Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love exhibition.
High Jewellery Van Cleef & Arpels

“Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love.”

A unique exhibition by the French High Jewellery Maison to discover more than 100 years of beauty and savoir-faire.

For the first time in Italy, Van Cleef & Arpels presents more than 100 years of high jewellery history in a remarkable exhibition.

“Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love”: a unique presentation.

The “Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love” exhibition is curated by Alba Cappellieri, Professor of Jewellery and Accessory Design at Politecnico di Milano and Director at the Jewellery Museum in Vicenza. American designer Johanna Grawunder helped to design the setting. Mrs Grawunder is an appreciated lighting designer whose works are internationally renowned.

Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love exhibition.
“Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love” exhibition.
Room scenography by Johanna Grawunder.
Claudia Carletti Camponeschi, High Jewellery Dream. All rights reserved.

For the first time in Italy, the French Jeweller presents an impressive exhibition, curated in the most exquisite detail and showcasing all the Maison’s extraordinary craftsmanship, savoir-faire and creativity through four-hundred jewels and artistic objects.

In over a century of history, Van Cleef & Arpels has demostrated its unique ability to filter beauty from heterogeneous sources, in terms of materials, forms and disciplines.

Alba Cappellieri, Curator

The show guides visitors through three main themes, Time, Nature and Love, and combines the unique capability that unites eternity and the ephemeral, love and manufacture, beauty and art.

The whole of the exhibition, through these three themes, was imagined and designed inspired by Italo Calvino’s American Lessons book – a publication based on a series of lessons that the Italian writer prepared in 1985 for his visit at Harvard University.

Precious documents from the archives, preliminary designs and gouaches beautifully describe the creativity behind the extraordinary jewels that come both from the Maison’s Collections and private loans.


The ten rooms revolving around this theme, and following Calvino’s book, explore how Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewellery came to represent the fragmented era that was the 20th century, embodying at once the timeless value of beauty and fleeting power of enchantment.

It is not only about time, but also about the amount of it that is necessary to bring a creation to completion.

Moreover, jewels and precious objects show a link to a specific period, that suggests connections between Paris and the world, past and future, jewellery and other art forms.

At the centre of this, the Maison has been able to build a distinctive and consistent style that keeps evolving, that combines creativity, innovation and timeless elegance.

"Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love" exhibition
“Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love” exhibition.
Arc de Triomphe Powder Case.
Yellow gold, rubies, emeralds, diamonds. 1945.
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection

Paris has a strong presence in Van Cleef’s creations and this powder case is a great example.

After the Second World War, the French jeweller paid tribute to Paris and its iconic locations, creating a series of clips, charm bracelets and precious objects in honour of the Maison’s native city. The powder case pictured above represents two figures, sculpted in relief and set with precious stones, strolling against a background engraving depicting the Champs Élysée. Meticulously rendered, the Arc de Triomphe dominates the perspective, symbolizing renewed peace and rediscovered sense of joie de vivre.

Exoticism represents the past, with jewels designed while looking at far-off lands, like Egypt.

The “exotic”, as it was during the Romantic Age, represents the fascination men have always felt towards a life distant in time and place from their own.

The fascination was intense, even more so when the Indian Maharajas started populating Paris with their trunks full of gems to have them set into jewels designed according to the latest European fashion.

The jewels that Van Cleef designed were then faithful to contemporary elegance yet representative of the Indian style.

India, Africa and Asia motifs inspired exquisite creations that go beyond time and styles and remain connected to a universal idea of beauty, art and culture.

"Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love" exhibition. Egyptian Bracelet.
“Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love” exhibition.
Egyptian Bracelet.
Platinum, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, onyx, diamonds. 1924.
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection
"Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love" exhibition. Indian inspired Bracelet.
“Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love” exhibition.
Indian inspired Bracelet.
Yellow gold, carved emeralds, diamonds.
Transformable into two bracelets. Detachable pendant-clip. 1971.
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection.

This Indian necklace, created in 1971, was part of the collection of Her Highness the Begum Salimah Aga Khan.

Born Sarah Crocker Poole in India in 1940, the future princess was known for her beauty and was considered a fashion icon even before her marriage to High Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan in 1969.

A refined jewellery collector, the princess amassed original and distinctive pieces.

The necklace featured above is quite remarkable as it is set with more than 745 diamonds totalling 52 carats cast their sparkle upon 44 engraved 18th-century emeralds weighing over 470 carats. This necklace is a spectacular example of the art of transformable jewels, as it can become a choker, two bracelets and a clip.


This section displays creations full of emotions, and tokens of some mythical romances of the 20th century.

Considered the most potent force, it is love that gave birth to the High Jewellery Maison in 1906, following the wedding of Alfred Van Cleef and Estelle Arpels, in Paris.

Thirty pieces – clips, earrings, bracelets, objects and more – together with sketches and archival documents, illustrate the full symbolic power of precious gifts, as well as the bond forged by Van Cleef & Arpels with some of the most legendary couples of last century.


The last three rooms are devoted to Nature, offering a chance to discover how Van Cleef & Arpels’ expert craftsmanship combined with its pursuit of harmony come together as a veritable form of art.

Nature has always been a rich source of inspiration. Since 1906 plants, flowers and animals have engendered an abundance of colours, patterns and materials – from precious gems to hard stones and organic materials.

Flora, Fauna and the bestiaire contribute to defining the style for which the French High Jewellery Maison is recognized worldwide.

A Gallery of Masterpieces

  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Passe Partout Jewel
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Three Birds Clip
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Chrysanthemum Clip
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Lapel Watch
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Flower Clip
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Vendôme Column Lighter
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Curl Minaudière
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Romeo Brooch and Juliet Brooch
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Ballerina Clip
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Ludo Wristwatch with Flaps
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Barquerolles Choker
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Spirit of Beauty Fairy Clip
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Circle Clip
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Collaret
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Oiseau de Paradis Clip.
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Peony Clip.
  • Van Cleef & Arpels. Zip Necklace.
  • "Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love" exhibition. Indian inspired Bracelet.
  • "Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love" exhibition. Egyptian Bracelet.
  • "Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love" exhibition

Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love – until 23 February 2020

  • Palazzo Reale, Piazza del Duomo 12, Milano (Italy) – website in Italian
  • Telephone: +39-02-884 45 181
  • Email:
  • Entrance free
  • Timings for visit:
  • Monday: from 14:30 to 19:30
  • Tue-Wed-Fri-Sun: from 9.30 to 19:30
  • Thu-Sat: from 9:30 to 22:30

1 comment on ““Van Cleef & Arpels. Time, Nature, Love.”

  1. Pingback: Van Cleef & Arpels' Lucky Spring | HIGH JEWELLERY DREAM

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