Van Cleef & Arpels is a French luxury jewelry, watch, and perfume company. It was founded in 1896 by Alfred Van Cleef and his uncle Salomon Arpels in Paris. Their pieces often feature flowers, animals, and fairies, and have been worn by style icons such as Farah Pahlavi, the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Eva Perón.
Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law, Salomon Arpels, founded the company in 1896. In 1906, following Arpels’s death, Alfred and two of his brothers-in-law, Charles and Julien, acquired space for Van Cleef & Arpels at 22 Place Vendôme, across from the Hôtel Ritz, where Van Cleef & Arpels opened its first boutique shop. The third Arpels brother, Louis, soon joined the company.
Van Cleef & Arpels opened boutiques in holiday resorts such as Deauville, Vichy, Le Touquet, Nice, and Monte-Carlo. In 1925, a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet with red and white roses fashioned from rubies and diamonds won the grand prize at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts.
Alfred and Esther’s daughter, Renée (born Rachel) Puissant, assumed the company’s artistic direction in 1926. Puissant worked closely with draftsman René Sim Lacaze for the next twenty years. Van Cleef & Arpels were the first French jewelers to open boutiques in Japan and China. Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A. acquired the firm in 1999.
In 1966, Van Cleef & Arpels was charged with the task of making the crown of Empress Farah Pahlavi for her upcoming coronation in 1967. A team was sent to Iran to choose the major gems to use for the crown. After 11 months of work, the company presented the empress with a crown made of emerald velvet set with 36 emeralds, 36 rubies, 105 pearls and 1,469 diamonds.