Nicholas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, sits down with JNA to talk about the brand’s diverse jewellery collections and progressive designs that continue to redefine the luxury sector.
Nicholas Bos of Van Cleef & Arpels (Image by Pedro Neto)
Tendresse étincelante diamond earrings
Merveille d’émeraudes high jewellery necklace with Colombian emeralds and diamonds
Rubis en scène ruby and diamond bracelet
Pont des Amoureux luxury watch
Pont des Amoureux luxury watch
Legendary high-end jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels’ visionary spirit has spawned many design innovations in the luxury jewellery sector since its inception in 1906.
In 1938, the brand introduced the Passe-Partout necklace – one of the first transformable pieces pioneered by Van Cleef & Arpels – which was clearly ahead of its time.
It features a system of metal rails, hidden by two gem-studded flower clips, that allows a pliable yellow gold chain to slide in and out, effectively converting the piece into a necklace, choker, bracelet or even a belt. The clips may be worn as is or as ear clips.
In the 1950s, Van Cleef & Arpels upped the ante with the invention of the Zip necklace, which as the name suggests, was inspired by a mundane zipper. Touted as the brand’s most iconic creation, the Zip necklace was surprisingly the brainchild of Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson who in 1938 first mentioned the idea to the maison’s then artistic director. The necklace was only made in 1950 but remains a distinctive component of the jewellery house’s design philosophy.
Nicholas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, talks about how the brand's revolutionary nature lives on with fresh and on-trend jewellery collections that reverberate deeply among modern, design-oriented consumers.
Transformable jewellery is all the rage in the market nowadays as people yearn for ways to celebrate versatility and resilience. How does Van Cleef & Arpels feel about starting a trend that has had an enormous impact on the jewellery sector?
Bos: Perpetuating this legacy, versatile jewellery remains a distinctive signature of the maison. Our clients appreciate transformable pieces that they can adapt to their moods or use on different occasions. It is an important trend since it provides wearers with the freedom to express their style. For high jewellery, it also means that collectors acquiring a single piece can wear it in several ways.
The new Merveille d’émeraudes high jewellery necklace reflects this tradition. It features five exceptional Colombian emeralds of 70.40 carats in total that can be removed to be accompanied or replaced by pear-shaped diamonds, which in turn, may be used to adorn the clasp. The emeralds and the diamonds can also be attached to the earrings that complete the set.
Please tell us about your latest collections. What makes these stand out from your past creations?
Bos: This year, we chose to combine our heritage with exceptional stones that we call ‘Pierres de Caractère’. These gems showcase intense colours and brightness, and instil emotions. We created three unique pieces: The Merveille d’émeraudes necklace and earrings set; the Rubis en scène bracelet; and the Tendresse étincelante earrings. The designs were all inspired by our historical creations. They feature rare coloured gemstones such as 72 Burmese rubies that adorn the bracelet. Characterised by their innate beauty and intense colour, the rubies range from bright red to purple. Each gem was positioned on the bracelet according to varying hues to achieve harmony. The maison also reinterpreted its iconic Pont des Amoureux watch to offer several new versions of this Parisian love story. The day version features two lovers in a daylight landscape while four other watches are inspired by the different seasons. We also imagined a masculine model, the Midnight Pont des Amoureux, with a revisited dial in a bigger case.
Could you tell us how Van Cleef & Arpels' designs have evolved over the years?
Bos: Van Cleef & Arpels draws inspiration from nature, the art of dancing, couture or imaginary worlds. These concepts have influenced the maison for decades and are perpetually revisited with a contemporary approach. We also continue to combine figurative and abstract designs in our collections as was the case in the 1920s.
One of the challenges the jewellery house faces is keeping alive its savoir-faire and rare techniques like the emblematic Mystery Set. Patented in 1933, this technique has been improved, notably in the recent history of the maison.
Some creations represent true technical challenges such as the Pomme de pin clip, which features Navette Mystery Set emeralds and diamonds.
In an era of digitalisation, social media and online shopping, how can Van Cleef & Arpels sustain its relevance in the luxury jewellery industry?
Bos: By staying true to our values and history as we always do. Digitalisation and the luxury business are not at odds. Digital initiatives give us an incredible opportunity to reach out directly to our clients and provide them with the level of contentment and service expected from a high jewellery maison.
It is important for us to adapt to new tools and the specific needs of different regions. For instance, we want to strengthen our presence in Asia’s digital landscape through social media sites such as WeChat, KakaoTalk or Line. We are always trying to improve the quality of our services such as online boutique appointments or the ‘Click and Collect’ in store. Moreover, we are launching our new full-mobile e-commerce website, which will feature an easy-to-use platform to discover and purchase our collections.