Van Cleef & Arpels’ latest high jewellery collection, Legend of Diamonds, is a first for the brand. The first of two chapters is a historic milestone for the Maison; each piece in this series features a gemstone cut from the Lesotho Legend diamond, a rough that the brand acquired in 2018. The second chapter honours Van Cleef & Arpels’ heritage with odes to the cities, emblems and people that have shaped its aesthetic over the years.
Legend of Diamonds: Chapter I
The first chapter of this high jewellery collection focuses on its namesake: the 910-carat rough Lesotho Legend diamond. A true labour of love, acquiring this record-breaking diamond from the Letšeng Mine in Lesotho was the first time in a while that the Maison committed itself to a single rough stone.
“This is the first time in decades that we have been involved in a project from its starting point - the extraction of the stone - to the creation of a High Jewellery collection. The appearance of this extraordinary rough stone gave us this unique opportunity to tell a story around the diamond,” Nicolas Bos, President and CEO, Van Cleef & Arpels.
The Lesotho Legend is a perfect D-colour type IIa diamond. After 12 months of deliberation, planning and schematics, the rough stone was cut into four smaller diamonds: a 79.35-carat specimen, another weighing 51.14 carats, a 31.24-carat diamond and, finally, one of 25.06 carats. Considering the still overwhelming size of these stones, they were broken down into 67 gems totalling 441.75 carats, nearly half of the original rough stone’s weight. The results? These 67 diamonds have been set into 25 unique pieces of high jewellery using only three cardinal gems: rubies, emeralds and sapphires. The entire chapter took four years to bring to life and required more than 30,000 hours of work from an endless stream of craftsmen. In fact, more than 3,000 stones were needed across the collection - what an achievement!
To best display the brilliance of these diamonds, the Maison decided to use its most recognisable setting technique - the Mystery Set. Patented by the brand in 1933, this technique has been pushed further with the Individual Mystery Set, Hexagonal Mystery set, Navette Mystery Set and Vitrail Mystery Set, which create surfaces of gemstones that appear unencumbered by precious metal. Now that we know the origin of the diamonds and the setting techniques used to build this first chapter let’s finally admire the culmination of all the work done by the skilled craftsmen at Van Cleef & Arpels. A highlight of this first series of high jewellery pieces is the Atours Mystérieux transformable necklace. Composed of white gold, rose gold and rubies, this necklace is set with the heaviest stone taken from the original rough diamond: a D colour, flawless, type IIa, oval-shaped diamond of 79.35 carats. The structure mimics the necklines created by the avant-garde Franco-Italian designer Pierre Cardin, most noted for his geometric shapes and unisex forms.
Rubies feature prominently across this Legend of Diamonds chapter. There’s the Collerette Mystérieuse necklace with alternating rows of diamonds and traditional Mystery Set rubies that are edged in pink sapphires and square-cut diamonds. The piece contains two significant emerald-cut diamonds: one of more than 51 carats and the other over 10 carats. Elsewhere, the Volutes Mystérieuses necklace has a feminine bow shape, inspired by diamond clips of the 1920s, and is set with rubies atop a snow-set diamond choker. At the centre of the bow, there’s a 30.61 carat oval-shaped diamond, while the matching earrings have two oval-shaped stones of 15.52 and 15.50 carats, respectively.
Finally, if you have the means to create an entire ruby and diamond parure, there’s the Satin Mystérieux ring and earrings, the Ornement Mystérieux bow brooch with more than 12 carats of diamonds, and the Chemin Mystérieux bracelet with more than seven carats of white stones.
Another key piece in this collection is the Chevron Mystérieux necklace, which is accompanied by a matching pair of earrings and the Liseré Mystérieux ring. Inspired by the crossover collars that were popular on evening gowns during the 1950s, this necklace has three perfect pear-cut diamonds from the Lesotho Legend. The largest of these diamonds weighs over 31 carats and is flanked by the other two, weighing just over 12 carats, respectively. This piece represents the first time in the Maison’s history that sapphires and emeralds are combined on the same structure through the use of the Mystery Set technique. The necklace can be broken down into six further pieces, the most impressive of which are a large pear pendant and a set of pear stud earrings.
Continuing this coupling of sapphires and emeralds, the Draperie Mystérieuse clip undulates like folded fabric in white and rose gold with two D-colour, flawless, Type IIa pear-cut diamonds of 1.26 and 1.09 carats, plus an additional internally flawless stone of 1.73 carats. This blends perfectly with the Issage Mystérieux ring with a 7.16 carat pear-shaped stone and the Asymétrie Mystérieuse earrings – one blue and the other green – with two pear-shaped diamonds that are both over two carats.
Fans of asscher-cut diamonds will appreciate the Entrelacs Mystérieux bracelet with two diamonds of 10.88 carats as well as Mystery Set buff-top sapphires and further diamonds. And for cushion-cut seekers, there’s the Écho Mystérieux earrings and ring set with sapphires, emeralds and diamonds of 12.65 and 12.61 carats (the asymmetric earrings) and 25.06 carats (the ring).
Full of the colours and forms that are seen in Haute Couture fashion, this first Legend of Diamonds chapter is one bursting with impressive technological feats for Van Cleef & Arpels. Chapter Two continues to celebrate these talents and skills as well as high fashion through a more historic lens.