Gems & Jewellery News

Fall in love with Van Cleef & Arpels’s transformable treasures


From the charmingly unconventional Zip necklace to the regal Legend of Diamonds Mystery Set Jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels, these iconic transformable treasures make a memorable impression.

When it comes to High Jewellery, Van Cleef & Arpels show great artistry and ingenuity in the creation of transformable jewellery. Nestled among many iconic jewels in the maison’s prolific oeuvre are the Zip necklace and Legend of Diamonds Mystery Set Jewels that warrant closer inspection to fully appreciate the vision and savoir-faire invested in bringing these masterpieces into reality. 

The Zip necklace

The Zip necklace is a remarkable technical feat within High Jewellery realms. Opening and closing like an actual zipper, it can instantly transform from an eye-catching necklace into a statement-piece bracelet. The humble fastener elevates to new heights as an icon to charm jewellery connoisseurs globally. 

A robust piece of jewellery that is easy to handle, the Zip necklace works identically to a regular zipper. The closure slides up and down, gliding while encouraging different styles of wear. Worn partially open or closed entirely to form a bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels succeeds in reinterpreting the mundane object with brilliant wit.

Drawing of a Zip necklace, 1955, Van Cleef & Arpels Archives

Inspiration for the daring concept comes from the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Throughout her life, many creations from Van Cleef & Arpels marked milestones in her love story with King Edward VIII. In the late 1930s, the duchess compelled Renée Puissant – the maison’s artistic director and daughter of the founding couple – to create a piece based on the zip fastener. The original design comprised yellow gold and diamonds mounted in platinum, finally produced in 1950. 

The original necklace incorporates two gold ribbons bordered with dainty hooks that fit into one another. The clever articulation technique gives the Zip necklace great flexibility and a playful yet functional character. Ensuring the graceful drape of the piece around the neck and on the wrist, the master jeweller goes to great lengths to finesse every aspect of the design. 

Over the years, the Zip necklace has been revisited in various iterations and remains a distinctive signature within Van Cleef & Arpels’ collections even today. It has been reworked with monochromatic gems and imbued with Oriental undertones for an exotic result. In contrast, the Zip Antique necklace is a faithful reproduction of the original model, working as a necklace or bracelet. Meanwhile, the Zip Couture necklace is a long piece that may adorn a décolleté or a bare back. 

While the Zip necklace spotlights attention to detail in manipulating gold, the creations within the Legend of Diamonds collection highlight Van Cleef & Arpels’ expertise in gem-setting as the 25 Mystery Set Jewels descend from a legendary diamond – the Lesotho Legend. Among the collection’s transformable marvels is the multi-dimensional Volutes Mystérieuses that exude the timeless elegance of the world of couture that the maison has frequently drawn inspiration from throughout history.

Van Cleef & Arpels Transformable Treasures


The tight lines of the bow echo diamond clips from the 1920s, while the diamonds on the ribbon’s border evoke the Art Deco style. The Traditional Mystery Set rubies give the earrings a velvety appearance, crossed in places by lines of rose gold and contrasting dramatically with the snow-set diamond choker. Every contour is accented by a subtle play of layers, reflecting the challenge the Mains d’Or overcame to adapt the Mystery Set to the creation’s convex shape. 

A 30.61-carat diamond sparkles in the centre of the necklace with a cutting that reveals intense brilliance. The symmetry of the facets and the depth of the stone allow light to circulate inside the diamond, illuminating its crystalline material. A pair of Volutes Mystérieuses earrings accompany the necklace. Highlighting a meticulous setting work, they feature two oval diamonds of 15.52 and 15.50 carats that form a proportioned ensemble. 

These diamonds can be detached and added to the ribbons on the necklace. The maison takes the play on transformation even further by offering a motif in diamond and Traditional Mystery Set ruby to replace the central diamond focal point of the necklace. The central diamond may also attach to the middle of a ruby composition and style as a classy pendant. 

Like a couture-inspired collar, this graphic necklace drapes lightly on the neck. Alternating rows of diamonds and Traditional Mystery Set rubies, pink sapphires, and square-cut diamonds line the edge, evoking delicate lace. Discreet links are hidden under the structure, making it very comfortable to wear, while a diamond set dimensional bow hides the clasp on the back of the piece. 

Two remarkable diamonds glitter at the heart of this precious necklace, one over 51 carats and the other over 10 carats. In addition to their D colour and FL Type 2A purity, they link intimately by their perfectly proportioned emerald cut, traditionally called “tennis court.” A style often reserved for emeralds, this rectangular cut with bevelled sides is characterised by a wide table, offering true immersion in the stone. Its concentric rows of facets on the sides and around the pavilion create mirror effects that accentuate the luminosity of the two gems.

Van Cleef & Arpels Transformable Treasures

Able to sparkle in the hollow of the neck, the largest diamond can be detached to adorn a ring with architectural lines. Meanwhile, an Individual Mystery Set ruby can take its place on the pendant. The oval stones are thus set without visible metal, covering the surface with an opulent lightness. The delightful interpretations of the Zip necklace and the thoughtful permutations of the Mystery Set Jewels prove Van Cleef & Arpels’ bold vision and peerless skill in creating transformable treasures that honour the fruits of the earth.

This story was first published in Prestige Malaysia’s December 2022 issue. To read the latest issue, pick up a copy from the nearest newsstand or subscribe on Magzter. 


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