For over one hundred years, the house of Van Cleef & Arpels has been at the forefront of high design. Among their many innovations, their most celebrated is doubtless the “mystery setting.” Patented in 1933, the technique has given rise to some of the twentieth century’s most spectacular jewels, such as the Duchess of Windsor’s holly leaves brooch (1936) and Princess Faiza of Egypt’s remarkably naturalistic peony clip. The painstaking process requires approximately 90 minutes per gemstone, each grooved so it may be slid onto a system of rails, eliminating the need for prongs that would otherwise disrupt the passage of light. After hundreds, even thousands, of hours of labor, a jewel of extraordinary fluidity is created. With only a handful of pieces created each year, Van Cleef’s mystery settings are the ultimate in haute joaillerie and a requirement for anyone wishing to have the complete canon of jewelry design.
The present earrings, from the celebrated collection of Barbara and Frank Sinatra, showcase the pinnacle of mystery setting. The Sinatras were aficionados of mystery set jewels, also purchasing a similar bracelet and butterfly brooch, and Barbara wore this pair frequently. Blending together nearly a century of jewelry making tradition with legends of Hollywood glamour, these earrings can truly be labeled icons.