The Royal Jewellers S02 ep1 : Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery [Paris]
Interview with Stanislas de Quercize
The story begins as most fairy tales end with a heaven sent wedding between Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. Estelle is the daughter of a precious stone wholesaler and the sister of expert gemmologists. Alfred is the son of a diamond merchant from Amsterdam. The year is 1896, the die is cast, their adventure will be enriched over the year by fidelity, feminity, glamour and excellence. Today, the spirit of the family is alive: creativity and craftsmanship are pillars of the Van Cleef & Arpels soul expressed through the technical mastery with the Mystery Setting or the expertise in the art of transformations.
Van cleef: Vancleef and Apels is probably best characterised by its initial VCA which for us means
Very Creative Artists, that’s what we are. Our mission has been very clearly spelled out by Jack
Apels, a member of the founding family, he said the mission of Vancleef and Apels is to offer the
Van cleef: It’s a style which is evoking nature and couture, two things which are ephemeral and we
are forces in the air, couture we have in fashion week now it shows all the time, that’s Vancleef
and Apels mission to give you a piece of jewellery that will evoke, remember your feelings will be
Van cleef: The jewellery at the beginning was invented by men and women to protect against bad
omen. That’s why graves throughout the world you have people being buried in the old times with
weapons on one side and jewellery the other side. Because that’s part of our legacy, that’s what we
Van cleef: I was looking yesterday at the results of the auction sales at Christies, Southeby’s in
2006, the high jewellery sales amount to $100M last year all over the world, record sales. What is
interesting is ranking of the house, the number one house, Vancleef and Apels $35M, why is it so?
Because I think after a while what remains is creativity, that’s art. That’s what Vancleef gives.
This combination of style, superb craftsmanship here at … we have above the workshop the atelier
where we have 45 we call them golden hands, people with such talent and also superior stones, we
call then Pierre de character, stones with soul. When you have this combination, … super design
that you recognise from far away, craftsmanship and superior stones, you’ve got a piece of art.
Van cleef: The workshop here, the people working here, for them this is like leisure … this is the
house which invented the … setting so there’s a crown of crown, this is like the so a lot of respect
and after that a lot of curiosity to understand how we can to make the 21st Century reference time
for Vancleef and Apels, we would like in 20 years from now the people to say, oh in 2007 and 08
and 09 and 10, look at what they did.
Van cleef: Jewellery is a teamwork which is every year we’re getting better and better at it. If you
would go upstairs to see the workshop you have 45 people, 45 golden hands, they’re working very
close to each other and they’re learning from each other. We had a young one that started Monday,
he’s 24 years old and you know the oldest one has been 40 years with us is 62 now. But they’re
working together. It’s like probably climbing mountains, you always find a new way to climb a
Van cleef: Every piece we are doing is unique like our love and friendship is unique. And it’s like a
Picasso, would you say that the Picasso of the blue period or the pink period or the cubist is better?
No, they’re all different, they’re all unique, they’re all to be treasured.
Van cleef: Every time I go to the workshop I mean oh, I say, oh, oh, how you do that and they’re so
humble they say, I’m doing my job. Which is usually the proof of the hidden treasure, they’re very
humble, they say is my tradition, my grandfather was doing that, it’s just my tradition. Why do we
need that? I think because we like to dream we need to dream, we want to dream, we’re longing of
eternal love, of eternal friendship of eternal perfection, we’re longing to that. Does it belong to our
world not, a glimpse of it, glimpse of perfection, glimpse of perfect love, glimpse of yes, but and
but we’re all dreaming of luck, we’re all dreaming of things we are, your heart stops and you enjoy
Vancleef: Well the idea we discussed with Nicola Boss was, is a creative …we need to celebrate
the centenary, how can we celebrate, 100 years, what can we do, what kind of Tour de Force can
we do? And he said look, would it be fabulous if we do, if we are known for beautiful stones,
beautiful craftsmanship, and designs, so if we do one collection about stones, one collection about
craftsmanship and one collection about style, so we did three and this year, it was so successful one
was called Pierre de Character, the other one Tres … and the other one …
Vancleef: We are going to launch next month, two high jewellery collection. One is about … this
mysterious mythical place under the water, first time we do to create 100 piece under the water,
and another is about ballet, we launch in London. If we want to be very creative we need to show
something when they open the green box wow.
Vancleef: At Vancleef and Apels they have no rows, animals have no claws, so this is a dream
place, the place where I think we were one part of time, the place we would like to be all the time,
you have lucky animals, at Vancleef and Apels you will find butterflies, dragonflies, even a fairy.
You know we have a lot of fairies here in place … in the salon you have fairies even on the wall.
Why, because people like, we dreaming of a fairy whispering to your ears, what is your wish, what
is your wish today? And as you know, as soon as you express your wish, 50% of the job is done
because you already have a purpose, you have a goal.
Vancleef: It’s also a world which is unique because everything is about luck so the best selling
bijou is of … the four leaf clover, one clover is good health, the other one good wealth, true love
and luck and if you have in your life health, wealth, true love and luck, you’ve got it all.
Vancleef: It’s difficult to do a piece of jewellery that is recognisable which has a style and I think
Vancleef and Apels is number one in … because it has a strong style, you can recognise it. The a…
the four leaf clover is recognised all over the world as a symbol of luck, the mystery setting
invented here as a patent in 1934, recognised all over the world. So when you have this symbols
which you recognise forever, I mean that’s a forte.
Vancleef: We have here in … next to the salon, we have a gallery. It’s the only place in the world
where we can buy and sell vintage Vancleef and Apels. And I don’t know a lot of jewellers that are
buying back part of the heritage because we have the collection of Vancleef and Apels we brought
back 200 pieces, creations of Vancleef and Apels of the past which is now our collection where we
can show. It’s Fashion Week now so in Paris we are showing part of our collection about fashion.
Vancleef: Now something which was interesting was also the zipper. The zip necklace which was
dreamt by the Duchess of Windsor, she came to see us and she said I am dreaming about a
necklace that would work, a zip that would work. It took us seven years to make it for her,
unfortunately she died before receiving it and now we sell it, it’s part of the unique pieces we sell
but in the Duchess of Windsor is not any more with us, but that’s something of her is a dream, the
ability to invent something and now this piece of jewellery, this creation is a way for her to be
Vancleef: What makes this house completely unique is the human factor, the fact that every day
we are listening to clients saying I’ve got a dream and then in front of the clients you’ve got a
designer, you’ve got somebody of the atelier, somebody finding the stones, this is humanity at its
best and humanity at its best creates art and history. You know I was two months ago in Monaco
for the exhibition about Princess Grace, you know is very moving to see Princess Grace, you have
the jewellery box open and you have plenty of Vancleef and Apels because she loved the house
and to have also Jackie O, Jackie O was you know when she’s laughing with Henrico, it’s very
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