Introduced in 1968, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra collection, with its four-leaf-clover motif, has effortlessly endured for five decades and survived fleeting trends. Luck has always been a favourite theme of the French maison, with four-leaf clovers making their first appearance in its archives in the 1920s. It was under the influence of the free-spirited, peace-loving vibe of the 1960s that Van Cleef & Arpels created the Alhambra collection, and these symbols of luck have perhaps become the brand’s most emblematic line.
In reaching the half-century milestone, the Alhambra collection is testament to the timeless style of the maison and its savoir faire. In late May, to celebrate its big 5-0, Van Cleef & Arpels invited its friends and media to a bash we couldn’t possibly refuse in beautiful and exotic Marrakech. And, boy, was it some party. The celebrations kicked off with lunch served on the manicured lawns of the French consul’s home. We feasted on a delicious spread of French dishes with a Moroccan twist prepared by Yannick Alléno, a French chef with three Michelin stars, who was flown in for the occasion.
Across the lawn by the pool was a tent filled with stunning 1970s vintage couture by Paco Rabanne, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, to name a few, which we could dress in and accessorise with fedora hats, feather boas, oversized sunnies and, naturally, Alhambra jewellery. The stunning home—with its beautifully tiled fireplaces, handcrafted wooden furniture, walls full of artwork and floors lined with richly patterned Moroccan rugs—was transformed to immerse us in the Alhambra world.
Craftsmen stooped over benches working on Alhambra pieces greeted us in the foyer, which led to a sitting room where vintage Alhambra jewellery curated by the maison’s heritage director, Catherine Cariou, was on display, glinting with lapis lazuli, tiger eye, onyx and wood. More craftsmen around the room, selecting and polishing stones, gave a sense of the level of skillrequired in all aspects of producing this otherwise simple-looking collection of jewellery.
The event gave us the opportunity to meet journalist Nicholas Foulkes, who wrote a book, also titled Alhambra, detailing the history, emergence and significance of the collection, as well the directing duo Burcu & Geoffrey, illustrator Julie Joseph, and photographers Sonia Sieff and Damian Foxe, all of whom were commissioned by Van Cleef & Arpels to express through their respective mediums their interpretations of luck and the iconic Alhambra collection.
The event culminated in an awe-inspiring dinner at the ruins of the 16th-century El Badi Palace, which was built for Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur of the Saadian dynasty. The flickering light of 10,000 candles greeted us on arrival at the palace’s vast inner courtyard, where a dinner of traditional Moroccan fare created by Chef Alléno was served as we were serenaded by Swedish singer/songwriter Peter von Poehl and French singer Marie Modiano. In the tight circles of high jewellery, Van Cleef & Arpels is known for its epic events, and this one was no exception. I certainly was one very lucky
monkey to have landed this gig.