Van Cleef and Arpels Opens on Alberni

The heritage brand brings a little sparkle (and a lot of whimsy) to Vancouver's unofficial jewellery district.

The heritage brand brings a little sparkle (and a lot of whimsy) to Vancouver’s unofficial jewellery district.

My grandfather was a jeweller (I’m sure you’re familiar with Saskatoon’s own Stacey’s Jewellers? No? Moving on.) and is constantly flummoxed by my lack of interest in all things glittery. I have a sock drawer full of gold chains and birthstone bracelets he’s given me (please don’t rob me) that I never wear. When my husband wanted give me an engagement ring, I picked out a silver ring that was set with a piece of black quartz that I immediately accidentally broke. Oops.So, really, when I was invited to the opening of  the brand new Van Cleef and Arpels boutique, my first thought was that I should just send ol’ Gramps (or as he prefers to be called to maintain a youthful mystique, “Grandma’s Husband”) in my place. He would be much better equipped than I to appreciate the heritage brand’s dazzling diamonds and intricate artisanal watches. His Instagram game needs some work, however, so ultimately, I had to get the job done myself. Channelling his keen eye, I set off for Alberni Street, which has become the unofficial watch-and-gems district over the past few years—and the new home for Van Cleef.Luckily, it turned out that even the jewellery-challenged can appreciate the craftsmanship and history on display here. Van Cleef and Arpels first set up shop in 1895 in Paris, and though its wares have been available at Vancouver’s Birks store for a few years now, this new dedicated boutique is one of just two in Canada, and the second largest in North America at 4,000 square feet. It feels more like an apartment than a store, with Murano glass chandeliers, a curving staircase and thick carpeting under foot—plus, iron art deco room dividers that made me want to just move right in.But obviously the crown jewel (pun very much intended) of the space are the whimsical, vintage-inspired creations. Display cases are filled with VC&A’s iconic clover-shaped Alhambra designs and jewel-encrusted convertible zipper necklaces (a custom project requested originally by Queen Victoria). There’s a femininity and a playfulness to be found throughout all of the collections. The Poetry in Time watches, for one, crafted in Geneva, each tell a tiny story on the intricate dial—on the Lovers Bridge watch, in place of minute or second hands, two enamel people cross a bridge towards each other to meet and kiss on the hour.All in all: a space and a collection of beautifully crafted treasures that would make Grandma’s Husband swoon. I’ll start saving for a Poetic Astronomy watch for his stocking next year, but for now, maybe just a little family field trip to the shop to enjoy a little sparkle together will be gift enough.Van Cleef and Arpels, now open at 1069 Alberni St.