Van Cleef & Arpels Zodiaque Collections

November 2021


Van Cleef & Arpels Zodiaque Collections

Enthralled by the spectacle of the celestial bodies and the heavenly vault, Van Cleef & Arpels honors them with collections that recreate the symbolism of the constellations. This year, the Maison has imagined two jewelry sets, offering new interpretations of the signs of the Western Zodiac and celebrating emblematic creations from its heritage. Whether in pure gold, like the medals that appeared in Van Cleef & Arpels’ collections during the 1950s, or combining it with the nuances of rare ornamental stones, the creations blend two of the Maison’s cherished sources of inspiration: nature and astronomy.

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n a veritable homage to the colored pendants designed by Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1970s, twelve long necklaces reinterpret the signs of the Zodiac. Each creation is adorned with motifs on both sides, like a genuine three-dimensional tableau. A first scene focuses on figures and the elements traditionally associated with each Zodiac sign: the animals and characters are depicted in relief in the foreground, while the elements evoking fire, air, water or earth are represented in stylized form in the background, in a graphic aspect reminiscent of Art Deco compositions.

Rose gold takes on different textures, providing a sense of movement to the ensemble. In testimony to the special care invested by the Maison in every detail of its pieces, the backs of the long necklaes have been worked using the same techniques as their fronts: they feature depictions in gold of the symbols of the signs, their names and the dates to which they correspond in the calendar.

A selection of ornamental stones adds the finishing touch to the backgrounds of these relief tableaux, suffusing each sign with unique character. The rich diversity of stones creates a unique composition of minerals, rarely seen in jewelry. Chosen individually for their aesthetic characteristics, they come together to form harmoniously colored ensembles for each element. The ones chosen to depict water signs thus evoke the world’s seas, with Cancer’s blue quartz embodying the depth of the oceans, Pisces’s sodalite the salty foam, and Scorpio’s turquoise the clear waters of exotic shores.

The dazzling nuances of the earth signs echo the luxuriant nature that has inspired Van Cleef & Arpels ever since its foundation: malachite with undulating motifs for Virgo, randomly-chromed aventurine for Taurus and vivid amazonite for Capricorn.

Meanwhile, the air signs depict the poetry of night skies, with the intensely- flecked blue of lapis lazuli on the Gemini medal echoing the blue aventurine of Aquarius and the overtones of shimmering gold obsidian for Libra.

The highly graphic materials chosen to adorn the fire signs alternately evoke flames and lava, like the iron eye selected for Aries; volcanic magma, like the red pietersite of Sagittarius; or glowing embers, like the red jasper whose speckled motifs bring Leo to life.

Golden medals

A second set of twelve pieces offers a contemporary vision of the yellow gold medals which appeared in Van Cleef & Arpels’ collections from the 1950s onwards. Among the Maison’s historic creations, they were available in different sizes and forms over the years. Zodiac-inspired charms, bracelets, pendants, clips and cuff links punctuated Van Cleef & Arpels’ history up until the 2000s.

Today, the Maison is celebrating this rich heritage by recreating its first ever Zodiac medals. Van Cleef & Arpels has brought them back to life in new dimensions – 21 mm in diameter – that emphasize their symbolism and intimate quality. Crafted from intricately polished yellow gold, the pieces are adorned on both sides with depictions and dates of the signs of the Zodiac, in a subtle interplay of relief. These medals thus celebrate a personal jewelry, deeply imbued with the history of its wearer.

Colors of nature

For more than a century, stones have been at the heart of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creativity. To recreate the wonder inspired by observing the heavenly bodies and the nature it holds so dear, the Maison has paid special attention to selecting and working the materials that make up the long necklaces in the Zodiaque collection. Van Cleef & Arpels’ expert gemologists have worked hand in hand with lapidaries to create harmonious and evocative ensembles of ornamental stones.

Cut into large disks, each stone has been carefully chosen for its harmonious appearance on both sides, the nuance of its color, the quality of its surface, its opacity, and its plays of translucidity. Together, they endow the creations with graphic effects, speckles and shimmering overtones.

The collection’s rich variety of stones has opened up new perspectives for Van Cleef & Arpels, which has dedicated its expertise to the beauty of natural materials. The Maison highlights the poetry of ornamental stones in creations that bring out all their nuances and character. Basking at center stage, the stones instill a unique emotion.

Expertise and savoir-faire

Van Cleef & Arpels’ Zodiaque collections are a tribute to the expertise of the Maison’s workshops. The fruit of a genuinely collective approach, the creations bring together Van Cleef & Arpels’ emblematic techniques, from design through to the three-dimensional, textured gold working.

Each ornamental stone piece is worked on both sides, like a true miniature tableau in which interplays of form, material and color come together. The three-dimensional volumes and textures of the different gold motifs were carefully crafted in green wax before being transcribed in rose gold, to assess their relief effect and ensure the harmony of the composition. The pendants are framed by a contour of rose gold, skillfully hammered to reflect the light with intensity. The decorative effects on the gold are testimony to the attention that the Maison devotes to every detail of its collections. The gold is intricately polished, sanded or brushed to endow the ensemble with a strikingly graphic aspect.

Homage to Van Cleef & Arpels’ heritage

Inspired by the fascination that the heavens have always exerted over the Maison’s imagination, the Zodiac theme appeared in Van Cleef & Arpels’ collections from the 1950s onwards. Following in the footsteps of the lucky charms that the Maison had created since its foundation, the signs of the Zodiac began to adorn gold medals, which were soon a roaring success. Produced in a variety of sizes, they also took the form of charms to be mixed and matched, or cufflinks.

From the 1970s, these pieces adopted more imposing dimensions, and were adorned with wood, diamonds, mother-of-pearl and ornamental stones. As pendants, key rings, bracelets or even clips, the various interpretations gave pride of place to figurative and abstract motifs, giving rise to both feminine and masculine ensembles. These highly diverse creations remained popular through to the 1990s.

Van Cleef & Arpels has revisited this theme in its watchmaking since 2014. In 2018, the Maison unveiled the Zodiaque Lumineux watches collection, which depicts constellations and symbols on precious dials, which light up by virtue of an innovative mechanical system.