Van Cleef & Arpels, a Jewel in the Crown of French Expertise

The creations from French jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels have been worn by the world’s most elegant women, including Florence Gould, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, and Blake Lively. The work of its artisan jewelers, nicknamed the "golden hands," will be displayed as part of L'Ecole, a series of workshops, lectures, and exhibitions in New York through November 9.

The most fashionable bachelor in New York contacted a small-scale Parisian jeweler for a most peculiar order in 1908. The American in question, Eugene Higgins, wanted a miniature of his steam-powered yacht, the Varuna, made with precious stones. The jewelers Alfred Van Cleef and Charles Arpels, who had been business partners for two years at 22 Place Vendôme, rose to the challenge.

The masterpiece was delivered on an ebony stand. Sailing on a sea of jade, the ship’s hull was crafted in white and green enamel, with gold masts and rubies for portholes. A button hidden in the boat’s chimney enabled Higgins to ring a bell to call for his butler


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