Last fall, I asked a friend who is not intimidated by anyone, if she would go with me to Van Cleef and Arpels (VCA) in NYC. I had often passed by the impressive jeweler which is connected to Bergdorf Goodman but never had the nerve to walk in. I had seen a picture of Reese Witherspoon and loved her necklace. With a bit of research, I found out it was from the Alhambra collection at VCA. SO it looked like I was going to have to steady my nerves and take the plunge if I wanted to see this necklace up close.
So on a rainy day, Annie and I trekked into the store drenched. As we were dripping on the plush carpet, a gorgeous woman named Carla greeted us with a friendly smile and a very polite but warm, "How may I help you?". I stuttered my interest in the Alhambra collection and when she asked which one, I nearly bolted. Seeing my consternation, she smiled widely and invited us to take a seat while she introduced us to VCA and all things Alhambra. She wasn't interested in a sale (especially since I mentioned or blurted I was just browsing) but in gaining a customer.
For the next hour or more, Carla draped pieces around my neck and wrists asking some questions about what I like to wear, how often I wore my jewelry and what my favorite pieces in my collection were (I didn't dare say, "what collection of jewelry?") As she got me to talk about myself she started pulling more pieces from their trays and gently clasped and unclasped pieces until she could gauge my reaction. She talked about the history of the vintage, lucky and magic alhambra pieces which start at $2,000 for a pendant to over $60,000 for a diamond 20 piece confection. There is also sweet alhambra which is marketed to teens (please don't get me started here but I suppose there is a market). All are exquisitely made looking far more delicate than they feel. Some are limited editions, like the chalcedony pieces so once they are gone they are truly gone. These are not pieces meant to stay in a vault but meant to be worn and collected throughout life. You are encouraged to mix and match or link a few together. They are often copied but the originals are breathtaking.
Carla never rushed or pressured me to buy but finally I knew I had to have one (for those curious - the above picture shows what I bought - but in the white gold mother of pearl version). Since this original purchase, I have been gifted with a bracelet (that they flew in overnight for my husband) and continue to save for my next piece. Carla indeed did not just get a sale, she now has a customer who cannot wait for another visit. The New York store is located at 744 5th Avenue and the store is closed on Sundays. For those who win big in Vegas you can also visit the store at the Palazzo shops where the staff is equally attentive.
If you are interested in spending your hard earned money on a luxury item - I highly recommend a visit to Carla. This is how shopping should be in NYC; you will not regret the experience, even if you are just looking.
Picture above is from the VCA catalogue. The website is www.vancleef-arpels.com