Van Cleef & Arpels An Elegant and Iconic Lapis Lazuli, Sapphire and Diamond 'Zip' Necklace.
Lot 656 in Jewels & Jadeite, Hong Kong.
Often hidden on modern-day garments as a functional component, zippers were invented in the late 19th century specifically for use in high-button boots. By the 1930s, they made their way into haute couture as a practical substitute for buttons and hook-and-eye closures.
The Duchess of Windsor (left) is credited with inspiring the innovative design. Photography: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Legend has it that the Duchess of Windsor saw this humble fastener on a dress created by one of her favorite couturiers, Elsa Schiaparelli, and in 1938 she told Renée Puissant, then Creative Director of Van Cleef & Arpels, how she thought it could be transformed into an amazing piece of jewelry. The Maison eventually fulfilled that wish and made an accessory far beyond the Duchess’ imagination.
The idea to translate a zipper into an elegant piece of jewelry proved to be technically challenging. Even with the exceptional prowess of Van Cleef & Arpels, who also famously invented the emblematic mystery-set™, it took their craftsmen more than a decade to perfect the ‘zip’ mechanism. The first-ever zip necklace (collier fermeture éclair in French) debuted in 1951, with an ingenious design that allows it to be zipped open as a necklace and zipped together into a bracelet.
Very few examples have been made since then, which could be explained by the amount of time required to complete one necklace – anywhere from 400 to 1200 hours with skilled craftsmen. The ‘zip’ is composed of a series of tiny gold or platinum cups held by hooks, which mesh with each other when brought together by a sliding closure. Aside from the technical mastery, the versatility of the zip necklace was also the reason for its iconic status in the high jewelry world.
Aside from the technical mastery, the versatility of the zip necklace was also the reason for its iconic status.
Van Cleef & Arpels An Elegant and Iconic Lapis Lazuli, Sapphire and Diamond 'Zip' Necklace / Bracelet
In recent years, Van Cleef & Arpels revisited the design and created a limited number of zip necklaces, experimenting with various lengths, different closure configurations and daring color combinations of gemstones. Many of the longer versions function only as a necklace.
This zip necklace on offer, studded with an elegant palette of blue gemstones and diamonds, belongs to the very few examples that appear in international auctions. It is an exemplary jewel, honoring the original idea of convertibility into a bracelet, with an attractive lapis lazuli tassel charm. The 18 karat white gold sets it apart from vintage examples of the same design, heightening the gems’ refined tone of ultramarine. At the heart of this masterpiece remains the originality of the Maison’s creation and highly specialized and exclusive artistry.