Van Cleef & Arpels came into existence in 1896 in Paris, France. Founded by Salomon Arpels and his son-in-law Alfred Van Cleef, the brand has been a trailblazer in fine jewelry since its inception. Van Cleef & Arpels baubles have long been coveted by royals, celebrities and other members of high society, as the maison has been consistently revered for their exceptional craftsmanship and quality metals and stones.
The brand even patented the iconic “Mystery Setting”, which is a proprietary technique that allows the prongs of a jewelry piece to be entirely invisible. With their unique, innovative offerings, VCA is certainly in a league of their own.
That being said, the unfortunate reality is that countless dishonest sellers have made it their mission to copy and fake Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry, making every effort to sell it with the promise that it's the real thing. And while some of these con artists do make a fairly convincing imitation, there are usually at least one red flag if you know what to look for.
If all else fails and you truly need the assurance, the brand does offer authentication- but according to a Van Cleef & Arpels ambassador from their client relations centre, it'll cost you upwards of $2,000 - and that's a cost you'll have to front whether they are able to authenticate your jewelry or not.
If you want to avoid the substantial cost of official authentication and still walk away with confidence that your VCA piece is authentic, implement these tips into your detective work. While these methods are meant as a guide, and not a foolproof security measure, they will definitely help you separate a genuine piece from a fraud. Some are easier to spot than others, so exercise caution. Keep reading to find out how to spot fake Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS LAPIS VINTAGE ALHAMBRA GOLD BRACELET
Trademarks and other markings
When it comes to Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry markings, there are three main things you want to look for; a metal hallmark, a trademark and a serial number. The trademark will appear either as “Van Cleef & Arpels” or simple “VCA.” Many fakes include a fraudulent trademark that reads as “Van Cleef”, so if you see that, it's a major warning sign that you've got a fake on your hands.
Where the signature stamp is placed depends on the type of piece you have. For earrings, you'll find it on the ear clip (one or both), for rings, it will appear inside the shanks, and Alhambra’s collection contains stamps that are placed on the clover station nearest to the clasp.
As for the metal hallmark, this is fairly easy, since Van Cleef & Arpels exclusively uses 18 karat gold. The hallmark for 18 karat gold is “750”, so that's the the number you'll always see on an authentic Van Cleef & Arpels piece.
The serial number will appear near the trademark and hallmark. If you want extra assurance, it's a great idea to phone or email the manufacturer to compare your serial number to their records.
If you've found a Van Cleef & Arpels piece that's being sold for an in uncharacteristically low price that seems way too inexpensive to be real - that's because it isn't real. Sure, there are price differences from store to store, but when you're comparing prices, you'll find they are mostly in the same lane. If a price tag sticks out as being much lower than the other Van Cleef & Arpels pieces you've looked at, it's pretty safe to say you should run.
Van Cleef & Arpels creates very high jewelry, and the price tag is steep for a reason. Quality, design, and reputation are all reflected in the cost. This jewelry is painstakingly made, with the finest materials and attention to detail. The price is a reflection of that. So don't get enchanted by a bottom of the barrel price, because all it really indicates is an inauthentic piece.
This may seem a broad or vague term, but quality says a lot about the authenticity of fine jewelry. Van Cleef & Arpels is crafted by hand with only the highest quality materials and techniques. A great example of the brand’s meticulous craftsmanship is the iconic Alhambra collection, which features a clover motif (repenting luck) in mother of pearl and other stones set in fine gold.
If you do some reading about the time and labour that goes into each piece, you will understand why Van a Cleef & Arpels is so beloved. Each piece should be flawless - not a stone out of place, no fading, rusting, stains, or cheap-feeling materials. It should be gleaming, never dull or greenish.
In short, if anything about the piece in in question causes you to doubt its quality, don't waste your time. Impeccable quality is never absent from a true Van Cleef & Arpels fine jewelry piece.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS ALHAMBRA WHITE GOLD EARRINGS
There should be no visible gap between stones, no out of place or damaged prongs (remember the Mystery setting we talked about earlier? Look for it.), and all stones should be cut and placed to perfection. Any lacklustre diamond with visible inclusions should be regarded as suspicious. Van Cleef & Arpels stones include mother of pearl, diamonds, tiger’s eye and carnelian, (among others) and each and every stone is of the utmost quality and authenticity.
Serial numbers, hallmarks and trademarks should be smooth and legible, never crooked sloppy. Clasps should be sturdy and well-made- not flimsy or finicky, and should open and close without getting stuck. Van Cleef & Arpels holds itself to an incredibly high standard of materials and craftsmanship that should be immediately obvious in each authentic piece.
Consider the source
Ebay and sites like Craigslist can be great for certain things, but we strongly advise that you exercise extreme caution if you're thinking of purchasing Van Cleef and Arpels (or any luxury jewelry for that matter) on these platforms. Fraudulent sellers love these sites and they make it easier for them to sell, with false information, photoshopped or stolen photos, etc. What happens if your item arrives and is not what you ordered, is clearly a fake, or worse yet, you shell out money for authentication only to be told it's not an authentic piece?
Most fraudulent sellers have flimsy or no return policy- another red flag. Save yourself all this trouble and shop with a reputable, honest seller with an excellent track record and in-depth knowledge. Buying from a trusted jeweler very much increases the chance of you securing an authentic piece of Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry.
To recap, these are the things you want to look for when questioning the authenticity of a Van Cleef & Arpels fine jewelry piece:
- Trademarks and other markings
- Reputable seller