Van Cleef & Arpels

5 Iconic Van Cleef & Arpels Bracelets to Start Your Collection

Pieces to last a lifetime and beyond, from Alhambra, Frivole, Perlèe and More!

There is a timeless appeal to “forever” jewelry that just seems to work with everything from jeans to ball gowns, no matter your style or your age. The Maison of Van Cleef & Arpels appears to have found the key to that appeal, producing designs beloved by people worldwide for nearly 120 years.

A Brief History of Van Cleef & Arpels

The magic of Van Cleef & Arpels is born from a true love story: that of Estelle Arpels, the daughter of a gem dealer, and Alfred Van Cleef, son of a diamond broker and lapidary.1 Married in Paris in 1895, they went into business in 1906 with Estelle’s brothers at 22 Place Vendôme, where the premier boutique is still located.

In 1926, their daughter, Renée Puissant, became Artistic Director, and it was she, with designer René Sim Lacaze, impressed upon the Maison critical elements of its distinct style.2  The joining of the last names in this venture evidenced a great and lasting bond between the families, symbolizing “the union of individuals and expertise, the convergence of excellence and poetry,” which have become synonymous with Van Cleef & Arpels.

Love has been a theme for the Maison3 and is represented throughout the collections, from the Frivole’s heart-shaped petals to the Pont des Amoureux watch4; indeed, the first piece sold in 1906 was a diamond heart. That pure, timeless emotion continues to inspire the Maison and has drawn so many loyal clients over the years.


Many factors go into a bracelet’s popularity, beginning with the public perception of the brand, especially if there is a reputation for quality. Price is also a factor: popularity necessitates the piece be obtainable but not cheap. However, the most important factor may be design, including how it appears visually, how it feels when worn, how easy it is to wear, and its unique design points.

A key reason the Maison’s bracelets are so popular is that, first and foremost, Van Cleef & Arpels’ designs are both aesthetically pleasing and incredibly well-designed. These pieces are often beautiful to look at, feel substantial but not too heavy, are versatile to style, and layer well with other bracelets, whether from the same collection, another Van Cleef line, or another brand entirely. 

Stack1
Perlèe Clover and 5 Motif Alhambra bracelets stacked with a Cartier Love bracelet.

Many designs are laden with accessible symbolism and/or meaning, like the Frivole motif’s flower design, composed of three highly polished heart-shaped petals,5 or the Alhambra quatrefoil,6 the leaves each symbolizing luck, love, health, and fortune.7

Further, the culture of the Maison values the lasting wearability of each piece, whether on its own or with other pieces the client may already own or purchase later.

Clients are encouraged to play with their jewelry, creatively adding pieces to each other, like adding an Alhambra bracelet to a necklace to make it longer or adding bracelets together or to an extender. Still, other pieces are designed to transform, making them even more wearable.

VCA Necklace
A Zip Necklace, when closed, transforms and can be worn as a bracelet.

From the beginning, the Maison’s pieces have been worn and enjoyed by the world’s most famous women, from actress Marlene Dietrich,8 to opera singer Maria Callas,9 to Empress Farrah Pahlavi of Iran.10 Notable clients include:

The Duke of Windsor and his wife, Wallace Simpson
Both loved the Maison’s jewelry, and beginning in the 1930s, the Duke worked with VC&A’s designers on numerous pieces. Some of these, like the transformable Zip (worn as a necklace when open and a bracelet when closed), would later become iconic designs for the Maison. 

American Socialite Barbara Hutton
Ms. Hutton, heir to the Woolworth fortune, was one of the wealthiest women in the world. She loved to spend her money, especially on extravagant jewelry (even gifting pieces from the Maison to her friends).11 One of the star pieces of her collection was a diamond Ludo bracelet.

Ludo
Barbara Hutton’s Ludo Bracelet. Photo via Van Cleef & Arpels.

Actress Grace Kelly
H.S.H. Princess of Monaco was known for her love of VC&A jewelry, beginning with a set given to her by her husband, Prince Rainier III, on their wedding day in 1956. The Maison was named “Official Provider for the Principality of Monaco” soon after, and since then, it has maintained a close relationship with the principality and its royal family.12 

GK
H.S.H. Princess Grace wearing the wedding set given to her by her husband, Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
Among numerous pieces in her collection (such as the Toi et Moi engagement ring13 given to her by JFK), she was frequently photographed wearing her Etruscan inspiration cuff bracelet. 

Etruscan inspiration cuff bracelet 18K yellow gold VCARF45500 40800
The Etruscan Inspiration Cuff Bracelet. Photo via Van Cleef & Arpels.

H.R.H Queen Camilla
A longtime collector of Van Cleef & Arpels,14 H.R.H. is often seen wearing at least one piece, if not several, at any given time. One favorite is her 5 Motif Blue Agate Vintage Alhambra bracelet, which she wears frequently.

Queen Camilla Wearing VCA
H.R.H. Queen Camilla wearing her Blue Agate Alhambra bracelet.

Lebron James
Recently, men have been seen wearing their VC&A bracelets, particularly the Alhambra. Most notable of these men is NBA star Lebron James, who is often photographed wearing his.

Tiger's Eye, Blue Agate and Guilloche Alhambra Bracelets. Photo via Lebron James/Facebook.
Lebron James’ bracelet stack of Tiger’s Eye, Blue Agate and Guilloché. Photo via Lebron/Facebook.

Other well-known men include Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Grealish and Dele Alli of UK football, Musicians Drake, Chris Brown, Machine Gun Kelly, Rich The Kid and J-Hope of BTS, and actor Kevin Hart.

Cardi B and Offset
Special mention must be made of the ultra-famous rap couple who turned the fashion world on its ear with this family photo:

When she saw a picture of Alhambra bracelets, Cardi B was instantly smitten and told her personal shopper, “I want all the bracelets, all the colors.” Several days later, this photo was taken.15 Since then, she and Offset have often been seen wearing the Maison’s jewelry.

Cardi B VCA Jewels
Cardi B’s Vintage Alhambra stack. Via Cardi B/Instagram.

What Materials Are Used?

Most VC&A bracelets are produced in gold (rose, yellow, or white). Stones often used in the regular jewelry lines include Blue Agate, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Diamond, Emerald, Malachite, Mother of Pearl (White or Gray), Ruby, Sapphire, Tiger’s Eye, and Turquoise. 

The Maison also uses Chrysoprase, Pink Mother of Pearl, Pietersite, Porcelain, and Rock Crystal for certain limited edition pieces and various additional stones for their high jewelry and watch lines. 


There are numerous iconic and popular designs currently in production; these are among the most popular:

Vintage Alhambra 5 Motif in Onyx, $4,600

The Alhambra, first created in 1968 and named after the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, is the Maison’s most instantly recognizable design.16 Inspired by Jacques Arpels, who was a firm believer in luck, the motif is a four-leaf clover edged with gold beads.17 A deceptively intricate design necessitating 15 steps to create, the Alhambra marries traditional, high-jewelry techniques with casual wearability. 

Vintage Alhambra bracelet 5 motifs 18K yellow gold Onyx VCARA41300 4600 1
5 Motif Vintage Alhambra Bracelet in 18K Yellow Gold and Onyx, $4,600. Photo via Van Cleef & Arpels.

Onyx is the most popular color for both women and men, although it is also currently produced in plain Gold (Rose, White, and Yellow), Mother of Pearl (White and Gray), Carnelian, Malachite, Blue Agate, Tiger’s Eye, Chalcedony, and Diamond.

Perlèe

Launched in 2008 with the intent of being the Maison’s first men’s line,18 the Perlèe bracelets were an instant hit with women. The collection utilizes Van Cleef’s iconic gold beads as motif and design features, as the border of these bangles protects the polished parts of the bracelet from being scratched. Although most Perlèe pieces are produced in Rose, White, and Yellow Gold, Rose Gold seems to be the most popular, with White Gold also a popular choice.

Perlèe Signature Bracelet in Rose Gold, $7,000, or White Gold, $7,450

Beaded borders—like tiny golden pearls—protect the Perlèe Signature bracelet, which bears the Maison’s name in an elegant script. At once substantial and feminine, it is beautiful on its own but also stacks well with nearly any other bracelet.

Perlèe Clover Bracelet in Rose Gold, $28,800, or White Gold, $30,500

Perhaps the “it” bracelet of the Maison, the Perlèe Clover, is massively popular, to the point that the Maison is experiencing shortages despite the price. Bearing diamond clovers on its polished surface, it is pretty and sparkling yet still very accessible, pairing with everything from casual to formal. 

Frivole 7-Flowers Bracelet in Yellow Gold, $17,100

Frivole bracelet 7 flowers medium model 18K yellow gold Diamond VCARP6L200 17100
Frivole 7-Flowers Bracelet. Photo via Van Cleef & Arpels.

The Frivole motif is feminine without being too delicate, and the 7-Flowers bracelet is substantial. Its three-dimensional flowers cascade around the wrist like a corsage of gold. Although it is produced only in Yellow Gold, a pave version is also available in White Gold ($8,800).

Magic Alhambra Bracelet in Yellow Gold, $7,130, or White Gold, $8,050

The Magic bracelets are iconic of the Maison and emblematic of its focus on versatility, bearing 5 motifs of varying sizes and three colors to better coordinate with the client’s wardrobe. Available in Yellow Gold (with Onyx, White, and Gray Mother of Pearl) and White Gold (with Chalcedony, White, and Gray Mother of Pearl) as well as a full pave version, the Magic bracelets are uniquely tactile and – with the dangling large motif – enticingly talismanic. Magic, indeed!

featured image via @closetreddy

  1. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/estelle-arpels-and-alfred-van-cleef–a-love-story.html ↩︎
  2. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/renee-puissant-and-rene-sim-lacaze-an-artistic-duo.html ↩︎
  3. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/love-stories-at-van-cleef—arpels.html ↩︎
  4. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/collections/watches/poetic-complications/vcaro8ty00—lady-arpels-pont-des-amoureux-watch.html ↩︎
  5. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/the-mirror-polish-savoir-faire-at-the-service-of-brilliance.html ↩︎
  6. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/history-of-the-alhambra-collection.html/us/en/the-maison/series/the-alhambra-collection–a-jewelry-icon-since-1968.html ↩︎
  7. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/fashion/jewellery-watches/a41546164/van-cleef-and-arpels-alhambra/#
    https://twitter.com/vancleefarpels/status/765941396268195840?lang=en
    ↩︎
  8. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/marlene-dietrichs-jarretiere-bracelet.html ↩︎
  9. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/maria-callas–la-divina.html ↩︎
  10. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/the-coronation-set-of-empress-farah-pahlavi.html ↩︎
  11. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/barbara-hutton–the–million-dollar-baby-.html
    https://www.katerinaperez.com/articles/van-cleef-arpels-jewellery-celebrity-clientele-grace-kelly-barbara-hutton-wallace-simpson ↩︎
  12. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/articles/h-s-h–princess-grace-of-monaco–diamonds-on-the-rock.html
    https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/timeline/1950s.html
    ↩︎
  13. https://www.vogue.com/article/jackie-kennedy-engagement-ring ↩︎
  14. https://www.thecourtjeweller.com/2022/10/queen-camillas-van-cleef-arpels-jewelry-collection.html
    https://www.hellomagazine.com/fashion/royal-style/20210304108190/duchess-camilla-van-cleef-arpels-animal-brooches/
    https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/style/1706151/kate-middleton-princess-charlene-camilla-van-cleef-arpels-jewellery-exclusive ↩︎
  15. https://www.wsj.com/articles/michelle-lovelace-birkins-shopping-kanye-west-cardi-b-11654891801 ↩︎
  16. https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/the-maison/timeline/1960s.html ↩︎
  17. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/fashion/jewellery-watches/a41546164/van-cleef-and-arpels-alhambra/# ↩︎
  18. https://www.newsweek.com/luxury-jewelry-not-just-women-anymore-72327
    ↩︎
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Bolivar
Bolivar
1 month ago

Hahaha you are falling for mediocre jewelry at inflated prices for people who just want to show off their money by wearing recognizable designs. Please, get a sense of style and fashion and stop buying this overpriced junk.

Anna
Anna
29 days ago
Reply to  Bolivar

What I can’t get over is how they charge ultra premium prices for cheap semi-precious stones like onyx, malachite, agate etc. Every designer good has a ridiculous markup but don’t pretend that this is some super luxurious product here.

kemi
kemi
28 days ago
Reply to  Anna

You took the words right out of my mouth. At least there is an incredible VCA piece pictured in this article (a zip piece) and that’s what they used to be most known for–pieces that most likely took months to make, works of art. Now it’s these mass-produced pieces, excellent marketing though. But buy & wear what you love.

Anon
Anon
29 days ago
Reply to  Bolivar

My issue is how much “fake Cleef” is out there, totally undesirable.

Hervé
Hervé
29 days ago
Reply to  Anon

Yes. There are so many dupes out there that it makes the real thing completely uninteresting.

Kalifornia
Kalifornia
29 days ago

When I drop a lot of money on jewelry, I go to an independent jeweler, I pick the design and the stones, and I have something unique. These mass-market pseudo-luxury corporations are all about charging you for the name brand and delivering low-quality items. Let’s face it, the entry-level products at Cartier and VC&A are like the McDonalds of jewelry.

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
27 days ago

Just like the LOVE collection by Cartier, the VCA Alhambra line is overexposed and has been reduced to what we call in France a “signe extérieur de richesse.”

CC Babcock
CC Babcock
25 days ago
Reply to  Fabuleux

Yes and yes. I think it’s pretty but every upper middle class mom in my neighborhood wears a version of this bracelet and/or the Cartier nail or love bangle. Usually with a “big dumb hat” (see SNL) and Lululemon leggings. Huge turn off. I don’t understand the appeal of looking like everyone else.

lalarey
lalarey
8 days ago
Reply to  CC Babcock

some of us big dumb hat wearers are just trying to have a little fun while avoiding the need to have a chunk of skin cancer taken out of our nose or ear when we’re 75, thank you very much.

Paris
Paris
27 days ago
Reply to  Fabuleux

An outward sign of wealth? As in “showing off” or being able to purchase with disposable income?

Gracie and Benny
Gracie and Benny
27 days ago

It grosses you out to see another human being buy, wear, and love a piece of jewelry? You have a lesson or two to learn about empathy and tolerance. The world doesn’t revolve around you.

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
27 days ago

Happy Pride Month! 🏳️‍🌈

karenalert
karenalert
26 days ago

Casually dropping homophobic comments I see…. 👀

New York City of New York State
New York City of New York State
25 days ago

Your comment is grossing me out. Imagine a man telling you what you can and can’t wear. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Humana
Humana
25 days ago

Homophobia is a very ugly look on you.

Scadutree
Scadutree
28 days ago

This comments section did not pass the vibe check. lol
Maybe people want medals or certificates of recognition for not buying Van Cleef.

Adelylt
Adelylt
19 days ago
Reply to  Scadutree

Or maybe, they are just making a point that the brand – specifically the Alhambra line – has been overexposed?

I’m on the fence with this. I’m looking to get an Alhambra piece for myself, but seeing the knockoff 5-motif bracelets in every tourist gift shop during my travels to the Balkans last year made me think twice. This is not a knock (pun completely intended) on the countries themselves; they are a wonderful people and I had the loveliest time.

I’m still researching, but if I eventually get something, it’ll hopefully be a piece that doesn’t scream “I’ve made it in life and can now afford a VCAAAAAAA.” Which, seeing so many different iterations of the 5-motif bracelet on every mid-career woman with a disposable income, is exactly the vibe I’m getting.

Megs Mahoney Dusil
Admin
Megs Mahoney Dusil
27 days ago
Reply to  Scadutree

I am quite surprised by the comment section, which is typically more positive or at least constructive, while this seems mean?

My 7-year-old came home from school a couple of weeks ago with a new phrase that is very popular with kids right now: “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.”

The reason I love bags, jewelry, accessories, watches, and all of them is because there are so many options, and they are intended to make us feel good! Every single design house has a markup. That is not brand-specific; it is across the board. That is how they make money. They are a business. We buy luxury knowing that we are buying the name, the marketing, the events, and the item itself.

I am a VCA fan and personally don’t own anything from the brand, but I have been looking! I will continue to look to find a piece that speaks to me 🙂

figaroa2
figaroa2
21 days ago

You should seek mental health counseling if that’s the case.

Marie C
Marie C
28 days ago

Thank you, authors, for highlighting creations of one of the oldest and most prominent maisons de Joaillerie in the world. My husband gifted me Pure Alhambra necklace in mother-of-pearl and matching ear studs for my 40th birthday, which I treasure and get compliments for all the time. When you see the finish and the polished surface of the motif and touch it you understand the savoir-faire of the maison. 
But even incredible pieces can look cheap and tacky as they do on some famous people in the photos above. The tackiest is probably to put an Alhambra on a toddler.
I am completely stunned by the malicious comments here.Mass production? Perhaps, in a way; the whole idea of Alhambra in the 60-ies was to create a collection that could be more affordable for young people. “Junk” and mediocre? A collection that has existed for more than 50 years and thriving? Where each piece is crafted for hand, with stones and metals of highest possible quality sourced with incredible care? Worn by most fashionable and famous women in the world? Seriously?
I simply sense envy vibes from people who cannot afford it LOL
I was lucky to attend a VCA workshop at Place Vendôme and see how the craftsmen work, which I strongly recommend. The maison’s school of jewelry link here: https://www.lecolevancleefarpels.com/fr/en they have a lot of fantastic courses and online conversations.
High price? Indeed, I agree, but then think about a piece of cloth with sometimes quite poor stitching (own experience) with a hefty pricetag tag named Chanel 🙂

Anon
Anon
27 days ago
Reply to  Marie C

LOL maybe you are envious of people who can afford Chanel? How ridiculous, the workmanship may be there but this is one of the most overexposed pieces of jewellery ever.

Amber H
Amber H
27 days ago
Reply to  Marie C

Honey, you are drinking the luxury conglomerate kool-aid.

Katie Boston
Katie Boston
16 days ago

To each their own, but this isn’t the kind of jewelry I would spend my money on. To me, this is a social-status marker rather than an actual desirable piece of jewelry. I prefer the craftsmanship and originality when you work with independent jewelers and artists.

Alice
Alice
15 days ago
Reply to  Katie Boston

Agreed. I also think these very recognizable pieces make you a target for crime. I prefer low key bags and jewelry that doesn’t attract attention the way recognizable designer items do.

Diane
Diane
28 days ago

Only thing I wanna see Chris brown in is a jail cell.

hou
hou
29 days ago

Did they increase prices? Dam, was gonna bite the bullet for my birthday

Lola
Lola
28 days ago
Reply to  hou

You don’t need this stuff.

Janice
Janice
19 days ago

Why do you care what other people do? Mind your own business and let others live their lives happily!

Yaya
Yaya
17 days ago

How is this comment allowed in 2024? Why are we allowing “Diane” to spread hate toward our communities?

lalarey
lalarey
8 days ago

how are we not talking about that zip necklace and what the heck it would look / feel like as a bracelet? I’d like a picture of THAT because in my head it looks wild and weighs 10 lbs.