Patented in 1933, the Mystery Set™ technique remained one of the most unique inventions by Van Cleef & Arpels. Created by setting each stone in such a way that no prongs are visible, the level of expertise required to make Mystery Set™ is reserved for an exclusive realm of a small number of master jewelers. By faceting each stone to fit extremely narrow gold rails, no thicker than 0.2mm, the gems when mounted would look free of any metal settings that hold them in place. However, this technique requires intense precision with immense patience, to create three dimensional jewels within complex designs.
This unusual bellflower clip brooch offered in Lot 1796 by Van Cleef & Arpels is a child of the 1960s, depicting two delicate bellflowers in bloom using the Mystery Setting™. An exceptionally rare jewel that illustrates the craftsmanship of the Maison, the design for the brooch was published in the 1963 issue of L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode de Paris, along with other bejeweled clips from esteemed brands of the time. During this period, the decorative arts enjoyed liberating freedom into alternative forms and colours. In jewellery, there was a classical movement which embraced beauty found in natural elements of birds and flowers. These themes inspired by flora and fauna would often be embellished with precious gems, such as diamonds, sapphires and rubies.
The 1960s was a fabulous decade for Van Cleef & Arpels – in 1967, the Maison was commissioned to create a coronation crown for the Empress Farah Palavi, as well as jewels for the Shah’s family. This was one of the most prestigious special orders in the history of Van Cleef & Arpels, affirming the global reputation of the Maison. Throughout the decade, Van Cleef & Arpels created captivating bejeweled flowers modeled after blossoms of daisies, camellias, fuchsias, and bellflowers. Records also show that these flower themed jewels from the Maison were well received by style mavens of the time. Maria Callas, the legendary Greek soprano, was captured on multiple occasions wearing a now-iconic floral clip by the Maison, bejewelled with diamonds and rubies, gracefully accenting long, elegant dresses.
Lot 1796 epitomizes timeless beauty with floral motif, accentuated by the legendary the Mystery Set™ technique. A similar clip of bellflowers made in 1969, set with sapphires - part of the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection, is illustrated in The Art & Science of Gems: Van Cleef & Arpels. This bejeweled brooch would be a cherished addition to any discerning connoisseur’s collection.
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