Monnaie de Paris: Third “French Excellence” Series Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Van Cleef and Arpels

Paris Mint "French Excellence"—Van Cleef and Arpels silver medal.

Paris Mint “French Excellence” / Van Cleef and Arpels silver medal, with mother-of-pearl butterfly.

Since 2014, the Monnaie de Paris have teamed up each year with one of 70 producers of French luxury goods to produce the “French Excellence” limited-edition coin series. Each year’s series brings together and celebrates two different kinds of craftsmanship. The Paris Mint’s contribution, of course, is metalwork. The first year’s partner, Baccarat, which was celebrating its 250th anniversary, brought the manufacture of fine crystal to the series. The second year, Sèvres–Cité de la Céramique (Sèvres City of Ceramics, a French national museum) brought the making of porcelain, in celebration of the 275th anniversary of the Manufacture de Sèvres (Sèvres Manufactory).

For 2016, the Paris Mint has partnered with the jeweler Van Cleef and Arpels for that company’s 110th anniversary, bringing together metalwork and diamonds. The mint has produced six euro-denominated, legal-tender coins; all are struck in Proof format and dated 2016, and all come with certificate of authenticity:

Denomination Metal Weight Diameter, Shape Mintage
€ 10 .900 silver 22.2 g 40 mm, quatrefoil 5,000
€ 50 .950 silver 5 oz. / 163.8 g 50 mm, round 500
€ 50 .920 gold 1/4 oz. / 8.45 g 22 mm, round 1,000
€ 200 .999 gold 1 oz. / 31.104 g 40 mm, quatrefoil 500
€ 500 .999 gold 5 oz. / 155.5 g 50 mm, round 99
€ 5,000 .999 gold 1 kg  85 mm, round (a) 11
Medal (numbered) .950 silver  385 g  81 mm, round 110

a. Based on the previous Baccarat kilo coin; the exact diameter is unknown, as the Van Cleef and Arpels kilo is not yet available.

The obverse design borrows from a fairy theme that has appeared in Van Cleef and Arpels designs since the 1940s. The fairy, butterfly (a VC&A motif since the 1920s), foliage, flowers, and birds are covered in faceted circles, suggestive of gemstones. On the 50-euro silver coin, the 500-euro gold coin, and the silver medal, the butterfly is inset with mother of pearl. On the gold kilo coin, the obverse butterfly is “set with 35 round and marquise-cut diamonds”; the reverse butterfly includes “one marquise diamond that represents the body and transparent portals that allow light to shine into the diamonds on the obverse” (quoted information courtesy of APMEX). The beaded reverse border recalls the beads of the Perlée collection, introduced by VC&A in the 1920s. The kilo coin is housed under a special glass dome, and comes with a magnifying glass, white leather purse, and white gloves. 

The reverse design depicts three stylized hands, representing the Van Cleef and Arpels craftsmen, or “Golden Hands.” A third VC&A design element is featured in the border of the round coins, and in the shape of the 10-euro silver and 200-euro gold coins: the quatrefoil shape of the iconic Alhambra design—a feature of VC&A jewelry since 1968.

Each of the coins is pictured below, except for the kilo, which is not yet available (see images near the bottom of the French Excellence Series page). The coins and medal can be ordered from the website of the Paris Mint.

Van Cleef and Arpels €10 silver Proof.

Van Cleef and Arpels €10 silver Proof, with quatrefoil shape.


Van Cleef and Arpels €50 silver Proof.

Van Cleef and Arpels €50 silver Proof, with mother-of-pearl butterfly.


Van Cleef and Arpels €50 gold Proof.

Van Cleef and Arpels €50 gold Proof.


Van Cleef and Arpels €200 gold Proof.

Van Cleef and Arpels €200 gold Proof, with quatrefoil shape.


Van Cleef and Arpels €500 gold Proof.

Van Cleef and Arpels €500 gold Proof, with mother-of-pearl butterfly.

APMEX stocks many of the current and previous French Excellence coins—including the kilo, if you have money to burn.

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