Van Cleef & Arpels’ Legendary 'Zip' Necklace

By Mariko Finch

History of the 'Zip' Necklace

Arguably one of most memorable jewels designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, the 'Zip' necklace fuses exquisite and intricate detailing, with the finest diamonds and other gemstones to create an standout piece of high jewelry. From its origin as a showstopping piece designed for the Duchess of Windsor, to cameos on red carpets the world over, the 'Zip' has captivated collectors throughout the 20th Century. From royalty to Hollywood, the 'Zip' serves as an iconic emblem of elegance, style and craftsmanship.


Design Innovation fit for a Duchess

Taking the ordinary and transforming it into the extraordinary; this spirit of ingenuity has resulted in some of the most masterful jewels in history. Perhaps one of the most iconic and truly original jewels created is the ‘Zip’ necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels, which consistently appear as highlights of the Sotheby’s Jewelry sales in Geneva, New York, Paris and Hong Kong.

Renée Puissant, the Maison’s artistic director from 1926 to 1942 and daughter of Alfred Van Cleef, was commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor in 1938 to create a sophisticated jewel inspired by the humble zip fastener, invented in the late 19th century America.

Design for a 'Zip' necklace, circa 1951, Van Cleef & Arpels Archives.

Pinnacle of Craft in High Jewelry

This challenge required years of technical innovation but the resulting necklace, finally produced in 1951, is arguably the most brilliant example of craftsmanship and design ever created. Featuring a working zipper closure, the highly flexible necklace captures the spirit of 1950s couture by linking ‘Haute Couture’ and ‘Haute Joaillerie’. For the rest of the decade, the Van Cleef & Arpels Maison designed a limited number of ‘Zip’ necklaces in yellow gold decorated with diamonds or coloured stones.

Margot Robbie attends the 87th Annual Academy Awards in a Van Cleef & Arpels Zipper necklace on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

Celebrity Fans on the Red Carpet

Celebrated not only for its playful originality, but also for the technical advancements achieved to create it, the ‘Zip’ is a testament to the ingenuity of Van Cleef & Arpels. The versatile necklace converts to a stylish bracelet by removing the upper part of the necklace to ‘zip’ into a bracelet, the gold tassel elegantly dangling on the side of the arm. This iconic design has graced the necklines of Hollywood's biggest stars such as Margot Robbie, who wore a diamond and sapphire version to the 2015 Academy Awards, encouraged by her stylist Christina Ehrlich.


In recent years, Van Cleef & Arpels has recreated a modern day ‘Zip’ necklace as very few editions were made during the 1950s, with fewer than 10 appearing at auction. The rare ‘Zip’ necklace remains a highly covetable jewel and is a perfect example of original design and specialised craftsmanship. Alongside the 'Alhambra' motif bracelets and necklaces and the 'Cadenas' watch, the 'Zip' remains one of the most recognisable styles in the Van Cleef & Arpels stable.

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