By encountering an exceptional rough diamond of 910 carats, known as the Lesotho Legend, an idea was conceived by Van Cleef & Arpels to create 25 unique high jewellery pieces, all of them adorned with diamonds cut from the same rough stone. The result is the dazzling ‘Legend of Diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels’ collection.
Throughout the years, Van Cleef & Arpels has consistently paid tribute to the beauty of gemstones, celebrating their colours, their brilliance, and their elegant shapes. In keeping with this tradition, since the early 2000s, the maison has dedicated high jewellery collections to them, most notably Collection of the Century (2002), Pierres de Caractère (2006), Pierres de Caractère – Variations (2013), Émeraude en Majesté (2016), and Treasure of Rubies (2019). This year, it has unveiled a significant set of pieces featuring exceptional white diamonds, the product of an exhilarating journey of passion and expertise.
The story of the ‘Legend of Diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels’ collection began in 2018, when the maison encountered a rough diamond, the Lesotho Legend. Presented to Van Cleef & Arpels by diamond dealer Taché, a long-time partner, the stone was initially exceptional for its weight: 910 carats. It was the fifth largest rough diamond in both size and quality ever mined. It combined a perfect D colour, beautiful crystallisation, and a highly sought-after Type 2A chemical composition.
“The maison seldom works with rough stones. We traditionally start with cut and faceted stones that are already suitable for use in jewellery,” explains Van Cleef & Arpels President and CEO Nicolas Bos. “This is the first time in decades that we have been involved in a project from its starting point – the extraction of the stone – to the creation of a high jewellery collection. The appearance of this extraordinary rough stone gave us this unique opportunity to tell a story around the diamond.”
Van Cleef & Arpels and Taché sought help from Diamcad – a leading diamond cutter in Antwerp – to plan the cutting and faceting of each stone. These specialists in cutting exceptional rough stones analysed the Lesotho Legend, which proved suitable for producing large diamonds. Working their way around the stone’s inclusions, the experts used state-of-the-art technology to envision the position of each gem in the heart of the rough stone. This was a unique opportunity for the maison to choose a combination of cut stones that matched its wishes, both in shape and size. These included a 79.35-carat specimen and others weighing 51.14, 31.24, and 25.06 carats. Van Cleef & Arpels worked hand in hand with the various experts involved in the project to choose the cuts most likely to awaken the designers’ creativity. Every shape, whether oval, pear, emerald, or Asscher, echoed the maison’s history and taste for “fancy” cuts. The gems were then given the ideal proportions, meticulously studied to best enhance their brilliance and beauty while meeting the aesthetic criteria of the maison. Van Cleef & Arpels also had the rare opportunity to create perfect matches, combining stones of identical size and weight.
The combination of gems was decided with the help of 3D software that allowed each cut diamond to be seen inside the rough stone. For almost a year, gemologists’ eyes were combined with cutting-edge technology to perfect these combinations, avoid inclusions, and limit the loss of material.
“Developing Legend of Diamonds took about four years from the time we first saw the rough stone to the release of the finished pieces. I’m very proud of the collection. Thanks to the work of all the teams at Van Cleef & Arpels, I think we have successfully shown that an exceptional diamond can be the starting point for an extraordinary collection that will be a milestone in the history of the maison,” Nicolas Bos says.
At the heart of Van Cleef & Arpels, the Design Studio was committed to upholding its highly recognisable style through the 25 pieces of the collection. The designers worked hand in hand with expert gemologists and the high jewellery workshops to design precious settings inspired by the history of the maison for the diamonds from the rough stone. Van Cleef & Arpels opted to combine each of the gems with the Mystery Set: one of the most complex signature techniques mastered by the Place Vendôme Workshops. Bringing together curved lines and the intense interplay of colours in rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, the Design Studio worked to infuse lightness and movement into the most precious materials. Within the collection, bows are three-dimensional, ribbons softly come undone, and asymmetry gives certain pieces a subtle energy.
The entire collection, the result of more than 30,000 hours of work, comes to life thanks to the Mains d’Or (literally “hands of gold”), the artisans of the Van Cleef & Arpels workshops on the Place Vendôme who carry on the tradition of expertise that is constantly being perfected. To meet each new challenge, the jewellers, setters, lapidaries, and polishers communicated and shared their experience to produce a collective work. Links, invisible fasteners, and discreet articulations express the maison’s distinctive high standards, and the artisans’ meticulous attention is apparent on both the front and the back of the pieces.
Another hallmark of Van Cleef & Arpels is its technical ingenuity. This is reflected in the many transformable pieces that mark its history, such as the Passe-Partout model created in 1938 and the Zip necklace from 1950. The creations of the ‘Legend of Diamonds – 25 Mystery Set Jewels’ collection also undergo astonishing metamorphoses, allowing up to six different ways to wear some of them.
Owning one of these creations is akin to being part of high jewellery history at Van Cleef & Arpels, but it is also truly remarkable to own a piece of a very extraordinary gemstone.