Alice van Cal is trying to achieve a balance in fine jewellery. The designer, who has gained recognition for her signature four-way transformable jewels, has created a refreshingly contemporary brand that is an appealingly entwined combination of versatility, colour and sentiment.
Van Cal, who left her native Belgium for London in 2010, cut her teeth in the belly of some of the biggest players in fine jewellery. “As long as I can remember, I have always loved jewellery,” she says. “I was determined to pursue my passion, so I started working at [watchmaker] Baume & Mercier, owned by the Richemont group. I was 22 years old, speaking very little English. Very soon, I found my way into the Cartier workshops [also part of Richemont], and started spending all my free time there to learn as much as possible about jewellery.”
While soaking up the expertise in the Cartier workshops – fascinated by how “those elegant drawings become proper pieces of jewellery” – van Cal started to feel the presence of a gap in the market. What was it that was missing from these institutions that made her want to work for herself rather than an established maison?
Coourful, versatile talismans
“I wanted to explore versatile pieces that could be worn in multiple ways for different occasions, and that allowed experimentation and creativity from those who chose to wear them,” she recalls. “Also, I wanted to be colourful. I felt [such colour] was only existing in cocktail rings, but not everyday pieces of jewellery.”
In 2018, van Cal took the plunge and started her own fine jewellery brand, on a mission to make jewels that were colourful, versatile and talismanic. “I am a strong believer that jewellery is an amulet,” says van Cal, who ambitiously timed the launch of her jewellery brand with the birth of her first child. “You buy it for special reasons in your life and when you wear it, it reminds you of that. I give names to the pieces of jewellery I cherish the most, because when I speak about them, they are more than just a stone set in gold. What I wanted to make was a versatile piece of jewellery that women can wear in different ways in order to wear it every day, always having it with them as a talisman.”
On this concept, Alice van Cal launched with a single hero product, The Alice. “In my opinion, the major change in recent years comes from women,” says van Cal, who works exclusively in 18ct gold and sources all her gemstones ethically from reputable suppliers. “Women started buying jewellery for themselves instead of receiving it as gifts. Therefore, they are searching for pieces they can wear every day that are meaningful to them. This trend inspired me to design The Alice, a transformable piece of jewellery.”
The gem-set Alice jewel can be adapted to be worn in four different ways – as a pendant, a bracelet, a hand jewel and a single drop earring (watch the video below for a full breakdown). It allows women to express themselves, and their investment, in some pretty dazzling carats, with combinations such as green emeralds and pink sapphires, or blue opal, aquamarine and blue sapphires.
Famous names have flocked to The Alice, including Lady Amelia Windsor, TV presenter Annabel Croft and influencers including Lolita Mas and Andreea Cristea. Yet this early success should not be confused with that of the overnight variety – it took van Cal six years to get the prototype for The Alice right.
Since the launch of The Alice, van Cal has expanded her range. Alongside the brand’s iconic jewel, you will now find other temptresses, such as arresting blue sapphire studs set in 18ct white gold and an incredible Rat Tail single swirl earring of red rubies spiralling around a white diamond, which pays homage to the Chinese zodiac year.
Alice van Cal’s latest collection, Rainbow, comprises four new designs. Gem-set eye and star motif ear jackets to fit over studs build on her existing Halo jewels. The Journey ring complements its namesake bracelet from an earlier collection with simple gold bands set half with diamonds and half with coloured gemstones. In a similar vein, The Dusk and Dawn necklace is half set with rainbow sapphires and half with diamonds, allowing wearers to twist the necklace accordingly, depending on their penchant for colour or monochrome.
The Alice is also set for a revamp in 2020, with yet another way to wear it being incorporated into the design. Though exactly how it will do this – or what the fifth way to wear it will be – will remain a closely guarded secret until its launch, so watch this space.
Designer Alice van Cal showing off the versatility of The Alice
Alice van Cal 18ct rose gold, diamond and emerald The Alice, as a pendant
Alice van Cal 18ct gold, diamond and gemstone Union bracelets and The Alice worn as a hand jewel
Alice van Cal 18ct gold and emerald stud with 18ct gold and coloured sapphire Rainbow Star jacket
What I wanted to make was a versatile piece of jewellery that women can wear in different ways in order to wear it every day, always having it with them as a talisman
Three out of four ways to wear The Alice by Alice van Cal
Alice van Cal 18ct gold, diamond and gemstone Union bracelets and blue opal The Alice worn as a hand jewel>
Alice van Cal gold, diamonds and yellow sapphire Union bracelets and Alice pendant