Some people knock on wood, some cross their fingers, and some go hunting for four-leaf clovers. We're of course talking about rituals for luck, which have likely been around as long as human beings have been. Our favourite lucky charm, however, has to be the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra collection, which immortalises the lucky four-leaf clover (universally understood to bring good fortune) into a precious piece of jewellery. The collection, first born in 1968, is celebrating its 50th birthday this year, ticking off its fifth decade of bringing happiness and good fortune to all of its wearers.
As the story goes, Jacques Arpels (the nephew of founder Estelle Arpels) had a habit of searching for four-leaf clovers in the gardens surrounding his house in Germigny-l’Évêque. Whenever he found them, he would present the lucky charms to a member of the staff at Van Cleef & Arpels, along with a poem titled Don't Quit, to encourage them to never give up hope for a better (and luckier) future.
And while the maison has incorporated lucky motifs into its jewellery since the 1920s, it was only in 1968 that the famous long Alhambra necklace was born. It bore 20 of the lucky clovers in creased gold, edged with delicate gold beading. The elegance and simplicity of the necklace made it easy to wear at just about any occasion, and it was an immediate success. Throughout the years, the Alhambra collection has been spotted on countless luminaries, including Princess Grace of Monaco, and French singer-songwriter Françoise Hardy.
While the Alhambra collection is most famous for its long necklace, which was the first piece to be created, it has since been expanded to include bracelets, watches, and rings that each bear the same lucky four-leaf clover motif. The collection is also beloved for its colourful use of semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, malachite, and carnelian. Of course, this being Van Cleef & Arpels, even the semi-precious stones are sourced extremely carefully. The lapis lazuli used in the collection, for example, is always deeply saturated, containing none of the white calcite and gold pyrite inclusions commonly seen in the stone. The difficulty of sourcing such high quality lapis is perhaps one of the reasons why it's a rare find in the Alhambra collection.