LEGEND OF DIAMONDS
by Alexandra MAS
Each time I enter the Van Cleef & Arpels univers I am marveled. I could spend hours analyzing each detail, the perfection, the harmony, the mobility and surprisingly poetical pieces. Each one is a splendid and complex world in itself, imagine the shivers when you see a full collection all at once. You are plunged into years of research, discoveries, design and innovations. Van Cleef & Arpels’ passion for stones is writing a history of its own, where royalty, cinema and stage stars fall in love with legendary gems. Let’s look into some of the most rare Van Cleef & Arpels stones: The Prince Edward of York, was discovered in South Africa’s Kimberley mine in 1894. It is a “pearshaped brilliant” diamond of over 60 carats, and was the first major diamond that the Maison acquired and remounted. the Blue Heart, a 31-carat heart-cut blue diamond discovered also in South Africa, in 1908 was acquired by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1953. In 1960 the Maison purchased a 34.64-carat cushion – cut pink diamond that was named Princie, after the young Prince Jagat Sing of Boroda. Apparently found in the Golconda mines, India, as it has been owned since the 18th century by the Nizams of Hyderabad.
‘If you are very lucky, you will see one stone like this in your lifetime. […] All my life, I have been looking for a pink diamond. The moment I learned there was one for sale, I ran to see it; it was in London, but believe me, I would have gladly gone to India, China, or the far reaches of Africa or America.’
Jacques Arpels set the world record for a public auction price of an unmounted diamond at £70,000 (960,000 francs) in 1964 when he bought the 30.58-carat Mazarin. A emerald cut diamond revealing underneath the vestiges of the 17th-century cushion shape, that used to belong to the French Crown. On April 1, 1971 Van Cleef & Arpels purchased a 96.62-carat briolette-cut yellow diamond, a Bird that carried the sparkling faceted drop in its beak. The clip made entirely of precious stones belonged to singer Ganna Walska. Arcot 1, a historic pear-cut diamond of 30.99-carat, offered by the Nawab of Arcot to Queen Charlote of England at the end of the 18th-century was presented in 1990s in a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace.
In 1999, the maison acquired 523 extraordinary colored diamonds in various cuts: brilliant, heart, cushion, emerald, marquise, pear, princess, radiant, and oval. These diamonds came in different shades of yellow, sky blue, gray blue, pale pink, purple, and olive green. Two years later, this collection of gemstones became known as the “Collection of the Century,” marking a new era in the creation of precious jewelry. The maison continued to celebrate the beauty and elegance of precious stones while also collaborating with skilled artisans. Notable collections during this time include “Pierres de Caractère – Variations” (2013), “Émeraude en majesté” (2016), and “Treasure.” Throughout these decades, Van Cleef & Arpels‘ pursuit of perfection and rarity proved to require immense patience and strong professional relationships.
Emerging from the depths of the earth, a rare find appeared—a rock that encapsulated stars, shimmering with millions of them within its surreal size. It was the Lesotho Legend. In 2018, Van Cleef & Arpels encountered this rough diamond, presented by Taché, a long-time partner of the Maison and a renowned diamond dealer. Weighing 910 carats, this gem is the fifth largest rough diamond ever mined in terms of size and quality. It boasted a flawless D color, exquisite crystallization, and a highly coveted Type 2A chemical composition. Type 2A diamonds are the purest in terms of chemical composition and exhibit exceptional optical clarity. Originally associated with India, particularly the Golconda region, Type 2A diamonds have since been discovered in several diamond-producing countries worldwide. In this case, the stone originated from the Letseng Mine in Lesotho, renowned for its production of remarkable gems in terms of size and quality. The Maison’s collaboration with this mine, committed to sustainable development, ensures complete traceability of the rough diamond. Thus, the legend was born—the Legend of Diamonds, showcased in the 25-piece Mystery Set Jewels collection.
“The Maison rarely works with rough stones. Typically, we start with cut and faceted stones that are already suitable for use in jewelry. It has been decades since we were involved in a project from the very beginning, starting with the extraction of the stone and leading to the creation of a High Jewelry collection. The discovery of this extraordinary rough stone presented us with a unique opportunity to tell a captivating story centered around the diamond.”
- Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels
“Finding a stone of this size in its natural state is truly emotional. It’s the kind of thing we dream of but don’t dare to imagine. We are here at the beginning of this diamond, after its formation, when there has not yet been any human intervention. When I see a rough stone like this, I would like to keep it this way, because it is so beautiful.”
Director of the Van Cleef & Arpels Stones Department
Van Cleef & Arpels and Taché sought help from Diamcad—a leading diamond cutter in Antwerp—to plan the cutting and faceting of each stone. These specialists in cutting exceptional rough stones analyzed the Lesotho Legend, which proved suitable for producing large diamonds. Working their way around the stone’s inclusions, the experts used state-of-the-art technology to envision the position of each gem in the heart of the rough stone. 3D software that allowed each cut diamond to be seen inside the rough stone. This was a unique opportunity for the Maison to choose a combination of cut stones that matched its wishes, both in shape and size. These included a 79.35-carat specimen and others weighting 51.14, 31.24, and 25.06 carats.
Van Cleef & Arpels worked hand in hand with the various experts involved in the project to choose the cuts most likely to awaken the designers’ creativity. Every shape, whether oval, pear, emerald, or Asscher, echoed the Maison’s history and taste for “fancy” cuts. The gems were then given the ideal proportions, meticulously studied to best enhance their brilliance and beauty while meeting the aesthetic criteria of the Maison. Van Cleef & Arpels also had the rare opportunity to create perfect matches, combining stones of identical size and weight. For the first section of the rough stone, the traditional cleavage technique was used.
“This involves making an incision in the stone and inserting a knife that we strike to split the stone in two. We very rarely use this technique anymore now that we have laser technology, but it was the only way to get the desired result with this stone.”
Eli Huygelberghs Director of Production at Diamcad
These various steps produced a family of 67 diamonds totaling 441.75 carats, nearly half of the original rough stone’s weight. Of exceptional quality—Flawless to Internally Flawless—each one reveals the distinctive nature of the original rough stone, like clear, scintillating water. Alone or in pairs, trios or sets, they have inspired the Maison’s designers to create a historic collection infused with Van Cleef & Arpels’ distinctive style. The heaviest stone in the collection, this 79.35-carat oval cut diamond is given pride of place in the Atours Mystérieux necklace.
Assembling the Individual Mystery Set motif on the necklace structure
Setting the necklace’s center diamond in its bezel
Setting the Individual Mystery Set rubies on the removable motif
Assembling the different parts of the necklace
The collection is the result of more than 30,000 hours of work. From the drawings the pieces come to life thanks to the Mains d’Or (literally “hands of gold”), the artisans of the Van Cleef & Arpels Workshops from the Place Vendôme who carry on the tradition of expertise that is constantly being perfected. To meet each new challenge, the jewellers, setters, lapidaries, and polishers communicated and shared their experience to produce a collective work. It is the first time the entire collection is made in the Mystery Set unique technique developed by the Maison in 1933. In 1937, the Maison developed the Individual Mystery Set, in which the stones are held one by one. In the 1990s, Van Cleef & Arpels developed new techniques such as the Hexagonal Mystery Set, the Navette Mystery Set, and the Vitrail Mystery Set, they produce striking effects of movement, depth, and transparency. Today, the Legend of diamonds 25 Mystery Set Jewels collection shines a new light on the historic traditional technique with three colours of gemstones, innovative and skilful.
“This project was a fantastic human adventure. Working alongside long-time partners has made our relationship even closer. We have crafted a piece of eternity, much like the diamond itself.”
Jean-Jacques Taché, Diamond Dealer
“Developing Legend of Diamonds took about four years from the time we first saw the rough stone to the release of the finished pieces. I’m very proud of the collection. Thanks to the work of all the teams at Van Cleef & Arpels, I think we have successfully shown that an exceptional diamond can be the starting point for an extraordinary collection that will be a milestone in the history of the Maison.”
Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels
Chevron Mystérieux necklace with detachable pendants. White gold, rose gold, 3 pear-shaped DFL Type 2A diamonds of 31.24, 12.18 and 12.07 carats, one round DFL Type 2A diamond of 1.08 carats, Traditional Mystery Set emeralds, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds.
“The collection’s 25 pieces are all equally intricate, requiring the collaboration of numerous skilled craftsmen and trusted experts. The Design Studio conceived the designs, and our task was to bring them to life. Together, we crafted the initial shapes, mechanical elements, ensured wearing comfort, and ultimately achieved the desired transformations. It was truly a collaborative endeavor.”
- Grégory Weinstock, Director of the Van Cleef & Arpels High Jewelry Workshops
The creations of the Legend of Diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels collection also undergo astonishing metamorphoses, offering up to six different ways to wear some of them. For instance, the central diamond of the Atours Mystérieux necklace can be detached and replaced by an Individual Mystery Set motif, which can be easily slipped onto a chain. Similarly, the diamond of the Collerette Mystérieux necklace can be used to adorn a matching ring. Furthermore, the pendants of the Chevron Mystérieux earrings can be added to the necklace of the same name, and its central diamond can be detached for separate wear. From rings to pendants, from necklaces to earrings, each transformation embodies the Maison’s constant and renewed creativity.