Van Cleef & Arpels' New High Jewellery Collection Is All About Secret Desires
Back in the 1920s, it was considered unseemly for a lady to either wear a watch or check the time whilst among polite company. Women circumvented with secret watches—timepieces disguised and worn as jewellery—that allowed them to do both discreetly. Such subterfuge is a familiar refrain for Van Cleef & Arpels, which often evokes the themes of mystery and secrecy in its creations. The maison’s latest high jewellery collection, Le Secret, builds on this idea in a completely new direction with jewellery pieces that hold secrets of their own.
The Le Secret collection’s highlight pieces employ designs resembling the secret watches of yore, with articulating mechanisms that can be manipulated to reveal a second, normally hidden side. The collection is already impressive in and of itself, but this additional layer takes things up a notch to make it even more desirable. After all, not only must the designer hide an extra facet into each design seamlessly—the craftsman must also support this with the appropriate mechanisms. The additional layer of technical complexity also comes with the benefit of making each piece a little less static, while encouraging more interaction between the jewellery and its wearer.
For proof of Van Cleef & Arpels’s creativity, one only needs to look at the different ways the Le Secret collection’s pieces can transform. In the Amour Retrouvé earrings, for instance, the metamorphosis is rather straightforward—the earrings each have a detachable pendant that can be fastened together to form a heart, which is worn separately.
More intricate mechanisms guard their jewellery pieces’ secrets jealously, only to reveal them with a twist, literally. In the Fleur Bleue ring, a hidden message is revealed with a quarter-turn of the ring’s upper portion, which causes it to rise up to expose Oscar Wilde’s quote: “Une vie sans amour est comme un jardin sans soleil” (A life without love is like a sunless garden). In the same vein of things, the Oiseau Sur la Branche long necklace’s central element hides a nightingale that can be exposed by turning the mechanism to open the diamond door concealing it.
Some pieces do not require any mechanisms to morph into something else entirely. The Colombe Mystérieuse clip, for example, can be worn on both sides, and normally presents a dove in flight bearing a love letter. Flip it around, and the same dove is now rendered in openwork to detail its plumage, while also clutching a previously hidden rose alongside the letter.
In a world that’s all too prone to overshare and put everything on display, the Le Secret collection is a refreshing departure as all that matters is that its owner knows, and holds, the secret.