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Van Cleef & Arpels: Rich history, glorious future

22 April 2019

By Esther Ligthart   

French jewellery house Van Cleef & Arpels is known for its iconic collections and high-quality craftsmanship. JNA spoke with Van Cleef CEO Nicolas Bos about the company’s competitive advantages and its thriving business model.

The art of jewellery making

Gemstone polishing

Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos © Van Cleef & Arpels 2016

by Patrick Swirc

Alhambra long necklace

Vintage blue agate

A conference at L’école School of Jewelry Arts


In this new era of business, companies face stricter competition than before. According to Nicolas Bos, CEO of celebrated jewellery brand Van Cleef & Arpels, companies should adhere to longstanding values while incorporating modern elements into their operations.

“Van Cleef & Arpels has chosen to remain faithful to its values since its foundation while perpetuating the same values with a more contemporary perspective,” noted Bos. “The maison conveys its poetic vision of life through its jewellery collections. We always challenge ourselves: There should be no compromise on quality. We only choose the most exceptional stones in accordance with the strictest criteria and technical innovation.”

Established in 1906, the company has a rich past and a long list of illustrious clients such as Iranian queen consort Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiary, renowned opera singer Maria Callas and American philanthropist Barbara Hutton, among others. Van Cleef also made history when it designed one of its most iconic pieces – the Zip necklace – for Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson in 1938. The necklace, inspired by the mundane zipper and produced only in 1950, is considered to this day an innovative technical masterpiece.

The company has retained its sparkle since its inception, counting among its clientele influential figures in the political and entertainment industries, as well as royal families. It has 129 boutiques worldwide. In 2018, Van Cleef reinforced a retail-only distribution scheme by opening six new locations in Germany and further strengthened its presence in the key markets of Canada, Japan and Korea.

Furthermore, the company continued to invest in its existing networks, enriching its boutique concept with new designs of private salons and renovating nine stores, according to Bos.

The year 2018 also saw the launch of the Le Secret and Frivole collections, which enchanted clients all over the world. Van Cleef’s “versatile” Alhambra however remains one of the brand’s most recognisable and well-loved collections.

Luxury business strategy

Bos credits the company’s triumph not only to its heritage but to a highly effective and resilient business model, which hinges upon consistency.

“The maison remains faithful to its core expertise: High jewellery, jewellery and timepieces. Our legacy inspires our collections so we are always consistent when it comes to the design and overall appeal of our pieces,” noted the company official.

One of the most attractive traits of a Van Cleef jewellery piece is versatility, noted Bos. “We create jewellery that can be confidently worn during the day at work and on evening occasions. For instance, our Alhambra and Perlée collections offer pieces that can be mixed and matched, with complementing colours and styles,” he added.

Speaking about distribution, Van Cleef employs a retail-only business network – a strategy that allows the company to maintain creative control over display and customer experience.

The company also makes sure that its artistic collaborations are always in line with its values and identity. A case in point is the L’Arche de Noé racontée par Van Cleef & Arpels – a high jewellery collection against a stunning backdrop designed by renowned American theatre and visual artist, Robert Wilson.

According to Van Cleef, Wilson’s installation reimagines a mythical adventure across the seas while highlighting over 40 pairs of fauna-inspired jewellery including mischievous monkeys, bounding kangaroos, galloping horses and exotic birds ready to take flight. The brand also partnered with ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied to celebrate the beauty of precious stones through bejewelled ballerina pieces.


As a means to further strengthen and share its core values to the jewellery world, Van Cleef supports the L’école project, which is aimed at connecting education and art.

“We have always believed in communication and education so it was natural for us to support the L’école School of Jewelry Arts. This school is not exclusively about Van Cleef but also explores other jewellery maisons’ style and design philosophies,” noted Bos.

The school offers courses to anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of jewellery design through lectures and hands-on exercises. Students from around the globe can discover the beauty of jewellery making through three significant themes such as Art History of Jewelry, Universe of Gemstones and Savoir-Faire.

In addition to the courses, conferences and exhibitions also take place at L’école.