The History Of The Alhambra Collection
The History of the Alhambra Collection
Founded in 1906 and renowned for its emblematic creations, French luxury jewellery house Van Cleef & Arpels has been creating both high and fine jewellery for 125 years. Its captivating Alhambra Collection was first released in 1968, in an era when the Maison wanted to make fine jewellery more accessible and wearable for day time as well as evening. The motif of the Alhambra Collection is the lucky four-leaf clover, an emblem which has been seen in Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery since the 1920s. As timeless as when it was first created, the iconic Alhambra Collection has been worn by Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Francoise Hardy and more recently seen on Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz and Reese Witherspoon. Symbolising luck, freedom and elegance, Alahambra has a rich history that began with Jacques Arpels - nephew of the founders Alfred and Estelle - who believed that “To be lucky you have to believe in luck.”
1968, the luckiest of years
Inspired by his love of picking four-leaf clovers and handing them out to his employees, Jacques Arpels used this lucky charm as the hallmark of the Alhambra Collection. Arpels' first design was unveiled in 1968 at a metamorphic time in history when the women's liberation movement was emerging and the jet-set elite was making the most of the rise of commercial travel flying from one glamorous destination to the next. The first Alhambra creation was an exquisite long necklace embellished with 20 creased-yellow gold four-leaf clovers and distinctive beading, and it became a much-celebrated token of luck.
Inspired by architecture and symbols from around the world
From its inception, the Alhambra Collection has been inspired by the special powers of the talisman. The amulet feel of each piece of jewellery is both classic and exotic. Van Cleef & Arpels' enchanting motif is an ode to traditional Moorish quatrefoil, the Gothic architecture of Italy's Doges Palace and the scalloped arches of Spain's Alhambra Palace.
Part of La Boutique
The Maison launched La Boutique in 1954 as an innovative way of creating more accessible jewellery crafted from semi-precious gems and hard stones, in the hope that it would attract a younger clientele. The idea worked, and alongside that younger demographic Van Cleef & Arpels found that its already established clientele was snapping up these jewels too. The Alhambra Collection was originally sold under La Boutique and quickly became an icon of the brand. High end but more affordable than their whimsical and elaborate pieces, an Alhambra jewel is seen as an enduring symbol of luck, style and class.
The arrival of many variations and different gems
Fast forward to the 1970s and the Alhambra started to take shape in many different variations. Hard stones such as gloriously green malachite and deep blue lapis lazuli were introduced to the famous four-leaf clover design. Later on, came coral, tiger's eye and turquoise and then mother of pearl, carnelian and blue agate. Van Cleef & Arpels' clientele loved to layer their Alhambra necklaces with the many different gemstone choices. Grace Kelly was a famous collector of this symbolic design and had pieces from the collection in coral, tortoiseshell, rock crystal and malachite.
From vintage Alhambra to modern Alhambra
Today, you'll find the ornamental Alhambra Collection in the shape of rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces that look equally beautiful worn alone as they do when stacked. Vintage Alhambra remains faithful to that very first necklace where symmetry was key and size was always identical. Today, Alhambra consists of capsule collections that play with size, shape and materials in imaginative ways.
Launched in 2006, Magic Alhambra is bold, beautiful and asymmetrical and is crafted from the likes of everything from white gold and diamonds to tiger's eye and carnelian. That same year, Lucky Alhambra and Byzantine Alhambra were introduced - the former introducing new motifs inspired by nature including butterflies, hearts and stars and the latter crafted purely from yellow gold and blending both solid and openwork structures. Finally, in 2007, Sweet Alhambra was introduced, giving a more delicate touch to the designs by featuring those iconic motifs in miniature form.
The Alhambra Collection has been celebrating luck since 1968 and is one of Van Cleef & Arpels' most enduring anthologies. Refreshed and refined throughout the years, these charming pieces are instantly recognisable whether they glitter with diamonds, shine with mother of pearl or catch the light with the warm golden tones of tiger's eye.