Garden of Green: Spotlight on Van Cleef & Arpels Gemstones in New York

The American Museum of Natural History recently announced that its special exhibition, ‘Garden of Green: Exquisite Jewelry from the Collection of Van Cleef & Arpels’, will remain open until March 2024. This is excellent news, especially as we will be able to see these verdant delights until Saint Patrick’s Day … a fitting point in the calendar for this explosion of green to come to an end. Let’s go behind the scenes and see some of the jewels on display.

If you keep a close eye on gemmology-themed exhibitions across the globe, you may have spotted the celebration of all things green at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Since the summer of 2023 ‘Garden of Green: Exquisite Jewelry from the Collection of Van Cleef & Arpels’ has been a fixture in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery, part of the Museum’s Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. Now that an extension has been announced, we’re on a countdown until these jewels return to the safe, perhaps not to be seen in public again!

The Mineral Hall in the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History. D. Finnin/© American Museum of Natural History

The exhibition isn’t solely about emeralds but fresh, apple-green peridots, deep malachites, zingy jade and everything in between. There are 44 pieces of green gemstone jewellery on display – 32 of which are presented in the United States for the first time – all hailing from the high jewellery collections of French Maison, Van Cleef & Arpels. Dotted amongst these treasures are green minerals, carvings and jewellery from the more expansive Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, including the Patricia Emerald – a 632-carat emerald crystal that was discovered at the famous Chivor Mine in Colombia in the 1920s. Other items on our radar include a jadeite jade incense burner from China featuring clouds with three mythical many-headed creatures, an enormous beryl from the Bumpus Quarry in Maine, and a jewel from Morocco with pendants of aquamarine beryl (circa 1750).

The 632-carat Patricia Emerald is a di-hexagonal, or 12-sided, crystal and is considered one of the great emeralds in the world. Found in Colombia in 1920, it was named after the mine owner’s daughter. On display in the Mignone Halls of Gems & Minerals, this specimen is one of few large emeralds that has been preserved uncut. D. Finnin/© AMNH

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our visitors to see these truly spectacular jewellery pieces, and we are so grateful to Van Cleef & Arpels for collaborating with the Museum to bring them to New York audiences,” Sean M. Decatur, Museum president. 

The exhibition is organised into seven categories to showcase the full mineralogical spectrum of green. There are pieces in the ‘Variations of Green’ chapter dedicated to the natural world, such as the Cydonia necklace and earring set (2009). This duo of designs contains more than 900 emeralds, fashioned to evoke the branches and large flowers of the ornamental quince tree. Next, there’s a facet of the ‘Garden of Green’ celebrating jadeite jade, including a 1920s Art Deco evening bag with bright jade and rose-cut diamonds and another championing peridot with a suite set with 132 peridots and t580 diamonds.

Malachite features prominently with a selection of iconic Van Cleef jewels, including an Alhambra long necklace and a malachite watch from the 1970s. Perhaps more surprisingly are the categories dedicated to chrysoprase and green chalcedony, exemplified by playful animal designs from the 1950s and 1960s and a garland bracelet from the 1970s, respectively.

And let’s not forget emerald, which has long been the star of the green gemstone show in Europe, the United States, India and the Middle East. The American Museum of Natural History has secured 12 pieces, including the Quatre Chemins necklace, created in 2019, with a unique set of 16 emerald-cut Zambian emeralds for a total weight of 27.79 carats.

The Quatre Chemins necklace (2019) showcases white gold, platinum, sapphires, and 16 emerald-cut Zambian emeralds (27.79 carats). The necklace is inspired by the fairy tale “Town Musicians of Bremen,” collected and popularised by the German folklorists Brothers Grimm. In the story, four animals meet at a crossroads, the “Four Paths” that give this stunning necklace its name. Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels

“Green stones and minerals owe their unique colours and patterns to various causes—malachite from the copper in its chemical composition, and peridot from the minor quantity and ionic charge of iron in the stone—and each specimen in this exhibition is a beautiful example of the amazing products of natural Earth processes,” George Harlow, curator emeritus, the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.

A closer look at the 'Garden of Green: Exquisite Jewelry from the Collection of Van Cleef & Arpels' exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History

Finally, if there’s one piece we’d love to see up close, it’s a carved emerald and diamond necklace commissioned by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV for his wife in 1971. It’s a transformation creation with two detachable bracelets and a removable pendant clip with organic emerald drops. There are 44 carved emeralds totalling 477.58 carats, each studded with a round brilliant-cut diamond and surrounded by a halo of light-reflecting gems. It’s a beautiful example of what Van Cleef & Arpels’ craftsmanship can achieve!

From the California Collection, this floral Carpenteria clip is a celebration of lush landscapes found across the West Coast of North America. Depicting the flower of the bush anemone or the Carpenteria californica, the Carpenteria clip (2016) features platinum, yellow gold, garnets, yellow sapphires, and peridots and uses white opal for the sculpted, delicate petals. Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels

‘Garden of Green: Exquisite Jewelry from the Collection of Van Cleef & Arpels’ will remain open until March 17, 2024, at the American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West. Entrance is included with general admission, but timed entry must be reserved in advance at

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