The French Maison Van Cleef & Arpels is recognised all over the world for its exquisite and poetic jewels.
Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, talks about the new collection, inspirations for the distinct jewels and the signature style of the Maison and his vision for the House.
What guides the style of Van Cleef & Arpels and its creations? What aspects of design, style and identity have remained steady over the years?
The maison stands out for a recognisable signature style – treatment of movement, asymmetry or transformability – and the unique sources of inspiration that are nature, poetry, couture, ballet and imaginary worlds. Van Cleef & Arpels is noted for its remarkable and innovative techniques, the exceptional quality of stones and virtuoso craftsmanship of its Mains d’Or (Golden Hands). Together, these features give birth to the uniqueness of the maison that seems to lie in timelessness and elegance.
We have also developed more accessible collections such as Perlée, Cosmos or Alhambra that also encapsulate the high jewellery savoir-faire of the maison. In terms of watchmaking, the maison is quite singular in its expression of the passage of time with unique poetic complications and extraordinary dials, including iconic timepieces such as Cadenas, Charms and Pierre Arpels.
Let’s talk about the Seven Seas collection. What criteria did you follow while choosing the seas – Black Arabian, Mediterranean, Red, Adriatic etc.?
For each of the seven seas, we thought about what they represent in the collective unconscious: symbols, colours and shapes. We have been trying to interpret each of the seas in a high jewellery way. For instance, we have used white and gray cultured pearls for the Rivage Noir et Blanc Bracelet, inspired from the architecture of Bulgaria, in the Black Sea chapter. For the Adriatic Sea, we have used turquoises to symbolise the lagoons of clear water and verdant shorelines in the tranquility of a summer’s day.
What is your personal favourite sea theme from the collection? And what sea do you prefer to go for a vacation to?
I particularly like the chapter inspired by the Black Sea, which triggers imaginations of a mysterious fairy tale. On a personal note, my favourite destination remains the Caribbean Sea for its wild beaches and warm waters.
This is the first time I have seen such a variety of pearl jewellery in one Van Cleef & Arpels collection. What prompted this?
The use of pearls has appeared to us as an evidence for this collection: they come from the oceans and recall the shell they are extracted from. Pearls have the extraordinary ability to illuminate the design, when alternated with other precious or hard stones. Besides, they add a very feminine touch to the jewellery.
Many pieces like the Flamant Corail (drawing below) necklace are very rich in decorative elements. What challenges did you face while creating a piece such as this using various colours of gold, hard stones, precious gems and coral?
The Flamant Corail features a gradation of pink sapphires and diamonds. The challenge with this piece, as with all our nature-inspired creations, was to give an impression of movement and lightness. We did a three-dimensional work on feathers. The supple connections give the necklace flexibility and comfort. It sits perfectly on the neck. The detachable central motif can be worn as a clip or on the necklace. When it is placed slightly towards the side, it gives the piece an asymmetric look and the impression as though it is in flight.
I have also noticed that different techniques have been used for the Seven Seas pieces: beads, tassels, paving, the mystery setting, carved stones and suspended briolettes. Does the process of creating each new jewel fundamentally differ from each other.
Each technique that we use at Van Cleef &Arpels brings a special aesthetic to the jewellery. It changes the way you see it as well, besides the way you wear and feel it. I would say that it also stirs different emotions; techniques reveal the beauty of jewellery.
The jewels in the new Seven Seas collection are lighter and less extravagant. Why did you step away from the usual style for your high-jewellery?
We have been willing to create a collection that would make you want to wear it on holidays. Just like the idea of cruise collections in fashion, we have created our pieces to be less formal and easy to wear. The different shades of blue are a gateway to the oceans and take you on a journey where the infinite horizon is the only point of view. Having said that, all the pieces of the collection are set with stones that adhere to the strictest criteria. We call them Pierres de Caractère, as they instill a very special emotion in anyone who looks at them.
As President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, how have you been innovating and enriching the brand’s identity?
The House’s identity is fantastically rich and diverse and, at the same time, very strong and coherent. Our mission, along with the design teams, experts and craftsmen, is to write new chapters in a story that started over a century ago. Our aim is to try and make these chapters relevant and enchanting for today’s clients. This is why I chose a theme like Seven Seas for our high jewellery and developed new designs like Perlee, and concepts such as poetic complications. All of it is collaborative teamwork.
And lastly, how does it feel to be at the helm of an illustrious maison such as Van Cleef & Arpels?
NB: I feel proud and blessed. My goal now is to perpetuate the Van Cleef & Arpels history in the worlds of high jewellery and watchmaking.
Nicolas was interviewed by Katerina Perez – katerinaperez.com