Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition in New York

From Grace Kelly to the Duchess of Windsor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, from Maria Callas to Eva Perón and Elizabeth Taylor.

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Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, the most comprehensive exhibition ever organized of Van Cleef & Arpels' masterworks.

This unprecedented assembly of 350 pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels' collection and international private collections, augmented by never-before-seen drawings from Van Cleef & Arpels' design archives and by related objects from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum's permanent collection, illustrates the firm's celebrated history and places its contributions to design in a broader context.


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Mystery-Set Bouquet Brooch, a mix of diamond leaves and Mystery-Set rubies for the stylized flowers.

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Zip Necklace with extension, which can be changed into a bracelet by removing the back of the necklace and then being zipped up - a design solution created by Van Cleef & Arpels' head designer, René-Sim Lacaze and artistic designer René Puissant in response to a suggestion from the Duchess of Windsor made around 1938.





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Nécessaire, which can held compacts and lipstick. Similar eighteenth-century boxes often held small scissors, needles, an ivory dance card, and travelling cutlery.

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Volutes Minaudière, which was made shortly after Van Cleef & Arpels patented the design for a large nécessaire to hold not only the usual compact and lipstick, but also cigarettes, a comb, and card case. The black lacquered gold exterior reflects its use to replace an evening bag.





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Mystery-Set Peony Brooch, which was purchased in 1946 by Mahmoud Fakri Pascha, Foreign Minister of Egypt in 1923 and first Ambassador to Paris, having married Princess Fawzia Fuad, daughter of King Fouad I of Egypt.




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Varuna Ship-form Bell Push in stones and enamel also served as a bell push. Thomas Higgins, the owner of the yacht called the Varun, was a wealthy American who entertained European royalty and others on it and presumably commissioned this model.

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Anneau (ring) Brooch - The exhibition from which the style later got its name occurred in Paris in 1925, over five years Van Cleef & Arpels introduced the style in its jewelry.

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Nécessaire, created by Russian designer Vladimir Makovsky which medieval theme was a contrast to Art Deco designs of this period.

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Necklace, which can be worn either way up as the diamond motifs are different.

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Micromosaic Necklace, which view makes the scene look like one piece, much as the careful matching of color in the gemstones makes a similar impression.


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Ballerina (Camargo) Brooch, based on a painting in the Wallace Collection in London by French artist Nicolas Lancret showing an eighteenth-century French dancer known as "La Camargo".

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Walska Brooch/Pendant, a remarkable piece that transforms in a variety of ways: the wings come off to form earrings, the tail comes off to form a brooch, and the pendant can be detached and worn separately.

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Radiator Lapel/Clasp Watch, made to double as both a bag clasp and lapel pin, and the movable shutters can be opened and closed.

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Colonne Vendôme Lighter, previously owned by Ilhamy Hussein Pacha, married to Princess Chevekiar. The column lighter was produced as part of an exhibition in 1951 referencing the French enlightenment.

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Passe-Partout Necklace (meaning "go anywhere"), can be used as a belt, necklace, choker, or multi-loop bracelet, with a varying number of flower-head clasps that can also function as brooches.

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Ballerina Pair of Clips, which backs are as carefully finished as the front, and hold a special treat for those who see them: a humorous glimpse of the peticoats turned up.

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Tinkerbell Brooch, created by Van Cleef & Arpels New York during and right after World War II.


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Orchid Brooch, a snowflake inspired design that takes full advantage of the contrast of gold and diamonds to create a fanciful, stylized effect.

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Kikumakie Butterfly Brooch, which combines age-gold, technically skilled Japanese lacquering techniques with the butterfly form, much used by Van Cleef & Arpels.

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Milleflore Compact, which surface with its flowerheads and trellis, creates a stylized yet naturalistic setting that gives life to its form.

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Sycamore Leaf Brooch, which can also be acquired in blue and red, using sapphires and rubies.





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Scarlet Macaw Brooch, which shows the skille combination of multiple colored stones and coral to create its plumage.

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Inseparable Brooch


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Goddess Head Brooch, which appeared at the time of the Colonial Exhibition in Paris in 1931 found reincarnated in the late 1950's through 1980's. The use of carved turquoise for the head is an innovative variation.

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Egyptian Bracelet




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Egyptian Odalisque Evening Bag (1927)

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Cambodian Bracelet, which Cambodia was a popular source of exotic inspiration in Paris in the 1930's and then.

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Pyramid Pair of Lapel Clips

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Indian Embroidery Necklace, which the replication of textiles is visible here in a necklace that looks like a piece of Indian embroidery fashioned as a collar.
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Monkey Clock - The large amethyst monkey has been mounted in Deco style to create a clock.

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Lace Bow Brooch, a traditional symbol of the ties that bind a loving relationship and the strings that might hold a garment together.

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Art Deco Brooch - This pendant brooch elegantly reflects the impact of lapels on clothing of the 1920's and 1930's.

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Belle Hélène Necklace, which was worn by Catherine Deneuve in François Truffaut's 1980 film Le Dernier Métro shows its enduring popularity.


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Pair of Manchette Bracelets combinable to form a Necklace, formerly owned by Daisy Fellowes.

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Jarratière Bracelet formerly owned by Marlene Dietrich.

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Lamartine Bracelet - After starring in Cleopatra in 1963 and marrying Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor began collecting one of the best private jewelry collections in the United States. In 1971, Burton bought his wife this Lamartine bracelet, along with matching ear pendants, to highlight her violet eyes.

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Mystery-Set Drop Pair of Pendant Earrings, worn by Elizabeth Taylor wore these recently acquired earrings at an American Cinema Institute ceremony in November of 1985.

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These last four pieces are Grace Kelly's engagement set. Subsequently, Van Cleef & Arpels became Purveyors to the Principality of Monaco, and the purchases emanated from Paris and Monaco.

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Tiara worn by H.S.H. Princess Grace of Monaco for the wedding of Princess Caroline in 1978.

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Flame Pair of Brooches of the model owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who wore this model in her hair for a well-photographed state dinner at Versailles in 1961, prompting President Kennedy to remark, "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris."

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Choker Necklace with Pendant

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Lattice Nécessaire with Powder Compact formerly owned by Florence Gould.

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Ludo Bracelet formerly owned by Barbara Hutton

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Flower Brooch formerly owned by Maria Callas. Some of her jewelry was purchased by her lover Aristotle Onassis.

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Windsor Necklace (King Edward VIII)

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Hindu Suite of Necklace and Earrings formerly owned by the Maharani of Baroda.

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Necklace formerly owned by Eva Péron.


An interview with the designer of the exhibit, Patrick Jouin:




Join Patrick Jouin, installation designer for Set In Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, for a tour of this stunning exhibition from a behind the scenes perspective:



Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128

4 comments:

  1. Fantastic Post. The photos, and especially the videos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanx for this great post, I loved the exhibition's instation, I wish I could have seen it!
    congrats on your blog, really nice!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really very nice post and amazing that all jewelry such a beautiful and strange jewelry, thanks for share with all of us.
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  4. lovely..its lovely collection. I am enjoying reading your post. Your jewelry collection is too good..Thanks for sharing. I would love to buy some pieces for myself.
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