While French society was in a complete boom-time, Van Cleef & Arpels’ workshops at Vendome Square were preparing to give the world a piece which was very much of that era. The year was 1968, the Alhambra collection was constructed from a timeless symbol of luck – a four-leaved clover with minimalist lines, refined to look like an ordinary clover. The whole aim of the piece was clear; the revolution of the 70s was before all else a revolution with more elegant esthetics which were slightly less tacky.
“Created by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1968, in keeping with its tradition of excellence and savoir-faire, the Alhambra long necklace captured the spirit of the age and introduced new ways of wearing jewels in everyday life. Fifty years later, it stands as a reference that has profoundly influenced the history of jewellery” outlined Nicolas Bos, the current president of Van Cleef & Arpels.
Accordingly the piece was thought of as a break away from more traditional pieces – loaded with precious jewels – the Alhambra is moulded in gold, simple and light, exceptionally refined! “It’s impossible to say what the exact origins of the quatrefoil motif. It is not abstract nor figurative, it is obviously a reference to the motif which can be easily found in the gardens of Alhambra in Grenada, but it also evokes a four leaf clover which Jacques Arpels could have proposed himself, it’s very superstitious” explains Catherine Cariou, director of Patrimoine. This was the first piece of this collection to catch people’s interest, the yellow gold chain decorated with white nacre became the symbol of this new elegant piece.
And the ravishing allure of the piece did not take long to win over Francoise Hardy, Grace Kelly or even Romy Schneider… but the one who incontrovertibly raised the Alhambra to the status of an indispensable icon of international jewellery was Elizabeth Taylor. Her edition of the Alhambra chain was the most expensive ever purchased at an auction. Her edition, in rock crystal, the rarest adaptation to date, was sold for 470 000 dollars at Christie’s in 2012. Today the Alhambra icon is celebrating its 50th birthday! An opportunity, for Van Cleef & Arpels to introduce new versions – with editions being proposed in diamond and rose gold, diamond and white gold, grey nacre or onyx…
Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra, some key dates
2018: The company enhanced its range of watches, adding the Sweet Alhambra, available in fifty different pieces.
2018: To celebrate its fiftieth birthday, Van Cleef & Arpels produced 4 models of the Alhambra available in limited edition.
2018: On its fiftieth birthday, the photographer Damian Foxe declared his love for the motive.
2017: An auction with Christie’s jewellery store sells an Alhambra piece for treble the expected value, showing that the design continues to surpass expectations.
2016: Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra is appraised positively by BRP Luxury.
2013: For the Alhambra’s 45th birthday a malachite version was released.
2012: For the holiday season, Van Cleef & Arpels release the Vintage Alhambra Holiday Season Limited Edition pendant, with a beautiful single diamond at its heart.
2012: New editions available in wood, or in rose gold, are released – to critical acclaim.
2012: For its Winter Campaign Van Cleef & Arpels highlight the Alhambra motif with a marvellous new necklace as part of the Twinkling Magic Alhambra promotional video.
2011: Elizabeth Taylor’s collection, which is put up for sale, in includes Alhambra pieces. An Alhambra chain sells for an estimated € 47 500.
2011: Princess Charlene of Monaco sports a Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra.
2010 – present: Camille Grammer, star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, features in several episodes wearing an Alhambra necklace.
2007: The Sweet Alhambra collection is released, featuring hearts and butterflies in very vivid colours.
2006: To mark the centenary of the company in 2006, new Alhambra designs are launched, among other new products which mark the occasion.
2001: After the turn of the millennium the Pure Alhambra collection is launched.
1998: Van Cleef & Arpels produce a collection of Alhambra watches.
1983: Models are created in grey nacre and are taking the market by storm to this day.
1975: Princess Grace of Monaco wears the iconic Alhambra design.
1974: Romy Schneider wears the iconic Alhambra necklace piece.
1974: Legendary French actor Françoise Hardy wears an Alhambra for a photo-shoot.
1973: It is said that Prince Rainier first gifted Grace of Monaco with an Alhambra chain in this year.
1968: The first Alhambra collection is embarked upon, made as lucky charms and taking its inspiration from a previous Touch Wood series.