Sunday, 20 October 2013

An Egyptian crown jewel: the emerald Art Deco necklace by Van Cleef and Arpels

Everyone knows that a truly fine jewel is as beautiful on the reverse as on the front. To be worthy of the title, great pieces also need to be "finnished" and this means no sparing of gemstones or motifs even if they might not be seen. Designs have to be consistent across the whole jewel, like in couture, this feature distinguishes "haute joaillerie" from the rest.
Art Deco emerald necklace by Van Cleef and Arpels

The necklace above is exceptional on all accounts; Provenance goes back to HRH Princess Faiza of Egyp, Maker is Van Cleef an Arpels, gemstones are ten magnificent colombian emeralds and Period: Art Deco. Yet, the most striking thing about it is the design. The intricate fringe on the front with nine emerald beads dropping from a sophisticate diamond link design and the pendant clasp at the back with a similar motif and another drop emerald. It was made by Van Cleef and Arpels on 1929 and altered in 1937. The piece was sold in 1947 to Princess Faiza of Egypt. It will be auctioned by Christie's in Geneva on November 12th.

Princess Faiza was one of the five daughters of King Fouad I of Egypt (1968-1936) and the sister of the last king of Egypt, King Farouk, dethroned in 1952 by a military coup, which forced the entire family to go in exile. 

"Born at Abdine Palace on November the 8th of 1923, Princess Faiza was the most attractive of King Farouk's five sisters. In 1945, she decided to marry a distant Turkish cousin, Mohamed Ali Bulent Raouf. It is often said that King Farouk was not very pleased by this wedding as he would have much preferred his sister to marry a foreign prince. Princess Faiza was very lively, witty, and she had a wonderful taste for clothes and jewels. She was a regular customer of the Parisian couture houses, especially Chanel. As far as jewellery was concerned, Van Cleef & Arpels was definitely her favorite house.

One of the most famous jewels ever made by Van Cleef & Arpels is the double 'Clip Pivoine', two peonies flowers, set in the famous 'Serti Mysterieux' for which Van Cleef & Arpels is so famous, are joined together with diamond leaves. The craftsmanship of that piece is so unique that it seems the petals would move if you blow on them. That double clip was also part of Princess Faiza's collection. She sold the two brooches separately a few years before she died in 1994. Fortunately one of them now belongs to the Van Cleef & Arpels antique jewellery collection. The fate of the second flower remains a mystery. 

The emerald and diamond necklace which is offered here demonstrates the same taste. The craftsmanship is perfect. The emerald drops hang from the diamond motives set in a very pure Art Deco style. The necklace is imposing, which is normal as it was worn by Princess Faiza as a 'Court Jewel', yet it is very graceful and the stones move very gently on the 'décolleté' of the woman who wears the piece."

Vincent Meylan

Vincent Meylan is an historian and a journalist who has written many books about Jewellery: 'Boucheron, The Secret Archives' (2009), 'Van Cleef & Arpels, Treasures and Legends' (2012). His latest book, 'Mellerio dits Meller, Joaillier des Reines' has just been published in France.