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Controversial Couture

Obama campaign: Dr. Biden wears costume jewelry

Joe Biden with wife, Jill wearing Van Cleef & Arpels Vintage Alhambra necklace
• September 11, 2012 5:00 am

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A spokesman for Dr. Jill Biden disputed a Washington Free Beacon report last week that the second lady donned a five-figure designer necklace during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, but the spokesman also did not identify the necklace's provenance.

Dr. Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, emerged from an airplane Tuesday of last week sporting what appeared to be a Van Cleef & Arpels Vintage Alhambra necklace in Pink Gold and Pink Sevres Porcelain, which is priced at around $14,000.

The limited edition designer necklace, a version of which will soon be on display in the West Wing of Paris’ Louvre museum, is not available for purchase in the United States and is "exclusive" to the couture jeweler’s Paris boutique, a Van Cleef representative told the Free Beacon. Some versions of the necklace sell for as much as $21,495.

However, the Obama campaign denied that Dr. Biden was wearing the designer necklace.

"The necklace is just a piece of costume jewelry," Julie Ziemba, an Obama campaign spokesperson, wrote to the Free Beacon.

"Costume jewelry" is a term used for jewelry made with semi-precious materials.

However, the similarity between Dr. Biden’s necklace and Van Cleef's product description suggests that the necklace, if it is not an actual Van Cleef, may be a "knock off"— a term used to refer to low-cost counterfeits of expensive brand name items. Knock offs can be purchased from online vendors such as Ebay and Sparklz, as well as on the streets of New York City, among other places.

The Obama administration has made combatting the influx of counterfeit consumer goods a priority, recently celebrating the disruption of a $325 million Chinese counterfeiting ring.

Ziemba, who identified herself in an email to the Free Beacon as a representative from the "Office of Dr Jill Biden," is an Obama campaign staffer who formerly served as the associate director of public affairs and communications at the National Zoo.

Ziemba did not respond to a request for comment Monday inquiring where the fake jewelry was purchased and at what cost.

A White House spokesperson in Dr. Biden’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Van Cleef appeared to dispute Team Obama’s account, however.

When approached by the Free Beacon with a picture of Dr. Biden de-planing with the jewels around her neck, a Van Cleef customer service representative said the Vintage Alhambra 20-motif necklace in Pink Gold and Pink Sevres Porcelain is "a limited edition" that is only available in Paris.

In a follow up conversation on Monday, a Van Cleef & Arpels "brand ambassador" said that there is an ongoing investigation within the marketing and press team.

While a "20-motif raspberry pink porcelain motif necklace" sells for around $21,495, Dr. Biden donned a "12-motif necklace." Motifs refer to the number of bejeweled links in the necklace’s chain.

The Van Cleef & Arpels brand ambassador maintained that Dr. Biden might have been wearing a 10-motif necklace with an additional five-motif bracelet added to give the chain supplementary length.

The spokesperson also maintained that Dr. Biden would have had to purchase the necklace in one of the designer’s Parisian Boutiques.

Van Cleef & Arpel describe the high-priced necklace on its website thusly: "The Alhambra collection in Sèvres porcelain unites Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry craftsmanship with the métier d’art of porcelain, requiring more than 20 steps to create. Alhambra long-necklaces, bracelets and pendants will be adorned with Bleu de Sèvres porcelain motifs, the French manufacture’s signature, and raspberry pink porcelain motifs, a colour specially created for Van Cleef & Arpels. The collection is presented exclusively in our Parisian boutiques from September 2012."

Published under: Joe Biden, Obama Campaign