perfume directly on your VCA tiger eye jewelry
- You can clean the stone by using a soapy solution or with an ultrasonic cleaner
- The tiger eye is a relatively strong gem, so you shouldn’t be too worried about it fracturing
5. Agate & Onyx
Both agate and Onyx are varieties of the silicate mineral chalcedony. At Van Cleef, agate is always blue and onyx is a deep grey or black color. Onyx symbolizes protection against negative energy and the agate gem symbolizes harmony and re balance.
Van Cleef and Arpels Onyx and Agate Care
- Both the Onyx and Agate gems are very durable gems that can resist scratching and fracturing. You can be more relaxed with your onyx pieces compared to the other VCA gems, making them a perfect starter piece.
Which Van Cleef gem is the easiest to take care of and the most durable?
The best gem for you might differ depending on your concerns, for example do you live in a hot and humid climate or do you do a lot of vigorous activity? In any case, the Mohs scale might help you decide which stone is the best for you. The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is a 1-10 qualitative scale that classifies the hardness of minerals through their ability to scratch softer minerals.
Here is the Mohs Scale for the minerals that Van Cleef and Arpels sell. As you can see, the mother of pearl is the softest gem that can be easily damaged and diamond is the hardest mineral with a Mohs scale of 10.
Mohs scale of hardness
- MOP 2.5-4.5
- Malachite 3-4
- Lapis 5-6
- Onyx, Tiger-Eye, Carnelian: 6.5-7
- Diamond : 10
Price increases – does VCA go up in value?
Van Cleef and Arpels popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, including during the pandemic, when due to supply chain issues many items were and are impossible to buy. Van Cleef also has, like many other luxury houses, frequent price increases. Usually, VCA will have one or two price increases a year of 5-10% and as much as 15% increase. The numerous price increases combined with the scarcity of the items can make VCA a good investment. However, if you do buy a VCA piece with the intention of reselling it later on you have to be careful and keep the pieces as pristine as possible for a maximum return.
Why is VCA so expensive and is it worth buying?
VCA is a luxury brand so you are paying for beautiful, intricate pieces as well as the brand itself.As mentioned earlier, Van Cleef & Arpels is often increasing their prices, thus many people are buying their jewelry as investments. The brand generally keeps its value well on the pre-loved market, so we consider it a worthwhile investment.
What is the price difference between the different gems and stones?
For the purpose of comparing the different gems, we’re going to look at the Alhambra 5 motif bracelet and see what’s the price difference between the same bracelet and different gems or stones.
- Mother of Pearl- $4000
- Onyx – $4000
- Carnelian – $4400
- Agate – $4550
- Tiger eye $4400
- Malachite – $4650
- Chalcedony – $4800
- Diamonds – $28600
So which Van Cleef and Arpels piece should you get?
There’s honestly no right or wrong answer. Most collectors start their VCA collection with the classic Alhambra line – as it’s quintessential Van Cleef. We recommend choosing a solid gold, diamond or a stronger gem if you’re planning to wear the VCA pieces everyday. Price is of course another important consideration, look at the Sweet Alhambra line for entry level pricing into the VCA world.