The beginning of the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra collection can be traced to the early 1900s. “To be lucky, you have to believe in luck,” Jacques Arpels, a member of one of French jewellery maison Van Cleef & Arpels’s founding families, was fond of saying. A firm believer in the power of luck, he would pick four-leaf clovers from the garden of his home in Germigny-l’Évêque, in north-central France, and offer them to his employees as lucky charms, according to the maison’s archives. A genetic mutation of the common three-leaf clover, it was considered a rare and therefore fortuitous find by the ancient Celtic people of Ireland.
The theme of luck runs strong in jewellery houses such as Van Cleef & Arpels. The maison’s creations related to symbols of fortune and superstition include a 1916 range of gem-set wood rings named “Touch Wood”, and a ladybird clip in platinum and coral from 1957. While designs based on the four-leaf clover appeared in the house’s archives as early as 1906, the symbol became closely associated with the maison when it launched the modern Alhambra collection in 1968, starting with a 20-motif long necklace intended for everyday wear. The collection owes its name to the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, ostensibly because the quatrefoil decorative design, a prominent feature of Moorish architecture, bears a resemblance to the four-leaf clover. A celebration of luck, the collection was seen on prominent personalities of the era, such as the actresses Grace Kelly and Romy Schneider, and singer-songwriter Françoise Hardy.
Over the years, the distinctive and instantly recognisable emblem’s versatility has led to the generation of diverse series under the Alhambra umbrella. Vintage Alhambra remains faithful to the original design of 1968; Magic Alhambra employs motifs of varying sizes and an eclectic selection of hard stones such as tiger’s eye, grey mother-of-pearl and chalcedony for a playful, asymmetrical look; Sweet Alhambra expresses the motifs in miniature form; Lucky Alhambra incorporates other symbols related to luck and love, such as hearts, butterflies, leaves and stars; Pure Alhambra circumscribes motifs with smooth polished gold instead of rounded gold beads, for a sleek minimalist aesthetic; and Byzantine Alhambra pairs solid motifs with openwork that accentuates the silhouette of the four-leaf clover.
Meanwhile, incorporating Van Cleef & Arpels’ savoir faire to the historic collection, the maison introduced guilloché engraving to Alhambra in 2018. An engraving technique used by the house since the 1910s to decorate objects and accessories, including watches and jewellery, guilloché is a fabulous technique where fine striations are expertly etched into precious metal surfaces in a sunburst pattern, creative dazzling interplays of light that fluctuate with the slightest movement.
The latest novelties—which include a 20-motif necklace, five-motif bracelet, watch, and reversible ring—add a warm glow to the iconic collection, bringing together the brilliance of the radial guilloché engraving, the sheen of precious rose gold, and the punchiness of bold carnelian. Van Cleef & Arpels’s Alhambra has once again proven to be the ideal canvas for infinite reinterpretations and the manifestation of the timelessness of good fortune.
PHOTOGRAPHY: JAYA KHIDIR
CREATIVE DIRECTION: GREGORY WOO
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT: NATALIE DYKES