Marlene Dietrich & Marjorie Merriweather Post

What do Marlene Dietrich and Marjorie Merriweather Post have in common? They both wore jewels that will be exhibited in the upcoming exhibition Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, opening on February 18th at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. The jarretière bracelet (on the left below) was created in 1937 and worn by Marlene then and on later occasions, including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 film Stage Fright. It hinges on the side so you can raise the upper half with the rubies up, place the wrist in and then clasp it back into place. The brooch was produced in 1967 in platinum, adorned by diamonds and rubies, and worn by Mrs. Post. It is a Mystery setting, with complex curves on the petals of the flower, difficult to achieve with the continuous mosaic of jewels that defines the Mystery concept.

Jarretière Bracelet & Floral Brooch

Van Cleef & Arpels also perfected transformable jewelry, introducing the use of zippers in 1951. This necklace from 1955 can be zipped closed to become a bracelet. It was made of gold with parallel rows of diamonds and rubies on the opposite side to the zip. Image the handiwork needed to make those zipper teeth mesh perfectly!

Transformable Zip Necklace/Bracelet

The flapper style of dress in the twenties celebrated simply draped forms with long necklaces and dangling earrings, but dresses in the thirties and forties returned to more flowing feminine lines, accompanied by wavy hairstyles, cigarettes in long holders and miniature boxes for accessories called minaudières – Van Cleef & Arpels were quick to design these containers as well as the necklaces and bracelets that complimented the clothes.

Minaudiére, 1944, Styptor, Rubies and Gold

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