New jewels align on gossamer wings

Zip necklaces. Ballerina clips. Dazzlingly compact minaudières. Watches whose hands evoke the filigree flitting of fairies. And jeweled chrysanthemums and dragonflies whose velvety textures are created by inserting specially cut gems into gold rails.

The Maison of Van Cleef & Arpels is known not only for the elegance and excellence of its designs but for its innovation as well. It was Van Cleef & Arpels that created the minaudière in 1933. This small metal evening case — whose nonetheless multiple compartments could contain a mirror, lipstick, compact, cigarette holder, lighter, pill box, sweet tin, handkerchief, dance card, opera glasses and a retractable watch — was inspired by Florence Jay Gould, wife of utilities and hotel magnate Frank Jay Gould, who would toss the contents of her purse into a metal tin when she went out at night.

Now Van Cleef & Arpels’ innovative beauty is being given pride of place in a new boutique at Neiman Marcus Westchester in White Plains. The sleek, soft-gray 1,000-square-foot space sits alongside the new Precious Jewels Salon — also approximately the same size — replacing the Gift Galleries and continuing the renovations on Level One of the store.

The Precious Jewels Salon is no stranger to WAG. In the very first issue of WAG 2.0 — February 2011’s “Royal Treatment” edition — we featured the neoclassical, numismatic intaglios, cameos and enamels of Elizabeth Locke. At the Precious Jewels Salon, they continue to beckon the discerning eye, as do the saturated colors of Robert Erich’s jewelry, the gem-studded designs of Paul Morelli and Franck Muller’s tony collections of watches for men and women, to name just a few of the offerings.

These complement the organic creations of Van Cleef & Arpels, which has been drawing inspiration from nature and the ballet since it was founded in 1906 on fashionable Place Vendôme by Alfred Van Cleef and his wife — the former Estelle Arpels, daughter of a dealer in precious stones — along with her brother Charles. (Brothers Julien and Louis would follow.) Over the years, the Maison, as it calls itself, would find enchantment in couture, myths, folktales and especially dance. It was Louis Arpels who collaborated with New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine on the 1967 work “Jewels,” in which each of the three acts plumbs a different gem, mood and place in the choreographer’s heart — “Emeralds,” a bouquet to romantic Paris, set to Fauré; “Rubies,” a tribute to nerve-tingling New York, set to Stravinsky; and “Diamonds,” an ode to imperial Russia, set to Tchaikovsky. (The pas de deux between ballet and  Van Cleef & Arpels continues as the company teams with Benjamin Millepied, a former City Ballet principal, and his L.A. Dance Project.)

But it is perhaps nature that has had the first and foremost claim on the Maison. Alfred Van Cleef was the son of a lapidary and diamond broker. “Butterflies are true emblems of Van Cleef & Arpels,” the company’s press materials proclaim. This spring the Maison has unveiled new pieces in its “Two Butterfly” collection — a pendant, earrings and Between the Finger Ring made of diamonds, white mother-of-pearl and 18-karat rose gold. (The Between the Finger Ring is another Van Cleef & Arpels innovation — described as “two motifs linked by an open band, engaged in elegant dialogue”.)

In the boutique’s intimate, relaxing Library and VIP Room, you can pore over these and other creations — on the page and on your flesh.

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