With miles of dazzling coastlines and sparkling waters as blue as the skies above, the glamorous French Riviera is a fantasy vacation destination for many. Soaking up the sun on the beaches of Saint-Tropez just like 60s It Girl, Brigitte Bardot, once did, or wandering along the palm-fringed promenades of Cannes dressed in Jane Birkin’s eternally chic Bohemian summer style… Picturesque memories of Mediterranean landscapes like these are indelibly woven into 1960s glamour—and jewellery design too, as seen through Van Cleef & Arpels’ new Perles d’éte high jewellery.
A riff off the classic Perlée fine jewellery line, the collection delves into new proportions, shapes, styles, and textures while paying homage to the golden bead motif and colourful baubles so dear to the Perlée aesthetic. Vibrant blue turquoises take centre stage, evoking the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, framed by shimmering yellow gold as radiant as glorious sunsets over the azure coast. Only 12 unique pieces have been created, from necklaces and sautoirs to bracelets and rings, all of which are reminiscent of the shapes and shades of 1960s and 70s cocktail jewellery.
In other words, expect lots of ample volumes, flamboyant hues, textured gold, and bolder, more expressive designs mixing precious gems with ornamental stones. Van Cleef & Arpels has always been extra fond of ornamental gemstones, showing special affection and finesse for turquoise in many collections such as Alhambra, Perlée, high jewellery, and more. The specimens showcased in Perles d’éte display a rare quality—smooth and even, with no inclusions—and have taken the maison several years to amass over three batches unearthed from the famed Arizona mines.
The first batch consists of 14 cabochon turquoises selected for their uniform azure hue; a light and soft blue suggestive of Mediterranean horizons where sea and sky meet. Given just a gentle polish to enhance their natural glow, these extra-large stones are the stars of such spectacular pieces as the Delta de turquoise bracelet, the Onde de turquoise ring, the Estérel bracelet, and the enthralling Cap azur transformable necklace.
Set against interlacing lines of diamonds and beaded yellow gold, these creations pay tribute to the Mediterranean landscape. Rounded gadroons bring to mind shimmering ripples in the Delta bracelet while emulating waves surging against the shore in the Estérel bracelet.
Next, the second batch of turquoises is a selection of 19 cabochons of various sizes, all united in a single statement jewellery piece, the Brume de turquoise transformable necklace. Truly intended for the most ardent turquoise lovers, these gemstones, each one encircled by an embrace of yellow gold beads, are perfectly matched in terms of colour as they cascade from back to front.
This necklace took Van Cleef & Arpels’ craftsmen and women over 800 hours to make, much of which had gone to creating the detachable pendant designed to sit perfectly in the hollow of one’s neck. Fittingly, the maison sought inspiration from the Mediterranean sun, bringing light and finesse to the fore in one fell swoop.
Golden rays filtering down and reaching out towards two beautiful turquoise cabochons while little drops of diamonds and blue sapphires resemble bursts of water from the sea. Likewise, golden beads in cascading volumes echo the Perlée collection’s favoured motif, adding some delicate curves to the regal power of this stunning gold medallion.
Finally, the collection’s third batch of turquoises goes directly into an investment-worthy necklace that’s a delight to wear and own, full bragging rights included. With a whopping 39 turquoise beads all perfectly round and matching in colour, the Lueur d’éte transformable long necklace marries 1920s glamour with the bold and expressive style of the 1970s, not forgetting the highly ornamental aesthetic of the 1960s.
Turquoise beads in varying sizes are strung along with lapiz lazuli and red and pink coral on a silk thread using the traditional knot beading technique. They each range between 10 and 23 millimeters in diameter. That, along with their smooth essence and rich colour, makes these stones extremely rare. Additionally, combining this many specimens of such quality in a single jewellery piece is testament to Van Cleef & Arpels’ incredible vision as a world-class high jeweller.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Perlée-inspired piece without the signature golden beads, and here they appear alongside diamonds on elegant charms that punctuate the string of ornamental coloured stones. Leading the eye down towards a detachable tassel with playful fringes of tiny lapis lazuli and coral beads, the necklace offers two distinct looks—one purely in turquoises and another, with all the other gemstones—but the possibilities are really endless here once you’re revelling in the glamour of the French Riviera.