Woman wearing one of VC's signature zip necklaces. Image from Google.
Woman wearing one of VC’s signature zip necklaces. Image from Google.

Written for Shawati magazine. 

Creating high jewellery embodying the finest materials is a challenging enough exercise. But crafting expositions of beautiful creativity that seamlessly metamorphose –bracelets turning into a choker necklace, necklaces moulding themselves into a clip – is a form of high art best left to the purvey of Van Cleef & Arpels. The maison of high jewellery has long been recognized for its esoteric creations that have been coveted by famous names through history.

And now Van Cleef & Arpels is bringing its mastery of high jewellery that alters shape and function to the Design Days Dubai, a Middle Eastern design fair that celebrates the rare and unique in March 2013. Rare furniture rubs shoulders with eclectic examples of extraordinary design in Downtown Dubai. Van Cleef & Arpels’ history of lauding exceptional design makes the maison ideal as both sponsor and luxury partner for the event. This year, the high jeweller will showcase its heritage of metamorphosing precious art at the event– celebrating timeless pieces that can be worn in a multiplicity of ways.

Van Cleef & Arpels’ metamorphosing jewellery doesn’t merely demonstrate the highest impulses of art. It also venerates pieces that are versatile, able to match the wearer through changes in ensemble and mood, and perhaps most importantly carry within them the concept of renewal through mutability. The Passe-Partout necklace, Cadenas jewellery, famous Zip necklaces and between-the-finger rings all illustrate this fluidity of form and function. Many Van Cleef & Arpels creations pay homage to the art of transformation: the Socrate necklace’s delicate line of diamonds can be worn with all its flowers or with only the one, with the others then assuming the function of hair ornament or clips. Similarly, the Envol necklace features two intricate butterflies complementing a fine line of diamonds. While the smaller serves as a clasp and allows the wearer to adjust the length of the necklace, the larger can be detached and worn separately.

The maison’s journey into works of transforming art started with the Manchette bracelets – a transformable pair of bracelets first created in 1926 for Parisian social figure Daisy Fellowes that could also be worn together as chocker necklace. The Manchette bracelets were the first of many transformable examples of high jewellery designed for figures of repute. The Zip necklace was first sketched for the Duchess of Windsor in 1938, and was finally produced in 1951 as materials and processes finally caught up to avant garde design. In 1971, the Princess Agha Khan, born Sally Croker-Poole in India in 1940, was given the Indian Set by her consort. Prince Agha Khan had ordered for her an exceptional yellow gold Van Cleef & Arpels necklace that converts into two bracelets and a detachable pendant.

The same year, a dashing Richard Burton gifted beauty queen and actress Elizabeth Taylor the Barquerolles diamond, emerald and yellow gold choker – a Van Cleef & Arpels creation that was sufficiently versatile to be worn by the star as either a choker or two bracelets, with the lion’s face also capable of becoming a brooch while the detachable hoops the lion carries become pendants.

The maison of Van Cleef & Arpels has created objects that remain timeless in part due to their transformability, renewal and mutability. These exquisite specimens are now en route to Dubai, where they present an opportunity for connoisseurs to truly appreciate high jewellery as exceptional art.