Vintage Alhambra Pendant, the Timeless Lucky Charm


The world of fine jewelry is enormous. The more time you spend learning about it, the more you realize just how vast the landscape is for amazing jewelry pieces. One of the most interesting aspects of fine jewelry is the pre-owned and vintage pieces, which have historical significance. A great example of incredible craftsmanship combined with a storied brand that has lasted the test of time would be the vintage Alhambra pendant. After nearly 50 years since it’s creation, some might argue that the Alhambra pendant has never been more popular than it is right now.

For over fifty years, Van Cleef & Arpels have been making one of the most charming jewelry collections in the world. The vintage Alhambra pendant has been a symbol of luck and timeless elegance since 1968 when the first pieces were introduced. Originally, the design was inspired by the quatrefoil motifs found on the Alhambra Palace’s Moorish tiles in Granada, Spain. With the Alhambra pendants, Van Cleef & Arpels built on their tradition of creating lucky charms, something which the brand started in 1924 with the Touch Wood rings’ introduction.

The Beginning of Van Cleef & Arpels

The beginning of the remarkable brand begins with the daughter of a precious stone dealer, Estelle Arpels, meeting the son of a stonecutter, Alfred Van Cleef. The marriage of these two combined a passion for precious stones and marked the beginning of Van Cleef & Arpels. The couple eventually was able to open a boutique in Paris and attracted affluent customers looking for a wide variety of gemstones with unique and original designs. Soon, the jeweler attracted customer royalty, such as Prince Rainier of Monaco. Many other royal customers followed, and the brand began to build a reputation for flawless gemstones and innovative creations.

vintage alhambra pendant
Pre-owned Van Cleef & Arpels vintage Alhambra pendant in white gold. Currently offered on Ebay for around $4,000.

Alhambra Pendant Idea

In the early 1950s, Van Cleef & Arpels began to realize a growing demand for a type of fine jewelry, which could be worn not only as formal attire but as much more casual daytime pieces. Later in the 1960s, the first Alhambra pendant was released as a necklace with twenty clover-shaped motifs featuring signature beaded edges. It was almost an instant success and became enormously popular with celebrities who would often layer multiple necklaces of different gemstone combinations and sizes.

The vintage Alhambra pendant redefined fine jewelry because it could be worn at all times, not just for events. Gemstones such as diamonds, agate, onyx, tiger’s eye, malachite, and letterwood can be found in necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets. Vintage and pre-owned pendants can be found selling for anywhere between $2,500 to over $40,000.

vintage alhambra pendant
Vintage Alhambra pendant in a 5 motif bracelet and a 20-motif necklace in yellow gold with lapis lazul and diamonds.

Vintage Alhambra Pendant Popularity

Elizabeth Taylor, the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly, and Karen Graham were soon wearing the Alhambra pendants. New styles and renditions were released over the decades, adding different stone settings and chain lengths. The Alhambra pendant celebrity appeal fit perfectly with the Van Cleef history. The company had been associated with famous clients since its inception. Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, the Princess Faiza of Egypt, and even a sister of King Farouk all had Van Cleef pieces created for them. One of the most famous customers, the Duchess of Windsor, commissioned a sapphire-colored diamond Argentine flag brooch which sold at auction for $995,000.

Needless to say, Van Cleef & Arpels has done an amazing job solidifying its brand presence throughout the years. Their pieces retain their value exceptionally well over time because the brand is universally recognized for quality, craftsmanship, and heritage. In the video below, influential French photographer Sonia Sieff discusses her Alhambra pendant and the special meaning behind the iconic brand.

French photographer Sonia Sieff discusses the meaning behind her Alhambra pendant and the classic brand, Van Cleef & Arpels.
Making of the Alhambra collection by Van Cleef & Arpels

The Making of the Vintage Alhambra Pendant in French – Everything just sounds better in French.