Alban Belloir graduated from Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC Paris) and obtained an undergraduate degree (B.A. in Philosophy and Law) from Sorbonne University in Paris. With extensive international experience with Lancôme, Ralph Lauren Fragrances, and Fauchon, Alban Belloir joined Van Cleef & Arpels in 2010. The history of prestigious jewelry creations especially mark the on-going tradition of Maison Van Cleef & Arpel’s innovative services including the set of HRH Princess Fawzia of Egypt in 1950, the set of H.H. Princess Salimah Aga Khan in 1971, and the Coronation set of Empress Farah Pahlavi 1967.
Maison Van Cleef & Arpels have a vast presence in the Middle East. Have you tried to infuse “orientalism” into some of your designs?
Our designs are very inspired from various cultures and the oriental influence is very clear in the High Jewellery collections. In 1922, the Maison began creating Egyptian-inspired jewelry, the year Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings. Sautoirs, bracelets, clips and timepieces were all decorated with traditional motifs in onyx, rubies, and emeralds. Again the Egyptian theme takes center stage today with the Palais de la Chance High Jewellery collection that incorporates various symbols from Egyptian civilization like the Everlasting Light set, the Misr ring and the Scarabe ring. The collection also includes the Main de Fatima earrings inspired from a lucky charm originating in the Middle East and North Africa—not to mention the Bals de Legende High Jewellery collection featuring jewelry pieces inspired by various Eastern Asian cultures to be worn at the Bal Oriental.
Maintaining your brand identity is a challenge. How do you continue the quest for innovation and perfection?
We’ve remained true to our DNA since the beginning in 1906. We’ve developed signature techniques such as the Mystery Set introducing many innovations to the jewelry and watch-making industries. The team behind these wonderful creations are the best in craftsmanship; hence, they’re called the Mains d’Or™.
We’re committed to preserving the Maison’s identity, to delivering the best in quality and craftsmanship, the finest stones, the most beautiful creations, excellence in customer service, and prime boutiques locations.
What is fine jewelry and why is it timeless?
To me, “fine” means superior quality. “Timeless” means not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion. Our High Jewellery pieces are unique and timeless in design, beauty and value. Unique stories, exceptional stones and remarkable dedication to craftsmanship characterize the Maison’s creations.
Take a moment to tell us about special historical client orders.
Ever since 1906, special orders have provided clients with the possibility of sharing in the emotion of the creative process and bringing unique pieces of jewelry to life. For example, first consider the set of HRH Princess Fawzia of Egypt 1950. In 1939, H.R.H. Princess Fawzia—the daughter of H.M. King Fouad and H.M. Queen Nazli of Egypt—married the future Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi. For this grand occasion, Van Cleef & Arpels was commissioned to create
a diamond and platinum jewelry set comprising a necklace, a pair of earclips, and a tiara. The remarkable tiara was adorned with 54 pear-shaped diamonds weighing 92 carats and 530 baguette-cut diamonds weighing 72 carats. The unique two-strand necklace in round- and baguette-cut diamonds, along with the earrings and tiara, was worn by the Princess on many occasions. She became a fervent admirer of Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewelry, and never missed an opportunity to visit the boutique on Place Vendôme. Secondly the set of H.H. Princess Salimah Aga Khan 1971: Formerly in the Collection of Her Highness the Begum Aga Khan, the Indian necklace is a remarkable example how Van Cleef & Arpels transforms jewelry creations, as it truly shows that metamorphosis can happen through the simple opening of a clasp, because the bracelets can also be connected together and worn as a choker. This unique set consists of 44 18th Century emeralds weighing 478 carats and 745 circular-cut diamonds totaling 52 carats.
Lastly the Coronation set of Empress Farah Pahlavi 1967: This event marked one of the most prestigious special orders in the Maison’s history. On the day of her coronation in Teheran, Empress Farah Pahlavi wore a sumptuous bejeweled crown and emerald necklace created by Van Cleef & Arpels. The Maison also crafted the jewelry sets of Shah Reza Palhavi’s sisters and daughters. The crown was adorned with 1541 stones in total, including 1469 diamonds, 36 emeralds, 34 rubies, 2 spinels, 105 pearls among other stones, but most importantly, a spectacular 150-carat emerald set at the center. It weighed 4.3 pounds.
What is your standing in one of the most competitive industries?
Maison Van Cleef & Arpels has been expanding quickly in the Middle East region; it has nine boutiques in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh, Doha, Kuwait and Bahrain. We’re looking to strengthen our presence in the region with new boutiques planned to open in 2013, one in Dubai, Mall of the Emirates Dubai, and another one in Abu Dhabi in Sowwah Square. Van Cleef & Arpels is very exclusive in the development of the business and network—our strength lies in our creativity, innovation and rich heritage.
Which of the 4 Cs (cut, clarity, colour, and carat) is the most important characteristic to consider when buying a diamond?
The criteria for each diamond, even the smallest, are among the most demanding in the world of jewelry. Simple quality standards do not suffice when identifying an exceptional gem… The “4Cs” are important but not enough to guarantee a stone, which is rare and exceptional. Van Cleef & Arpels goes a step further by imposing an additional criterion: the 5th “C” for “Character”. What does that mean? Some diamonds have soul that is character. The diamonds that adorn Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations have a certain mystery about them: They have soul. Expert gemologists chose the stone that, in addition to having undeniable objective qualities, makes his heart beat faster—the one that conveys a unique feeling.
What’s your favorite piece and why?
The Zip necklace is my favourite. It reflects glamour and refinement, and it’s a technical innovation which has never been matched.
Tell us more about ethical sourcing and the polishing of jewels.
Van Cleef & Arpels has been a member of the Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices (CRJP) since October 2005. This is a not-for-profit organization promoting responsible practices in all stages of the jewelry trade from the mine to the boutique. Van Cleef & Arpels also subscribes to the Kimberley Process (KPCS) and the World Diamond Council—guarantee systems that aim to end the trade in diamonds resulting from war and ensuring that purchased stones do not originate from armed conflicts.
All the stones proposed by Van Cleef & Arpels scrupulously respect the Kimberley Process and therefore are not conflict diamonds. Our clients can be completely assured that they’re selecting responsibly produced jewelry.