Everything you need to know about the precious talisman, from its history to its A-list fans.
The four-leaf clover is a long-celebrated talisman, but it was French jewellery maison Van Cleef & Arpels who cemented it as a global symbol for good luck and great fortune when they brought it to life in gold and precious gemstones in the late 1960s.
The ‘Alhambra’ collection is now internationally recognised; its signature sautoirs are often spotted strewn around the necks of tastemakers and trendsetters, royalty, and Hollywood’s finest alike. These long, low-swinging styles are just as easily paired with evening gowns as they are with jeans and a T-shirt, which is perhaps the secret to their enduring charm – the ‘Alhambra’ has become synonymous with precious, laidback luxury.
Van Cleef & Arpels has historically celebrated luck, joy and optimism since it was founded in 1906, long renowned for its animated interpretations of flowers and animals. It was in 1968, however, that the four-leaf clover became a lucky icon for the house.
Jacques Arpels, a nephew of one of the founding families, was especially enamoured with the concept of luck – he famously bestowed four-leaf clovers gathered in his garden upon his staff. His personal mantra, "To be lucky, you have to believe in luck," inspired the maison to create a collection that saw four-leaf clovers edged with golden pearls set upon chic sautoirs. It was conceived to introduce a new era of more accessible jewellery designs within the maison’s repertoire and became an instant success.
The name of the collection is derived from the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, where Moorish quatrefoil motifs (four overlapping circles, much like the clover silhouette) adorn magnificent architecture with similarly detailed, intricate artisanry.
WHAT MAKES IT SO ICONIC?
Van Cleef & Arpels is one of history’s most celebrated jewellers, founded in the high jewellery-making epicentre of the world, Place Vendome, Paris. The combined skills of lapidaries, jewellers, stone-setters, and polishers come together to create each clover motif, requiring no fewer than fifteen successive steps of craftsmanship.
What makes the ‘Alhambra’ collection so iconic is that it distills the haute joaillerie expertise of the maison into an everyday, wearable design that can be paired with a simple sweater.
Its enduring prestige is perhaps also bolstered by the evolution of sub-collections that play with colour, form, and different dimensions; from the ‘Lucky Alhambra’ designs, which incorporate heart, butterfly, leaf, and star motifs, to the ‘Byzantine Alhambra’ styles, which celebrate the clover silhouette in solid and openwork gold.
WHO HAS WORN THEM?
Since its creation, the ‘Alhambra’ collection has been worn by tastemakers and style icons the world over – from Françoise Hardy and Princess Grace of Monaco in the 1970s (who owned several Alhambra pieces within her personal collection), along with Elizabeth Taylor, who famously collected Van Cleef & Arpels jewels, to modern-day models and royals.
Grace Kelly wearing the ’Alhambra’ collection
Catherine, the Princess of Wales has worn a parure of ‘Magic Alhambra’ jewels to several formal functions, showcasing a necklace and earrings in the classic mother-of-pearl and yellow gold colourway – the perfect companion to pale-hued silks and satins. ‘
Alhambra’s designs are no stranger to street style stars either – regularly spotted within scintillating necklace stacks at fashion week.
WHERE TO BUY
Over the decades, the ‘Alhambra’ collection has expanded to include earrings, rings, bracelets, and petite pendants, available in myriad precious stones – from malachite and mother of pearl to carnelian, agate, and onyx.
Buying directly from Van Cleef & Arpels offers the largest selection of designs, but pieces can also be found at luxury retailers such as Selfridges. Meanwhile, Vestiaire Collective has a selection of pre-loved pieces, while auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Phillips often include Van Cleef & Arpels ‘Alhambra’ designs in their fine jewellery sales, celebrated for holding both their re-sale value and their timeless appeal.
Read more at Harper's Bazaar.