I have updated this former post with some new information. A customer was recently asking me about the history of the zip necklace and I thought I would publish this piece again.
While truly a jewelry innovator throughout it’s long and distinguished history, Van Cleef & Arpels has one design that stands out above all of the rest, the legendary Zip necklace. VCA has created another spectacular version this year using sapphires, chrysoprase, turquoise and of course gobs of diamonds. Sorry I don’t have a photo for you!
The zipper was invented in late 19th century America as a fastening for boots. It was seen as a very useful humble invention, not sophisticated in any way. In 1938, the Duchess of Windsor suggested to Renée Puissant, Van Cleef & Arpels artistic director and daughter of Alfred Van Cleef, that she should create a piece of jewelry using the idea of a zip fastener, the new fangled invention at the time. The duchess frequently sported Elsa Schiaparelli looks with exposed zippers, a novel concept at the time.
It took 12 years to reinterpret the mechanism of the sliding fastener for jewelry and to introduce the Zip necklace. It has become one of Van Cleef & Arpels’ most iconic pieces. The necklace, produced in 1950, was an outstanding technical achievement. It was in its heyday in the 1950s and is seeing a resurgence in popularity today.
Even the simplest “zip styles” require at least 400 hours of labor; more ornate versions can top 1,200 hours, calling on the expertise of artisans from jewelers and setters to polishers and lapidaries.
Margot Robbie wore a $1.5 million sapphire and diamond Zip necklace to last year’s 2015 Oscars. “It is worth more than my life” she gushed in dramatic Hollywood fashion.
One of the most wonderful features of the necklace is that it is also a bracelet! Detachable, multi-purpose pieces of jewelry have always been a speciality of Van Cleef & Arpels. Who wouldn’t want a piece of jewelry that could be worn two, three or four ways?
Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond Zip necklace and bracelet, circa 1955.
Drawing and registry of Van Cleef & Arpels diamond Zip necklace.
Van Cleef & Arpels ruby, emerald, sapphire and diamond necklace, circa 1951.
Van Cleef & Arpels Pierres de Caractère Zip Elegance necklace transformable into a bracelet in white gold, with round diamonds, onyx and red coral motifs and beads, and white cultured pearls, circa 2013.
Van Cleef & Arpels Zip bracelet.