hrough the years, Van Cleef & Arpels has consistently paid tribute to the beauty of gemstones, celebrating their colors, their brilliance, and their elegant shapes. In keeping with this tradition, since the early 2000s, the Maison has dedicated High Jewelry collections to them, most notably Collection of the Century (2002), Pierres de Caractère (2006), Pierres de Caractère – Variations (2013), Émeraude en majesté (2016), and Treasure of rubies (2019).
This year, it is unveiling a significant set of pieces featuring exceptional white diamonds, the product of an exhilarating journey of passion and expertise. Van Cleef & Arpels’ high standards and taste have inspired it to surround itself with a network of experts, establishing close ties with the most prominent dealers, including some who specialize in diamonds. This quest for the rarest stones is inextricably linked to great patience. From bringing together perfectly matched stones, to creating harmonious sets of gems, to discovering a diamond of the highest quality, the Maison has a long history of enhancing jewels that ellicit a unique emotion.
The story of the Legend of diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels collection began in 2018, when the Maison encountered a rough diamond, the Lesotho Legend. Presented to Van Cleef & Arpels by diamond dealer Taché, a long-time partner, the stone was initially exceptional for its weight: 910 carats. It was the fifth largest rough diamond in both size and quality ever mined. It combined a perfect D color, beautiful crystallization, and a highly sought-after Type 2A chemical composition.
Type 2A diamonds are chemically the purest and have great optical clarity. First identified as native to India—in particular the Golconda region—they have since been found in several producing countries around the world. In this case, the stone was from the Letseng Mine in Lesotho, known as the home of gems of remarkable size and quality. The Maison’s collaboration with this mine that is committed to sustainable development ensures complete traceability of the rough diamond.
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.
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 weighing 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.
The combination of gems was decided with the help of 3D software that allowed each cut diamond to be seen inside the rough stone. For almost a year, gemologists’ eye was combined with cutting-edge technology to perfect these combinations, avoid inclusions, and limit the loss of material. Once mapped, the rough stone was sawn to shape the individual diamonds. This step presented new challenges: since diamonds are a particularly hard material with cleavage planes, they are difficult to cut. For the first section of the rough stone, the traditional cleavage technique was used.
The diamond cutter then worked each stone, giving it facets that were polished to give the gems their full brilliance. 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.
At the heart of Van Cleef & Arpels, the Design Studio was committed to upholding its highly recognizable style through the 25 pieces of the collection. The designers worked hand in hand with expert gemologists and the High Jewelry Workshops to design precious settings inspired by the history of the Maison for the diamonds from the rough stone. Each setting created through this collaborative approach was designed to reveal the intense brilliance of the stones and magnify their cut, while emphasizing the Maison’s style and expertise.
Van Cleef & Arpels opted to combine each of the gems with the Mystery Set: one of the most complex signature techniques mastered by the Place Vendôme Workshops. Bringing together curved lines and the intense interplay of colors in rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, the Design Studio worked to infuse lightness and movement into the most precious materials. Within the collection, bows are three dimensional, ribbons softly come undone, and asymmetry gives certain pieces a subtle energy.
The entire collection, the result of more than 30,000 hours of work, comes to life thanks to the Mains d’Or (literally “hands of gold”), the artisans of the Van Cleef & Arpels Workshops on the Place Vendôme who carry on the tradition of expertise that is constantly being perfected. To meet each new challenge, the jewelers, setters, lapidaries, and polishers communicated and shared their experience to produce a collective work. Links, invisible fasteners, and discreet articulations express the Maison’s distinctive high standards, and the artisans’ meticulous attention is apparent on both the front and the back of the pieces.
- The Legend of diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels collection
The second chapter, Legend of diamonds – White diamond variations, demonstrates the permanent place diamonds hold in the Maison’s jewelry design and the way it has been showcased in its collections. This gem, which is emblematic of the precious arts, has been celebrated since the first piece sold by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1906 – a heart set with brilliant-cut diamonds – and continues to illuminate its various themes, from nature to couture. Inspired by the Maison’s rich heritage, the collection’s 82 pieces retrace its creative history, reinterpreting its distinctive style to reflect different eras and artistic trends.