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The Mystery Set: a virtuoso signature
Reflecting the creative boldness and technical innovation that have driven the Maison since its inception, the Mystery Set™ is one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ iconic forms of savoir-faire. This innovation, which was patented in 1933, introduced a new way of setting precious stones that was designed to preserve their beauty. Its secret lies in its gold rails, into which stones – expressly and meticulously cut – are individually inserted, for the most part rubies, but also sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds.
Once in place, these gemstones completely cover the set surface, giving the piece a velvety sheen.
Such a high degree of expertise is required to produce a Mystery Set piece that only very few artisans master its secrets. The technique is so intricate that it can take up to eight hours of work to cut each stone. For instance, a clip requires an average of 300 hours in the hands of the jeweler and Mystery Set lapidary.
During the 1930s, several other patents expanded on the original application, extending the technique to other shapes and complex volumes. The first pieces were unveiled to the general public at the 1937 International Exhibition of Art and Technology in Modern Life in Paris to widespread acclaim.
Van Cleef & Arpels subsequently made the Mystery Set technique a signature that embodies its excellence.
Over the years, the Maison has developed a series of variations that reflect its constant pursuit of mastery. Individual, Hexagonal and Navette Mystery Sets were gradually added, adorning pieces with new shapes of stones to suggest volume.
In 2019, Navette Mystery Set emeralds and diamonds were used for the first time on the Pomme de pin clip, giving the motifs their striking curves. The Vitrail Mystery Set, meanwhile, completely conceals the mount on both the front and back of the pieces to showcase the shades of colored sapphires and to create a transparent effect. These meticulously buff-topped stones adorn pieces with three-dimensional gradations of color, as can be seen on the Panache Mystérieux clip (2018).
In 2022, Van Cleef & Arpels used the Mystery Set technique to embellish all the creations in its Legend of diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels High Jewelry collection, which showcases 67 exceptional diamonds cut from the same rough stone, set among dazzling rubies, sapphires, and emeralds in Mystery Set.