Pair of Art Moderne Gem-Set Gold Link Bracelets by Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, circa 1940
A pair of bracelets, each composed of large interlocking links with gemstones in star setting, one with ruby and one with diamond; in 18-karat yellow gold
- Signed Van Cleef & Arpels and numbered
- Measurements each: 8 1/2 x 3/4 inches
Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in 1906 by Alfred Van Cleef and his two brothers-in-law, Charles and Julian Arpels, at 22 Place Vendôme, Paris. Their important design innovations include the invisible setting, the minaudière and the Zip necklace. In 1939, they opened an office in Rockefeller Center in New York, moving three years later to 744 Fifth Avenue where they are today. Their impressive client list includes royalty, socialites, and Hollywood stars such as Jackie Kennedy, Princess Grace, Liz Taylor, and the Duchess of Windsor. In 1999, Van Cleef & Arpels became part of the Richemont Group. They have locations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
Stars have long been inspiration for the arts and also for philosophers and scientists. In the third century BCE, Aristotle theorized that the stars were the barrier between the universe seen by man and the spiritual space beyond. The Romantic poets often touched on the celestial, William Wordsworth wrote on one of his sonnets, “The stars are mansions built by Nature’s hand, And, haply, there the spirits of the blest Dwell, clothed in radiance, their immortal vest.” Born within a year of Wordsworth, Napoleon Bonaparte also had a fascination with stars, as well as an understanding of the power of symbols. Bonaparte established the Légion d'honneur, a French merit award, which incorporated stars into the medallion designs, and he wears the medallions in many portraits.
The most famous depiction of star jewelry, however, is the Franz Xaver Winterhalter portrait of Empress Elizabeth of Austria in 1865. She wears an ethereal, diaphanous dress and looks back at the viewer over her shoulder. Her cascading hair is glittering with diamond star pins. “Sisi” as she was called, had ordered at least 27 bejeweled pins and after this portrait was revealed the royal families of Europe all desired stars. During the late 1800s, known as The Victorian Era, the star setting also began to appear in jewelry. This required skill with engraving, as the setter would push the metal to create rays and add a small bead to hold a stone in place, setting it flush with the surface. This created a romantic star setting that became popular on rings and bracelets.
Van Cleef & Arpels modernized this classic stone-setting technique by using it on these bold oversized link bracelets. The gold bracelet became the essential piece of jewelry in the 1940s. It felt casual and wearable but was large enough to make a statement. By combining the star setting with a large link bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels was cleverly uniting modern design with this important classic technique. This superbly constructed pair of gold link bracelets are iconic and wearable. It is even more rare to find a pair and worn together or on opposite wrists they make a stylish statement.