Important Jewels: Part II

Important Jewels: Part II

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 168. Diamond 'Zip Couture' Necklace, France.

Important Jewels from a Private Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels

Diamond 'Zip Couture' Necklace, France

Auction Closed

October 20, 04:07 PM GMT


300,000 - 400,000 USD

Lot Details


Designed as a long functional zipper, set throughout with round diamonds, the tassel further accented by baguette and square-cut diamonds.

  • Diamonds weighing a total of approximately 31.00 carats
  • Length 32 inches
  • Signed Van Cleef & Arpels, numbered JH006466
  • French assay and workshop marks, Swiss assay mark
  • 18 karat gold
  • Accompanied by a signed box and travel case
  • Accompanied by a Van Cleef & Arpels certificate of authenticity and gouache drawing

The Zip necklace is a marvel of skill and ingenuity, standing among the most iconic designs in the history of jewelry. Beginning in the 1930s, with the creation of the Ludo bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels pushed the boundaries of the goldsmith’s art, acting as couturiers to devise jewels as supple as silk. By the 1940s, textile motifs poured forth from their workshops in the form of tassels, “lace” bows, ribbons, pompoms and wirework tulle. The culmination and magnum opus of this period of sartorial exploration was, of course, the Zip.

The idea for the Zip is said to have originated with the Duchess of Windsor who, upon seeing zippers incorporated into clothing by Elsa Schiaparelli, asked Van Cleef’s creative director, Renée Puissant, to follow suit. With this, an eminently practical mechanism was transformed into a spectacular jewel, but only after 12 years of trial and error. The great irony stemming from the Zip's long journey from conception to completion (1938-1950) is that the Duchess never in fact owned one herself, perhaps due to the pleasant distraction provided by the many other extraordinary, one-of-a-kind jewels she regularly added to her collection.

Each Zip is emblematic of technical virtuosity and clear-minded exertion. As a result, only a limited number of them were made in the 1950s. Van Cleef & Arpels re-introduced the Zip in 2005, incorporating a greater variety of materials and adding fanciful twists to the original design. The process today is no less labor-intensive: the sapphire example worn by Margot Robbie at the 2015 Academy Awards was reported to have taken 600 hours to make. The similarly designed piece offered here affords a different kind of versatility, its attenuated form allowing for the links to be zipped to a great many levels with the additional benefit of the option to wear it in reverse, down the back. Both this and lot 120 exemplify the enduring legacy of great designs by Van Cleef & Arpels.