Van Cleef & Arpels has quite the impressive history. Alfred Van Cleef watch and his uncle, Salomon Arpels, started the company way back in 1896. In 1906, they managed to pen up a store in one of the most storied addresses right across from the Ritz Carlton on Place Vendome in Paris. Throughout the early 20th century, the brand produced a series of innovative and celebrated jewelry designs.
Since the early 2000s, the company has been owned by Compagnie Financiere Richemont AG, the well-known Swiss luxury goods holding company.
Van Cleef & Arpels is one of the most famous luxury jewelers in the world. Their name is up there with Tiffany & Co, Cartier and Harry Winston. After more than a century in business, Van Cleef & Arpel now has boutiques all over the world.
I should get this out in the open right at the beginning. I have never been so offended or bothered by an experience in a jewelry store in my life. Van Cleef & Arpels is luxury brand and you expect a certain level of stuffiness going into an ultra-luxury retail store. But I have never been subjected to the level of arrogance and disservice than my brief experience in Van Cleef’s Beverly Hills location.
Jenny and I walked in from the corner of Rodeo dr and started to peruse the store. I have never in my life had a security guard follow me around a store before. Maybe we weren’t wearing the fanciest clothes, but this wasn’t my first luxury location I’ve every secret shopped (more about that later). The gentleman followed us around glaring at us from the start.
When a saleswoman finally sauntered over to help us, it was with an upturned nose. She made it a point that they cater to an “exclusive clientele”. She was so rude to us, I was tempted to walk out the door. Class and luxury should not be used as weak pretenses for arrogance and rudeness. She was also a terrible salesperson (more about that below).
I should point out that I have secret shopped many luxury retail stores. As we wrote in our reviews of Harry Winston and Tiffany & Co, the service was absolutely outstanding. There were no upturned noses or raised eyebrows. The staff was knowledgeable, helpful and classy. I may not think the final product is worth the premiums they charge, but I fully acknowledge that you receive a level of service and care that is truly luxurious. That is not the same as looking down at people.
Given that we were in Van Cleef, we decided to up our budget to see what they have to offer. We told her we were looking to spend $20,000 to $25,000 for a ring. After getting a condescendingly surprised look from the salesperson, she pulled out a few rings to show us.
The first one was a 1.03 E color, VVS2 clarity round diamond in a very nice pave setting. I asked her the price and she said it was $28,000. I was a little surprised considering that I told her that we wanted to spend around $20,000 with a max of $25,000. But the next line from her was the kicker. She just casually dropped that the price was for the diamond only. Stunned I asked how much the setting was.
To be fair, the diamonds were beautiful. That was not the issue I had. Now let’s take a look at some comparisons. Since we are looking at high end diamonds, we will compare them to the most perfectly cut diamonds I’ve ever seen; Brian Gavin’s Black Diamonds. Here is a stunning 1.01 D VVS2 from Brian Gavin for $14,470. This diamond is actually superior to the diamond we looked at in Van Cleef & Arpels yet it’s half the price. Even picking one of their more intricate setting styles, you’ll still come in saving about 55%
Van Cleef & Arpels seems like the last place I would ever recommend going to. Not only are their prices incredibly high and their selection extremely limited, but their customer service was beyond abysmal. I don’t think it’s a good idea to pay huge premiums from the high end retailers. But if you are doing it anyways, you are better off going with Harry Winston or Tiffany. That said, your best bet is to get a truly superb ring from Brian Gavin Diamonds or browse the selection of diamonds from the best engagement ring stores online.