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The Incredible Story Behind Jackie Kennedy’s Engagement Ring

You won't believe who really put a ring on it.
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In 1953, when Jacqueline Lee Bouvier became engaged to dashing Senator John Fitzgerald [Jack] Kennedy, the young American socialite was missing an important accessory: an engagement ring.

“I haven’t one yet,” she told reporters. “Jack and I have looked at dozens of them. Some I didn’t like and others weren’t the right type.”

Though the swarthy Kennedy was a known lothario, the future US president apparently didn’t have a romantic bone in his body, so the all-important ring purchase was, surprisingly, left to his father (pictured below, kissing the bride on her wedding day).

Jackie and JFK wedding day with Jack Kennedy Sr
Jackie and JFK on their wedding day along with the father of the groom, Joe Kennedy Sr (Credit: Getty)

Kennedy Snr turned to the fashionable Fifth Avenue showroom of Van Cleef & Arpels, and selected a classically French-style toi et moi ring that boasted a 2.84-carat emerald, nestled alongside a 2.88-carat diamond.

Unsurprisingly, the style went on to become a jewellery icon – heralding a generation of copycats (despite the fact Jackie famously returned to the store for a redesign). The ring purchase certainly didn’t harm the jeweller either, helping to cement Van Cleef & Arpels as the go-to designer for fairytale romances.

Which is why it’s worth taking note when the French maison debuts a new high jewellery collection worthy of many big romantic gestures.

VCA,
Van Cleef & Arpels Cascades de diamants earrings, Dôme de diamants ring, and Hollywood bracelet, all POA, vancleefarpels. com/au. (Credit: Erik Madigan Heck)

The house rolls out 1-2 new collections annually, and in February it debuted the second chapter of its Legend of Diamonds line.

This new White Diamonds variations range focuses on the timeless appeal of white diamonds, and with 82 new necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets and brooches all showcasing sparkling white diamonds, the lineup is stunning. Apart from the OTT frosting, each design takes inspiration from a different era of Van Cleef & Arpels’ expansive back catalogue, from the art deco styles of the prewar years to the show-stopper maximalist jewels of the 1980s.

For example, the Hollywood bracelet instantly brings to mind the Art Deco lines of the 1930s. Created in rose gold, white gold and adorned with white diamonds, the design is a nod to the maison’s tradition of ribbon bracelets launched in the 1920s, while the wide links allow it to perfectly hug the curve of the wrist. 

Another showstopper inspired by decades past is the Dôme de diamants ring. The Dôme was first launched in 1943 and has been reinvented many times, including the popular Flame ring of 1959. The high volume design boasts a generous cluster of round diamonds nestled together on a white gold mount. 

In the same collection, the Cascades de diamants earrings create the appearance of cascading waterfalls, complete with baguette-cut diamonds that hang freely at the bottom of the earrings moving along with the wearer’s movements. These memorable pieces are reminiscent of the innovative Cascade creations imagined by Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1950s.

Knowing the maison only ever uses diamonds of the highest graded quality, each original design in its latest collection has the potential to be a forever piece. Some may even say: like something out of a fairytale. 

The Legend of Diamonds collection can be viewed online at vancleefarpels.com/au.

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