When the Great Depression took hold in the early 1930s, fine jewelers scrambled to make their extravagant wares seem if not utilitarian at least a bit more versatile. Who needed a ball-worthy diadem that sat in a velvet box for much of the year, or an unwieldy cocktail ring? And so along came convertible jewelry — a single piece that could be configured in multiple ways. The most famous of these was Van Cleef & Arpels’s Zip necklace, with diamond teeth that could be zipped up to become a bracelet. The Surrealist design was suggested to the jeweler by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, in 1938 after one of Simpson’s favorite couturiers, Elsa Schiaparelli, began to use the newfangled fastener on her designs instead of buttons. Today, the Paris-based house continues to experiment with such chameleonic creations, most recently this massive articulated collar with a detachable pendant and brooch. Adorned with more than 60 large rubies and a veritable mine of white diamonds, the two roses, which can be worn together as a clip, were fashioned by a proprietary method in which stones are set almost invisibly in a sculpturelike armature. The monumental piece, whether pinned to a lapel or draped around the neck, may not be built for practicality this time around, but it surely illustrates the beauty of always remaining adaptable.
Van Cleef & Arpels Italian Rose transformable clip, price on request, vancleefarpels.com.
Digital tech: Paulo Placencia. Photo assistant: Karl Leitz