Play Button
Back to Blogs

The Mystery Setting - A Van Cleef & Arpels Masterpiece Fetches €137,500 at Adam's

August 26, 2022

Patented in 1933, Van Cleef & Arpels celebrated ‘Serti Mystérieux’ or ‘Mystery Setting’ marked a serious advancement in jewellery making. Developed by the renowned jeweller Alfred Langlois, who had been creating work exclusively for the maison since the year prior, the technique which would soon become synonymous with fine jewellery craftmanship was simple in concept but complex in execution. Although other maisons such as Cartier and Chaumet had also investigated this technique in their respective workshops, it would Van Cleef & Arpels that would release this revolution in jewellery making to the world.

The Mystery Setting “is a technique which allows the jeweller to model any form, any movement”. The setting is so called for the apparently invisible mounting of the stones, an effect which makes them almost look as though they are floating. The method involves setting precious stones independent of any visible claws or prongs, allowing the full richness of the stone to create a dazzling landscape of colour for the viewer without the intrusion of metals. However, achieving this effect requires great skill from the jeweller, of which only a few in the world hold the ability, and it can take months to produce just one piece of jewellery. First, the stones must be cut to size, creating even, small chips that will lay alongside each other in perfect symmetry. These small chips are then whittled even further to create a groove at their base. This groove then allows the stone to slot neatly into the lattice that will secure it in place. The lattice, or rail, which consists of tiny wires no more than 0.2mm thick, is then placed in the main structure of the piece, acting a keystone by locking the stones in position. Each stone must line up exactly with one another to remain set and avoid gaps to create the seamless look that catapulted Van Cleef & Arpels to the lofty position they hold in the jewellery world to this day.

Once the technique was mastered, the maison moved quickly and the Mystery Setting would feature heavily in their output. Initially the setting could only be applied to flat surfaces, such as cigar boxes and beauty compacts, but in 1935 the highly coveted Boule ring would be released, a design consisting of a thick, convex dome studded with rubies and sapphires that still appears prominently in the maison’s contemporary collections. A flood of brooches, necklaces and bracelets would follow and with them, the attention of the era’s style icons, such as the Duchess of Windsor. The ‘Deux feuilles’, or two leaves, design in particular lent itself well to capturing the depth of colour the Mystery Setting evokes.

Other techniques would be developed from the Mystery Setting by Van Cleef &Arpels; the Navette Mystery Set, created in 2000, utilises marquise-cut stones to create a more 3D effect echoing the depth of a bird’s plumage and flower petals, while the Vitrail Mystery Set, created in 2012, also conceals the back of the mount and gives the stones a translucency that plays with light and reflection. Although rubies were initially preferred for the setting, the maison would gradually enter sapphires, emeralds (previously deemed too brittle), and diamonds into the roster, such as in the ‘Licorne’ brooch from their 2016 Noah’s Ark collection which featured sapphires, emeralds, diamonds and turquoise in the traditional Mystery Setting.

A wonderful example of the setting featured in Adam's Fine Jewellery & Watches auction on September 13th in the form of a Rare & Collectible Mystery-Set Sapphire and Diamond Flower Brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels, which fetched the staggering amount of €137,500. The consistent appearance of the Mystery Setting in contemporary collections speaks to its perfection as a method, and in the resulting jewellery, as it continues to delight and intrigue jewellery lovers, and lovers of fine craftsmanship, around the world.

Explore this lot
Claire-Laurence Mestrallet
Director

Share this article

Post a Comment

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Written by:
Claire-Laurence Mestrallet
Director
Read more from
Claire-Laurence Mestrallet
Recent Articles from
Claire-Laurence Mestrallet

Recent Articles

Leading Lots in Important Irish Art Sale
November 30, 2023

Leading Lots in Important Irish Art Sale

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Indy Parsons
November 30, 2023

Through the Eyes of Indy Parsons

Irish author, recipe creator and lifestyle influencer, Indy Parsons, selects her favourite pieces from our upcoming Fine Jewellery & Watches auction

Continue Reading
The Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk - A Hallmark of Travelling in Style
November 13, 2023

The Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk - A Hallmark of Travelling in Style

Continue Reading
Patrick Pye - A Personal Collection : Online Pictures Sale
November 10, 2023

Patrick Pye - A Personal Collection : Online Pictures Sale

Continue Reading
Mid-Century Modern Auction
November 1, 2023

Mid-Century Modern Auction

Continue Reading
Highlights of the 'Country House Collection' Sale
October 12, 2023

Highlights of the 'Country House Collection' Sale

Continue Reading
Jack Butler Yeats' 'Sligo Quay' Leads Irish Art Sale
September 29, 2023

Jack Butler Yeats' 'Sligo Quay' Leads Irish Art Sale

Continue Reading
Important Irish Furniture: The 'Blessington Commode' at Townley Hall
September 29, 2023

Important Irish Furniture: The 'Blessington Commode' at Townley Hall

Continue Reading
Best-sellers List: Norah O'Kelly in our Irish Art Sale
September 29, 2023

Best-sellers List: Norah O'Kelly in our Irish Art Sale

Continue Reading
Highlight of the 'Fine Jewellery & Watches Auction'
September 14, 2023

Highlight of the 'Fine Jewellery & Watches Auction'

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Athena McAlpine
September 8, 2023

Through the Eyes of Athena McAlpine

Continue Reading
At Home Sale Starts Off The Autumn Auction Calendar
August 24, 2023

At Home Sale Starts Off The Autumn Auction Calendar

Continue Reading
The House of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac
May 24, 2023

The House of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Sarah Greene
April 28, 2023

Through the Eyes of Sarah Greene

Cork-born Irish actress, Sarah Greene, selects her favourite pieces from our upcoming Fine Jewellery & Watches auction

Continue Reading
How a Swedish artist came to paint an Ottoman Admiral...
April 3, 2023

How a Swedish artist came to paint an Ottoman Admiral...

Continue Reading
Irish Vernacular Auction featuring original furnishings from 'The Banshees of Inisherin'
March 24, 2023

Irish Vernacular Auction featuring original furnishings from 'The Banshees of Inisherin'

Continue Reading
Date night?
February 10, 2023

Date night?

Continue Reading
Orpen's Lover in Disguise
February 7, 2023

Orpen's Lover in Disguise

Yvonne Aupicq had met Orpen, we understand, while working as a nurse during the war. He had been admitted to hospital with a suspected case of scabies which ended up being a far more serious case of blood poisoning as he recounts in his wartime memoir ‘An Onlooker in France’. Their relationship continued after 1918 when Orpen was appointed as the official artist to The Paris Peace Conference. They relocated to capital and over the following decade he painted her numerous times, often nude as in Amiens 1914, or The Rape and Nude Girl Reading (1921). Working with her as his model during these early years after the war allowed Orpen an opportunity to re-fuel his creativity.

Continue Reading
What your drink says about you
December 16, 2022

What your drink says about you

Continue Reading
Colin Middleton's Slievenisky
November 29, 2022

Colin Middleton's Slievenisky

Continue Reading
The Curated Collection of Mahmut Balkir
November 8, 2022

The Curated Collection of Mahmut Balkir

Continue Reading
Turbulent Irish History lies at the forefront of our Country House Collection at Townley Hall
October 5, 2022

Turbulent Irish History lies at the forefront of our Country House Collection at Townley Hall

Continue Reading
Fisherman with Lobster, c.1937
September 21, 2022

Fisherman with Lobster, c.1937

Continue Reading
Through the Eyes of Lizzie Gore-Grimes
August 30, 2022

Through the Eyes of Lizzie Gore-Grimes

Editor-in-Chief of IMAGE Publications, Lizzie Gore-Grimes, selects her favourite pieces from our upcoming Fine Jewellery & Watches auction

Continue Reading
Vintage Posters from the Collection of John Rogers Online Sale
July 21, 2022

Vintage Posters from the Collection of John Rogers Online Sale

Continue Reading
Rediscovered Masterpieces by William Ashford PPRHA
May 18, 2022

Rediscovered Masterpieces by William Ashford PPRHA

Our June auction offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the great masterpieces of Irish art and icons of Dublin’s history.

Continue Reading
Job Vacancies
April 29, 2022

Job Vacancies

Continue Reading
A Fascinating Collection of Treasures in the upcoming Library Sale
April 23, 2022

A Fascinating Collection of Treasures in the upcoming Library Sale

Continue Reading
Let's Talk Wine - A Crowd Pleaser, The Perfect Gift & one for The Big Spender
April 21, 2022

Let's Talk Wine - A Crowd Pleaser, The Perfect Gift & one for The Big Spender

Georgia Chiesa selects some of her favourite lots in the upcoming Vintage Wine & Spirits Auction

Continue Reading
Dalmatians are a Fireman's Best Friend
April 20, 2022

Dalmatians are a Fireman's Best Friend

Continue Reading
Before there were Maps, there was 'Beating the Bounds'
April 12, 2022

Before there were Maps, there was 'Beating the Bounds'

"Beating the bounds is a tradition that can be traced back to the medieval period. At this time, land was divided into parishes and the clergy and church wardens held the responsibility for its upkeep and management. It was up to the Church to ensure that its parishioners knew the local boundary lines and, before maps became commonplace, this had to be kept as a mental record."

Continue Reading
Adam's to Hold Auction in Aid of Ukraine
April 5, 2022

Adam's to Hold Auction in Aid of Ukraine

Adam’s in conjunction with Suzanne MacDougald are proud to host an online timed auction of artworks to aid the Irish Red Cross’s humanitarian work in delivering vital services to millions of people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. With no buyers premium 100% of the hammer price will go directly to the Irish Red Cross.

Continue Reading
Sunday Business Post covers A Leading Lot, Jack B. Yeats in Tonight's Important Irish Art Sale
March 30, 2022

Sunday Business Post covers A Leading Lot, Jack B. Yeats in Tonight's Important Irish Art Sale

Ros Drinkwater writes of Jack B Yeats' 'The Boat' in the Business Post:

Continue Reading
Roderic O'Conor Headlines the Irish Art Auction at Adam's Auctioneers
March 2, 2022

Roderic O'Conor Headlines the Irish Art Auction at Adam's Auctioneers

Continue Reading
A Fruitful Result for the At Home Auction
February 28, 2022

A Fruitful Result for the At Home Auction

With a consolidated result of €320,000,the At Home sale in Stephan’s Green, was a great success.

Continue Reading
Behind the Scenes of our 'At Home' Catalogue Shoot
February 17, 2022

Behind the Scenes of our 'At Home' Catalogue Shoot

Continue Reading
Welcome to the Adam’s Blog!
February 16, 2022

Welcome to the Adam’s Blog!

Continue Reading
See More