For over a century, Van Cleef & Arpels has been known as one of the world’s finest jewellery and watch houses. In 1906, the label was one of the first jewellers to make 22 Place Vendôme its home, and in 1942 Van Cleef & Arpels was among Bergdorf Goodman’s first tenants at 744 Fifth Avenue.
In 1968, the house crafted one of its most desired collections, Alhambra. Inspired by nature, the four-leaf clover motif has been crafted in everything from mother-of-pearl to turquoise, onyx malachite, bois d’amourette (wood) and diamonds. Since then, pieces from the iconic Alhambra collection remains one of the symbols of luck, good fortune and love.
Amongst the well-travelled stylish set, the word "Alhambra" immediately conjures up the image of the 10th century Spanish moorish palace within the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Granada. The sprawling palace, which was also an Islamic fortress, was designed by the Umaid Arabic ruler, Badis ben Habus, and was built for Muslim Emirs, their families, and respective courts. Today, the Alhambra is a widely popular UNESCO World Heritage tourist site renowned for its reflecting pools, arcades, courtyards, arabesques, and geometric patterns.
It is not surprising that pieces from Van Cleef's Alhambra collection carry similar motifs, influenced by the Palace’s generous curves and seamless marriage to its natural surroundings. Among the connoisseurs of high-jewellery, the word Alhambra - which is born from the Arabic “Al-Hamra” and means “the red one” - evokes images of layered necklaces and timeless jewellery pieces featuring a clover motif, remarkable in its unassuming sophistication.
Launched in 1968, the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra four-leaf clover is representative of a good luck charm said to bring love, health, fortune, and luck to its owner.
Magic Alhambra Necklace
Vintage Alhambra Turquoise Necklace
According to the New York Times, the Alhambra collection's popularity waned after its initial introduction in the 1960s. Then, with the addition of some new pieces in 2001, celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Sharon Stone rediscovered the line.
Renowned for its relationship with royalty, Princess Charlene of Monaco owns a custom-made turquoise Alhambra necklace, like her late mother-in-law (HRH Princess Grace of Monaco) before her. Queen Rania of Jordan has been pictured wearing a pair of Alhambra drop earrings. Van Cleef & Arpels even crafted the emerald coronation jewels for the Empress Farah of Iran and created sets for the Shah Reza Palhavi’s sisters and daughters, marking the event as one of the most prestigious and special orders in the Maison’s history.
Today, Alhambra clovers have silently stolen around the necks of women across the planet, becoming an iconic symbol of wealth and inclusion on a par with the Birkin bag or, in an earlier decade, the Bulgari coin necklace.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Alhambra motif is one that is fiercely protected by the Maison and in 2007, was even the subject of a lawsuit between the House and model and television personality, Heidi Klum. Style.com Arabia reported that Van Cleef & Arpels accused the German model of copying the design for a collaboration with Lebanese jewellery house Mouawad.
At the time, the latter stated that Klum’s inspiration was, in fact, the clover-patterned marble inlay of Milan’s Duomo Cathedral and that like crosses and hearts, the clover is a popular symbol that not any one house can own. Though a number of international houses such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Chopard use an interpretation of the clover within their collections, it is the emblematic Alhambra motif belonging to Van Cleef & Arpels that remains the most widely recognized today. The earrings, bracelets, rings, and timepieces can be worn day to night, with practically any colour combination, while the necklace, worn looped and layered, is often considered the new strand of pearls for the style set.
BEHIND THE SCENES
In keeping with Van Cleef & Arpels tradition of excellence, the Alhambra collection embodies all the expertise of a High Jewellery Maison. The varied skills of lapidaries, jewellers, stone-setters and polishers come together to create each piece. No fewer than fifteen successive steps of selection, production and verification are required to create this iconic jewel that will withstand the test of time.