VAN CLEEF & ARPELS at the Bowers Museum

Last week I had the honor of attending a private gallery tour and dinner at the Bowers Museum here in Orange County to view A Quest for Beauty: The Art of Van Cleef & Arpels. The exhibit details the rich history of the brand over a span of 100 years, as well as the innovation and artistry behind both their iconic and never before seen pieces. Not only is it a rare treat to view exquisite pieces that have adorned famous women in history like Liz Taylor and Maria Callas, but also on view is Princess Grace of Monaco’s collection loaned by the royal family for this exhibit. The entire experience is a delight in deco detailing and truly inventive craftsmanship…

I personally enjoyed learning about the ingenuity and versatility in Van Cleef & Arpels’ designs such as their iconic Zip Necklace — inspired by the Duchess of Windsor — that took 14 years to develop and can convert from a necklace to a bracelet. A marvel in jeweled engineering!

And I was floored to discover that the invention of the first minaudière is attributed to Charles Arpels — he designed it for a socialite friend after witnessing her throw her many evening essentials into a small tin. His own unique version had various compartments built into a glossy black lacquer and gold trim box, while later versions showcase deco motifs of diamonds, mother-of-pearl, emeralds and sapphires.

I’m very much looking forward to the re-launch of their South Coast Plaza boutique next month that will incorporate a VIP room and bridal salon, plus the unveiling of eight limited edition watches (including one based on their iconic Alhambra collection).

In the meantime, do catch this exquisite display of ingenuity at the Bowers Museum, only on view until February 15th, 2014!

Photos: top & bottom row in image #1 by Michael Buckner; image #2 by Micheal Buckner; image #3 via
Erika Brechtel

Erika Brechtel

Creative Director

Desiring an online space to explore well-rounded, inspired content in all topics she loves most, Erika created 'The E List' (formerly the Small Shop blog) in 2010. When not enjoying an “occasional" glass of wine and wanderlusting for even warmer climates, Erika can be found sharing laughs with friends and family, and trying her very best to keep up with her 6-year old daughter (yet failing miserably).

  1. You are so pretty! I love your dress! And your hair!
    Sounds like a great exhibit. I have wanted an Alhambra necklace forever and now I know a little history behind it! Thank u 🙂

    1. Thank you Amy! The dress is M.M. LaFleur.
      If you are in OC I highly recommend getting over to the Bowers for this. It’s beautiful and inspiring!

  2. Oooo this is lovely! I’ll have to make a trip over to he Bowers. I don’t think I’ve been there in over a decade! I always forget it’s so close by.