Return of the Zip

Van Cleef & Arpels looks to its past to fashion a functional future

Antique Zip necklace model.

Van Cleef & Arpels fastened its reputation as a maker of transformable jewellery with the Zip, worn open as a necklace or closed as a bracelet, launched in 1950.

The Paris-based jewellery house previously filed a patent and designed a zipper-inspired necklace in 1938, but the unstable backdrop of World War II delayed the creation of convertible pieces.

The maison will showcase Zip creations and craftsmanship during the Homo Faber exhibition held from Sunday until May 1, at the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice, Italy.

Organised by the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship, Homo Faber highlights artisanal skills through live demonstrations, digital experiences and original displays of handcrafted creations.

Over the three-week period, craftspeople will present the diversity of techniques, materials and expertise behind the creation of exceptional decorative or functional pieces.

The six Van Cleef & Arpels artisans include high-jewellery experts and recent graduates, who will perform the demonstrations in pairs to show the savoir-faire and to illustrate the daily transfer of knowledge occurring within the maison's workshops.

Assembling a Zip necklace fastener. Bertrand Moulin

Historically zip fasteners were considered as functional, appearing on the garments of pilots and sailors as well as couture. Artistic director Renée Puissant envisioned a zip fastener made of precious materials, with the gold creation opened and closed by sliding a tassel.

Exhibited pieces include a transformable yellow gold necklace with rubies and diamonds from 1954; a platinum and yellow gold necklace with emeralds and diamonds from 1952; and a matching bracelet with the same materials from 1955.

The showcase will also demonstrate the crafting of two contemporary necklaces, one of which is structured by the emblematic Ludo mesh. Thanks to the highly-flexible mesh, the Zip is as supple as fabric, draping gracefully over the neckline.

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