The four-leaf clover is a long-celebrated talisman, but it was the French jewellery maison Van Cleef & Arpels that cemented it as a global symbol for good luck and great fortune when they brought it to life in gold and precious gemstones in the late 1960s.
The ‘ Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra’ collection is now internationally recognised; its signature sautoirs (long necklaces) are often spotted around the necks of tastemakers and trend setters, royalty and Hollywood’s finest alike. These long, low-swinging styles are just as easily paired with evening gowns as they are with jeans and a T-shirt, which is perhaps the secret to their enduring charm – the Alhambra has become synonymous with precious, laidback luxury.
Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra has historically celebrated luck, joy and optimism since it was founded in 1906, long renowned for its animated interpretations of flowers and animals. It was in 1968, however, that the four-leaf clover became a lucky icon for the house. Jacques Arpels, a nephew of one of the founding families, was especially enamoured with the concept of luck – he famously bestowed four-leaf clovers gathered in his garden upon his staff. His personal mantra, “To be lucky, you have to believe in luck,” inspired the maison to create a collection that saw four-leaf clovers edged with golden pearls, set upon chic sautoirs. It was conceived to introduce a new era of more accessible jewellery designs within the maison’s repertoire and became an instant success.
The name of the collection is derived from the Alhambra palace, in Granada, Spain, where Moorish quatrefoil motifs (four overlapping circles, much like the clover silhouette) adorn magnificent architecture with similarly detailed, intricate artisanry.
Van Cleef & Arpels is one of history’s most celebrated jewellers, founded in the high jewellery-making epicentre of the world, Place Vendome, Paris. The combined skills of lapidaries, jewellers, stone-setters and polishers come together to create each clover motif, requiring no fewer than 15 successive steps of craftsmanship. What makes the Alhambra collection so iconic is that it distils the haute joaillerie expertise of the maison into an everyday, wearable design that can be paired with a simple sweater.
Its enduring prestige is perhaps also bolstered by the evolution of sub-collections that play with colour, form and different dimensions; from the ‘Lucky Alhambra’ designs, which incorporate heart, butterfly, leaf and star motifs, to the ‘Byzantine Alhambra’ styles, which celebrate the clover silhouette in solid and openwork gold.
Since 1968, the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra collection has evolved with the passing eras, while remaining an elegant icon of luck. Today – for the first time – it welcomes four secret pendant watch models. They celebrate the poetry of a time that remains hidden, revealing itself when so desired on the chain of a long necklace. Alongside these unique pieces, two Sweet Alhambra watches are adorned with ornamental stones, complemented by the gleam of delicately beaded yellow gold. Four new creations are joining the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra collection – which for the first time welcomes the notion of a personal time, concealed at the heart of the emblematic, four-leafed clover-inspired motifs. Following in the footsteps of the chain watches that appeared in Europe in the 17th century, these jewels that tell the time take the form of precious pendants, accompanying their wearer’s silhouette. They combine the Maison’s characteristically elegant jewellery style with its secret watch tradition. The time is revealed at will: a simple action pivots the stone-set motif to unveil the dial.
In 1968, Van Cleef & Arpels watch created the first Alhambra long necklace, inspired by the four-leaf clover shape. Like a harmonious token of luck, it was made up of 20 motifs in textured yellow gold, delicately fringed with golden beads. The symbol was an immediate success, establishing itself throughout the world as an icon of luck and emblem of Van Cleef & Arpels.