The Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra is widely loved for many reasons but none more so than the sheer plethora of colourful ornamental gemstones that adorn its iconic clover motif. From the timelessness of natural mother-of-pearl to the intensity of black onyx, the collection has highlighted vibrant green malachite, fiery red carnelian, soft blue agate, dazzling tiger’s eye, and many more throughout its decades-long history.
Yet even though ornamental gemstones have grown to be such a beloved feature for the Vintage Alhambra, the collection’s origins were rooted in another 1960s jewellery trend instead: textured gold. Introduced in 1968, the first Alhambra creation had the surfaces of its signature florets decorated with creased yellow gold and accentuated with millegrain edging and golden beads.
So the Alhambra’s initial appearance had been a solid gold monochromatic look which perfectly complements the everyday wearable fashion looks favoured by strong and independent women—then, as much as now.
Because returning to the spotlight this festive season is the Van Cleef & Arpels Vintage Alhambra in solid white gold. This time, the maison spotlights another signature gold texturing style known as guilloché which isn’t a common sight, especially in the jewellery world.
Guilloché is a time-honoured decorative technique where fine lines and shapes are manually engraved onto gold surfaces creating a repeated pattern by a hand-operated lathe. High-end watchmakers are known to use it for their timepieces, mostly to finesse their dials but sometimes the cases and movements, too.
It’s a technique adopted by Van Cleef & Arpels as early as in the 1910s, at first embellishing watch dials, and then other luxury objects such as boxes, powder cases, and minaudières, where guilloché and gem-setting on precious materials intermingle.
With it, the Alhambra pays homage to its roots but with the contemporary elegance of white gold rather than opulent yellow gold. Sunburst guilloché appears like pleated beams of radiant white light emanating from the single white gold bead at the centre of each motif.
Wear it in Vintage Alhambra all-time favourite styles: a single motif pendant, earrings, and a ring, or live large and go for the 20-motif sautoir plus the five-motif bracelet.
Those straight lines and angular edges juxtapose gloriously against the Alhambra’s signature beaded contours, where each tiny sphere has been carefully rounded and polished by hand.
Indeed, the millegrain or golden bead technique is a distinctive feature of the Alhambra, and a Van Cleef & Arpels hallmark as well. The maison has dedicated entire fine and high jewellery collections to it, such as the Perlée line, while numerous vintage creations featured beaded gold and gemstones such as the Couscous, the Twist, and La Boutique.
Likewise, the new Sweet Alhambra timepiece in rose gold highlights the golden bead technique in two areas, while blending watchmaking savoir-faire with jewellery inspiration. One, the double row beaded case with its mother-of-pearl dial, and two, the exquisite and fully articulated bracelet consisting of seven rows of interconnected rose gold beads.
Designed to be the Alhambra lover’s daily essential timepiece, it’s comfortable and chic with a timeless appeal. Plus, you can play the luxe factor down whenever you want by quickly and easily swapping the posh gold bracelet out for a more understated one in black gros-grain fabric or alligator leather—then match it with as much Alhambra jewellery as your heart desires.