The storied jewelry house of Van Cleef & Arpels, established in 1906, flourishes in Paris alongside equally storied couture maisons. But don't confuse the jewelry with fashion, says Nicolas Bos, Van Cleef's chief executive and creative director.
Fashion is about change, but "we are in a world of continuity," he said during a recent visit to Orange County. So much so that jewelry made decades ago still looks just right.
Consider the stunning 1974 yellow gold, turquoise and diamond Panka necklace Eva Mendes wore to the Golden Globe Awards in 2009. The piece, with its 132 blue turquoise stones and 36.06 carats of white diamonds, drew raves from fashion critics.
From now until Feb. 15, visitors at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana can judge the staying power of this piece and others. "A Quest for Beauty: The Art of Van Cleef & Arpels," an exhibition of 200 pieces from the jeweler's 700-piece private collection as well as a few items loaned by their owners, contains jewelry and objets d' art dating from the early 20th century and continuing into the 21st. Among them are pieces worn by some of the world's most stylish women, including the duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Princesses Grace and Charlene of Monaco, heiress Betty Hutton, opera star Maria Callas and Princess Soraya of Iran.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, November 12, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Van Cleef & Arpels: An article in the Nov. 10 Image section about an exhibit of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry at the Bowers Museum misidentified heiress Barbara Hutton as Betty Hutton.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, November 15, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Van Cleef & Arpels: In the Nov. 10 Image section, an article about an exhibit of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana omitted the museum's Sunday operating hours. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, November 24, 2013 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Van Cleef & Arpels: In the Nov. 10 Image secton, an article about an exhibit of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana incorrectly identified heiress Barbara Hutton as Betty Hutton. It also omitted the Bowers Museum's Sunday operating hours. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
Every piece has a story. At a recent press tour, Inezita Gay, an art historian who teaches in L'Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry academy in Paris, whirled from case to case, recounting the tales.
A necklace designed with a working zipper that can convert into a bracelet was inspired by the duchess of Windsor and took 13 years to engineer. Marlene Dietrich wore a jeweled garter as a bracelet to hide a scar. The iconic Passe-Partout chain of the 1940s can be converted into eight pieces of jewelry and was designed to look like a gasoline hose -- "very modern at the time," Gay said.
The exhibition is meant to show off the artistry of Van Cleef & Arpels, and nowhere is that more evident than in an exquisite platinum and diamond Art Deco necklace, circa 1928, that looks like a lace collar made of jewels. It speaks to the label's level of craftsmanship, what Gay calls savoir-faire.
"It's the jeweler doing a pirouette," Gay said. "It's a triple axel."
'A Quest for Beauty: The Art of Van Cleef & Arpels'
Where: Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Ends Feb. 15.
Tickets: Weekday admission is $13 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and students 12 and older. Weekend prices are $2 more. Children younger than 12 are admitted free.
Information: (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org