Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels: A Luxury Jewellery Comparison

Cartier vs Van Cleef and Arpels
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Nothing screams luxury like a piece of expensive jewellery. Whether it’s a Cartier bracelet or a watch from Van Cleef & Arpels, having the perfect accessory can really elevate your look. But which of these two luxury brands really is better?

In this instalment of our lifestyle blog series, we explore which of these French luxury jewellery brands come out on top in key categories, like quality, value for money, exclusivity, and more, to help you find the best designer jewellery brand.  

A Brief History of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels

Both Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels have left an indelible mark on the world of haute joaillerie. Their pieces are not just accessories; they are works of art cherished for generations and sought after by connoisseurs. Together, they continue to define and shape the landscape of fine jewellery, setting the standard for excellence in the industry.

Cartier

Founded in Paris by Louis-François Cartier in 1847, Cartier has become one of the most successful jewellery brands in the world. Over the decades, Cartier has consistently pushed the boundaries of design, introducing iconic pieces that have become cultural touchstones. From the legendary Panthère de Cartier watch to the timeless Love bracelet, each creation exudes a blend of artistry and refinement that has captivated generations of admirers.

After working as an apprentice watchmaker, Cartier inherited his employer's workshop and began to expand the business. Today, Cartier has over 200 boutiques in 60 countries. The brand’s enduring appeal and prestigious Parisian heritage have seen Cartier become a mammoth in the jewellery world.

In October 2021, Cartier took a significant step towards a more sustainable future with the launch of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030. This project represents a commitment to ethical production practices and upholding their environmental responsibilities. Cartier aims to reduce its environmental impact across all stages of production, from sourcing materials to manufacturing and distribution.

Van Cleef & Arpels

In contrast to Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels has its roots in a family affair. Established in 1896 by Alfred Van Cleef and his uncle, Salomon Arpels, the brand quickly gained fame for its exquisite craftsmanship and imaginative designs. The maison's signature creations, like the celebrated Alhambra collection, have graced the necks and wrists of royalty, countless celebrities, and collectors for over a century.

Over the years, Van Cleef & Arpels has expanded its presence globally, with boutiques in major cities around the world. The brand continues to uphold its reputation for innovation, blending traditional techniques with avant-garde ideas.

In recent times, Van Cleef & Arpels has also made strides towards sustainability. In alignment with growing global consciousness, the house has initiated various projects to reduce its environmental footprint while maintaining the highest standards of quality and luxury.

Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels: Which Should You Choose?

Quality

Cartier

Cartier's quality is defined by its use of the finest materials, including 18k gold, platinum, and top-tier gemstones like diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds. Meticulous craftsmanship is at the core of each piece, with skilled artisans assembling every item by hand. Attention to detail is paramount, evident in the flawless setting of gemstones and seamless integration of design elements.

Cartier's creations are visually stunning and comfortable, with careful consideration given to weight, balance, and overall practicality. This ensures that each piece can be cherished and used for generations. Additionally, Cartier's quality and perennial appeal transcends fashion trends, adding to their jewellery's overall and value.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels is synonymous with exceptional quality, characterised by the use of the finest materials and innovative craftsmanship, with their jewellery makers meticulously preparing each piece by hand. The brand's jewellery dazzles visually and conveys storytelling and emotion.

Designed for both elegance and wearability, Van Cleef & Arpels pieces provide a seamless and comfortable fit. Built to stand the test of time, each creation is intended to become a cherished heirloom. With a timeless and enchanting quality that transcends trends, Van Cleef & Arpels' jewellery has enduring value and significance.

Cartier score: 9.5

Van Cleef & Arpels score: 9.7

Value for Money

Cartier

While Cartier's pieces are undoubtedly of high quality, they also come with a premium price tag. The appeal of Cartier's creations, coupled with the brand's prestigious reputation, adds significant value. Additionally, Cartier jewellery tends to hold its value well in the secondhand market, making it a solid investment for those seeking luxury pieces. 

In essence, owning a Cartier piece is not just a purchase; it's an investment in a legacy of artistry and refinement. Cartier's premium price tag is justified by its impeccable craftsmanship, rich heritage, and timeless designs.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef resides in the upper echelons of luxury jewellery. Renowned for inventive designs, intricate craftsmanship, and iconic collections, the French brand’s pieces exude exceptional value. However, this level of artistry and exclusivity does come with a premium price tag. Each piece is a testament to the Van Cleef’s dedication to creating enduring, one-of-a-kind works of art. 

Furthermore, Van Cleef & Arpels' jewellery is perpetually sought-after and remains cherished, regardless of the latest trends. The combination of these factors solidifies Van Cleef & Arpels' reputation for offering a superior level of resale value and craftsmanship in the world of fine jewellery.

Cartier score: 8.8

Van Cleef & Arpels score: 8.5

Exclusivity

Cartier

Cartier's exclusivity is deeply rooted in its rich heritage and legacy. With a history spanning back to 1847, Cartier has established itself as a symbol of timeless elegance and sophistication. These creations have graced the wrists and necks of historical and influential figures, from Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, to Tyler, the Creator, further enhancing its aura of exclusivity. Iconic pieces like the Cartier Love bracelet, Tank watch, and Panthère de Cartier have become highly sought-after status symbols, known for their long-lasting appeal and cultural significance.

In 2014, the ruby, emerald, and diamond bracelet owned by Evelyn Lauder sold for $2.1 million (USD) and the Belle Époque Devant-de-corsage brooch sold for $17.5 million (USD). Auctions of Cartier pieces have set records in the world of fine jewellery auctions.

Additionally, Cartier's limited releases and bespoke creations add an extra layer of exclusivity, catering to a select clientele seeking truly unique and personalised items. This combination of historical significance, iconic designs, and exclusive offerings solidifies Cartier's position as a leading name in designer jewellery, synonymous with prestige and desirability.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels has several limited-edition collections that are highly sought-after. These collections often feature unique motifs and settings that are not readily available elsewhere in the market. For instance, the Van Cleef & Arpels "Zip" necklace, introduced in the 1950s, is a prime example of a highly coveted and rare piece. This necklace ingeniously combines the functionality of a zipper with the elegance of fine jewellery, making it a true collector's item.

In 2013, Sotheby’s Geneva also set a world auction record for selling the Walska Briolette Diamond Brooch for over $10.5 million, well over its estimate. Additionally, the Van Cleef Alhambra range, featuring the iconic clover motif, symbolises luck and exclusivity. Its enduring popularity and limited availability further contribute to the brand's exclusivity.

While both brands excel in exclusivity, Van Cleef & Arpels' exceptional and imaginative designs, combined with the rarity of certain pieces, contribute to its slightly higher rating.

Cartier score: 9.2

Van Cleef & Arpels score: 8.6

Cultural Significance

Cartier

Cartier's cultural significance is undeniable, with a prominent presence in high-profile events like the Met Gala and the Oscars. From Princess Diana and Kate Middleton to Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly, Cartier's jewellery has become synonymous with luxury and glamour, especially in the entertainment world. The legendary actress and fashion icon Elizabeth Taylor was also known for her love of Cartier pieces, including the famous ruby and diamond suite gifted to her by Richard Burton.

While Van Cleef & Arpels is a renowned luxury brand, it may not boast the same level of mainstream recognition and pop culture association as Cartier, further underscoring Cartier's significant cultural influence and status as a global symbol of luxury.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels has an equally illustrious history of adorning prominent figures, although it may not be as widely recognised as Cartier. Grace Kelly famously wore a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace as a tiara, and Margot Robbie has been spotted in the signature zip necklace. Other famous faces who have worn Van Cleef & Arpels include Reese Witherspoon, Adele and Cameron Diaz. 

Additionally, the brand has been featured in various pop culture moments. For instance, the character Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," famously wore a Van Cleef & Arpels necklace.

While Van Cleef may have different levels of mainstream recognition to Cartier, its exquisite craftsmanship and unique designs have earned it a dedicated following among those who appreciate the brand’s commitment to quality.

Cartier score: 8.5

Van Cleef & Arpels score: 7.3

Features

Cartier

As one of the most famous jewellery brands, Cartier has a large range of accessories. We're talking bracelets, necklaces, watches, earrings, rings and even fragrances.

Since Cartier started as a watchmaker, he introduced the iconic square and rectangular cases, which have since become a common design. While luxury watches were a staple, Cartier rings became highly desirable. The Cartier Trinity Ring features three interlocking rings, each one representing something different. Pure gold for fidelity, rose gold for love and white gold for friendship.

Here are some other Here are some standout features of Cartier jewellery:

  • Mystery setting: This innovative technique involves setting gemstones in a way that conceals the metal prongs, creating a seamless and uninterrupted surface of stunning precious stones.
  • Use of platinum: Cartier played a significant role in popularising the use of platinum in jewellery. This metal is highly valued for its durability, purity, and ability to maintain a lustrous finish.
  • Art Deco influence: Cartier was a prominent figure in the Art Deco movement, known for geometric shapes, bold colours, and intricate patterns, which continue to influence their designs.
  • Panther motif: The panther became an iconic symbol for Cartier in the 20th century. Since then, it has been featured in various forms, from figurative representations to abstract patterns, symbolising strength, elegance, and luxury.

These features collectively contribute to Cartier's reputation for producing some of the world's most exquisite and sought-after jewellery.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Since the beginning, Van Cleef & Arpels has stood out for its technical ingenuity. Many of their pieces can transform into other forms of jewellery, like the 1938 Passe-Partout necklace and the 1950 Zip necklace, which can both expand or contract, become bracelets or belts, and feature detachable clips.

Here are some other standout features of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery:

  • Meticulous gem selection: Van Cleef & Arpels is renowned for its exceptional gemstones, focusing on sourcing the highest quality diamonds, coloured gemstones, and pearls.
  • Mystery set technique: Similar to Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels employs the "Mystery Set" technique, where gemstones are carefully cut and set to create a seamless, uninterrupted surface.
  • Nature-inspired motifs: The brand often draws inspiration from the natural world, incorporating delicate floral and animal motifs into their designs. Their "Alhambra" motif, featuring four-leaf clovers, is particularly iconic.
  • Lapidary expertise: Van Cleef & Arpels is known for its lapidary skills, showcasing a mastery of gem cutting and shaping to maximise the brilliance and colour of each stone.
  • Transformable jewellery: The brand is celebrated for its innovative designs that allow pieces to be worn in multiple ways, demonstrating a versatility that appeals to a range of styles and occasions.
  • Invisible setting: This technique involves setting gemstones in a way that conceals the precious metals, creating a seamless surface of precious stones, and is a hallmark of Van Cleef & Arpels craftsmanship.
  • Enamel work: The brand is known for its exquisite use of enamel in jewellery, often using a cloisonné technique to create intricate, colourful patterns.

Cartier score: 8.3

Van Cleef & Arpels score: 8.9

Final Scores

So, now we've had a look at these two famous jewellery brands; which one came out on top in our comparison? Here are the results:

Cartier score: 44.3/50

Van Cleef & Arpels score: 43/50

It was a close call, but Cartier takes this one! Although both Van Cleef and Cartier showcase innovative techniques, iconic motifs, and commitment to quality, Cartier once again proves why it remains a trailblazer in high-end jewellery.

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FAQs

Is Van Cleef or Cartier more expensive?

Van Cleef's collection typically ranges from $700 to $950,000, while Cartier's is $650 to $341,000. Although both brands are considered to be expensive, Van Cleef & Arpels offers a much higher price tag.

Is a Van Cleef bracelet an investment?

Van Cleef & Arpels is known for its exquisite craftsmanship and use of high-quality materials, which can contribute to the long-term value of their pieces. While jewellery can hold value over time, it's important to note that various factors, including market trends and the design's rarity, can influence any specific piece's investment potential.

Can you wear a Cartier every day?

Yes, many Cartier pieces are designed to be worn every day. The brand offers a range of jewellery and watches suitable for daily wear, known for their durability and timeless designs. However, it's recommended to take proper care of your Cartier pieces to ensure they maintain their beauty and quality. With this being said, some of Van Cleef's vintage jewellery can fetch millions at auctions. 

Is Cartier considered a luxury brand?

Yes, Cartier is widely recognised as one of the world’s most prestigious and luxurious jewellery brands. Their exceptional craftsmanship, use of high-quality materials, and iconic designs have solidified their status as a leading name in the luxury jewellery industry. Owning a piece of Cartier jewellery is often considered a symbol of sophistication and refined taste.


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