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Object of Desire: Van Cleef & Arpels’ Treasure of Rubies

By Caroline Suganda

 
Van Cleef & Arpels Treasure of Rubies

A sketch of the Rubis Flamboyant transformable necklace, with a 25.76 carats centre stone in the pendant, which can be transformed into a ring.

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Van Cleef & Arpels Treasure of Rubies

The double Peony clip from 1937, formerly from the collection of Her Royal Highness Princess Faiza of Egypt. The bottom clip now sits in the French jeweller’s archive collection, while the top clip has not been found.

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Van Cleef & Arpels Treasure of Rubies

Élixir de Rubis transformable necklace with 8.04 carats centre stone in the pendant, which can be detached.

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In 1982, Jacques Arpels (nephew of Estelle Arpels, co-founder of Van Cleef & Arpels) once told a journalist that rubies were his favourite stone. Rich in colour and regal in appearance, the intensity of a ruby’s colour has the propensity to affect its value. One of the most iconic expressions of Van Cleef & Arpels as a master jeweller is the Mystery setting — an invisible setting which gives stones the illusion that they are suspended, free of prongs — and an iconic Mystery-set piece that now belongs in the French jeweller’s archive is the Peony clip. Originally designed in 1937 as a pair of flower clips, the one in the archives (the fate of the other remains a mystery — no pun intended) holds 700 densely hued red rubies in a Mystery setting, which mimic the lightness and sense of movement of the flower’s petals. 

Throughout its history, rubies have inspired some of the most emblematic creations. Maria Callas, the opera diva who is also an avid jewellery collector, was often seen with a Five Leaves clip, created in 1967 with six rubies, pinned to her shoulder. In 2011, the high jewellery Bals de Légende collection offered the Duchesse necklace, where 73 perfectly matched oval rubies were fashioned into a “ribbon” interlaced with white diamonds.

This year, the maison has introduced a high jewellery collection dedicated to these luscious, precious stone. Treasure of Rubies is made up of 60 unique pieces of great rarity. One of the main challenges crafting a collection based on a single type of stone is the ability to keep with the consistency and uniformity of the stone in terms of size and colour. With this collection, however, Van Cleef & Arpels has also displayed its virtuosity as a stone expert, gathering some of the most impressive collection of ruby beads that weighs over 1,000 carats, which have been fashioned into a nine-row necklace, a 25.23-carat ruby with floral engravings, and a cushion-cut ruby of 25.76 carats (the biggest in the collection), to name but a few.