Highly Polished

The Use of Wood by Van Cleef & Arpels

Over the next few weeks London Jewellery specialist, Kate Flitcroft, will be taking a closer look at some feature lots in the forthcoming auction of Select Jewellery & Watches taking place in London on 15th November. In the first in the series Kate will explore the use of wood in the jewellery of Van Cleef & Arpels and other French makers throughout the 20th century.

This pair of graduated bangles by Van Cleef & Arpels (lot 102) and pair of earrings (lot 101) are part of a long tradition of the firm’s use of wood in jewellery, and part of an even longer ritual of using talismans for good luck.


VAN CLEEF & ARPELS - A pair of 1990s gold-inlaid hardwood earrings
each composed of a domed wood panel, inlaid at intervals with gold triangles, clip fittings stamped VCA 750, numbered B3502 B12
Length: 18mm
£2,000-3,000 + fees


In the first quarter of the 20th century, Van Cleef & Arpels launched a line of jewellery called Touch Wood including four ring designs in various woods. A 1919 advertisement stated that the pieces were "mounted with precious gemstones on platinum and gold." The firm’s advertisements capitalised on the use of jewellery as a talisman, or good luck charm. The rings were of bombé rounded design, some with gold bezel mounts set flush to the surface of the wood, similar to the inlaid gold in the present lots (101 and 102). Jewellery historians believe that the impetus of this design was due to war-time scarcity.


VAN CLEEF & ARPELS - A pair of 1990s gold inlaid hardwood bangles
both of open domed form, inlaid with gold triangles at intervals, the terminals stamped VCA 750, numbered 82587 812 & 82587 815 (2)
Internal width: 55mm
£12,000-18,000 + fees


For the World Expo in Osaka in 1970 Van Cleef & Arpels revived the use of wood for a line of jewellery using gold inlaid on wood, including a ring, two pendants and bracelet (exhibited, Van Cleef & Arpels: The High Art of Jewellery, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 20 September 2012 - 10 February 2013, and illustrated, Van Cleef & Arpels, Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 2012, p. 206). In 2012, coinciding with the exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris, the firm introduced the use of wood into its iconic Alhambra line.


A. PÉRY et CIE- A gold and ebonised wood link bracelet
Paris, formed as alternating geometric links of ebonised wood and gold
Length: 21cm
£4,500-6,000 + fees


Other jewellers embraced the use of wood in jewellery as well, such as A. Péry et Cie who produced this wood and gold link bracelet (lot 97). The firm were responsible for making some of the most iconic jewels for Van Cleef & Arpels, including the Ludo bracelet, the Zip necklace, the animal brooches and the 'passe-partout' jewels. This bracelet exemplifies the flow of ideas between designer and producer.


OROMALIA - A diamond and ebonised wood dress ring
designed as a wood claw sliding into a pavé set diamond loop on one side of the band, signed Oromalia and marked to shank
Ring size: O
£700-1,000 + fees


The diamond-set wood dress ring (lot 95) by Oromalia and the carved flower brooch (lot 96) incorporate the use of animalier and natural motifs that fit so well with this organic material.



Date for your Diary

Select Jewellery & Watches Auction
15 November 2017 | 1pm
Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 4UY


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