Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in 1906 by Alfred Van Cleef and brothers Julien and Charles Arpels, the latter of whom was also Alfred’s brother-in-law. Their first shop in Paris at number 22 Place Vendôme, where they are still located today, was designed to attract a wealthy clientele and led to immediate success.
Their clients included celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevalier and Eva Peron, for whom the firm designed a diamond and sapphire Argentinean flag brooch in the early 1950s. The company also designed the tiara worn by Grace Kelly when she became Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956. For the coronation of Farah Pahlavi, the former Empress of Iran, Van Cleef & Arpels received an order to design and build a crown of emeralds and diamonds in 1967, which weighed four pounds and took them six months to make.
The firm's jewellery is characterised by its graceful lines, colour, and a sense of movement. Ever innovative, they are the creators of the ‘Mystery Setting’, an innovation in which the prongs are hidden beneath the gemstones. In addition, Charles is credited with the invention of the minaudière, a case constructed of precious materials to hold all a lady’s necessary items for an evening out. The firm is now a part of the Richemont Group.