Van Cleef & Arpels Fifth Avenue boutique, more than 70 years of history
The Van Cleef & Arpels boutique located at 744 Fifth Avenue in New York is an iconic site for the Maison; a symbol of its longstanding bond with the United States.
In 1939, Van Cleef & Arpels participated in the New York World’s Fair, a defining moment in its history. Louis and Julien Arpels crossed the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary to represent the Maison at the French Pavilion. The pieces specially designed for the event, including a Passe-Partout Hawaii ensemble, enchanted visitors for their ingenuity and the consummate savoir-faire that went into creating them. The same year, Van Cleef & Arpels opened its first office at Rockefeller Center. Heartened by its success, in 1942 the Maison opened a boutique at 744 Fifth Avenue. Claude Arpels, Julien’s eldest son, settled permanently in the United States to develop the Maison’s activities.
Captivated by the creations of the French jeweler, several high-society figures contributed to consolidating its reputation. Such was the case for Florence Jay Gould, wife of businessman Frank Jay Gould: a friend of Charles Arpels, she was the inspiration behind the Minaudière. A loyal client, the Countess von Haugwitz-Reventlow, better known as Barbara Hutton, held in her collection the famed Petite Fée Ailée clip from 1941, as well as Ballerina clips and the diamond tiara created in 1967. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis received a number of Van Cleef & Arpels creations as gifts over the years, in particular the engagement ring given to her by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States.
American popular culture has contributed to shaping the Maison’s creative vision. This influence can be seen especially in the cartoon characters that have inspired certain iconic models. Examples include the La Boutique collections, which met with great success both in France and in the United States as of their debut in 1954. Relations between New York and Paris have grown ever stronger thanks to eminent collectors, various sources of inspiration – such as the local architecture or Truman Capote’s Black & White Ball – not to mention the Fifth Avenue boutique, which has never moved from its initial, mythical address.