Jewellery

The story of the Cartier Love bangle

As the 1960s slipped into the 1970s, Cartier's Love bracelet became an icon of jewellery design

Created in New York just as the 1960s slipped into the 1970s, Cartier’s Love bracelet is an icon of jewellery design. A close-fitting oval bracelet, formed of two rigid arcs that must be screwed together and removed with a gold screwdriver (to lock in your love, as it were), it presents an idea of perfection in clean lines and precise proportions, and is an emblem of intense romance.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Kylie Jenner, Katie Holmes, Angelina Jolie, Naomi Watts, and even Megan Markle and Prince Harry are among those who own, or have worn, the cult piece – which owing to the specialist fastening process even has its own YouTube video, to explain just how to do it right. The design has peaked in popularity of late.

The Love bangle in 18K yellow gold

When Cartier’s iconic Love bracelet was originally conceived – described by the masion as a love child of the 19070s – it immediately caught on with celebrities and jewellery enthusiasts alike, transforming the way people wore jewellery. Bold and audacious, the luxury jewellery maison’s unisex, hardware-inspired bracelets had universal appeal and didn’t require a special occasion to be worn (something of a Cartier signature).

The man behind the now iconic design was Italian jewellery designer Aldo Cipullo, who designed the Love bracelet a year within joining the French jewellery house. Said to be inspired by the symbolism of the medieval chastity belt, Cipullo wanted to create an emblem of faithfulness, which he translated into the Love bracelet.

It is made with two elliptical shapes and a flat top to curve around the wrist, with visible screws that act as a defining detail; the bracelet becomes whole when it is locked using a specific screwdriver. Akin to a precious handcuff, it can only be removed by unlocking it the same way and today is popular among couples to symbolise their devotion to each other.

The Love bangle in 18K yellow gold, set with 10 brilliant-cut diamonds

Supposedly, when it was originally released, it was rumoured that Cartier had a policy that Love bracelets could only be purchased by couples. And famous couples who did so include: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen. Today, fans include Sofia Coppola, Cameron Diaz and Kanye West, the list goes on, and as such the Love bracelet has gained cult status and has become a Google search favourite – especially around December time.

The Love bracelet is one of the most recognisable designs in Cartier’s storied history, and has since expanded into a collection of rings, necklaces and earrings which are available in different variations of gold or paved with diamonds or precious stones.

In a new book, Cipullo: Making Jewelry Modern, written by Vivienne Becker, the jewellery historian and expert recounts how Cipullo conceived the design one night when he lay awake at 3am and was mourning the end of a love affair. He wanted to keep the memories of his lost love locked up in a memento that he could keep enshrined on his body; it was also an idea that threw back to the days of 19th century Victorian mourning jewels, in which locks of hair and engraved messages for loved ones were encapsulated in lockets and trinkets; as well as Medieval chastity belts which protected women’s virtue and which only their husbands could unlock.

Pertinently, not only did it serve as an avant-garde alternative to a traditional engagement ring, but also as a piece of everyday jewellery. Originally, it reportedly cost just $250, which is under £200, and was a vastly more affordable entry point into the elite maison’s repertoire. Today, a Love Bracelet can set you back anywhere from £3,000 and up to £50,000 for pavé diamonds versions.

The Love Bracelet’s bolts and screws eventually gave birth to another icon—the nail bracelet: The Juste Un Clou. Born in 1971, the nail design was featured wrapping around the wrist in gold or piercing through a lapel as a brooch.

The Love bangle in 18K white gold, set with 4 brilliant-cut diamonds

Cipullo loved the idea of taking the most simple of items, like a nail, and elevating them into something beautiful. The shape of the Love bracelet is essential to its comfort: proportions are measured by the way you wear it on the wrist, which it naturally hugs. Each bracelet has 10 motifs of engraved screws that have been studied to the nearest millimetre of depth and finished to obtain a pure line. At the time, the choice to leave visible functional screws was a radical idea. But then wearing jewellery every day was a very modern idea for the early 1970s, typically one would save their jewels for best and special occasions.

These new pieces helped shape Cipullo’s intention that they be part of everyday wear. Cartier has had a store in New York for over 100 years and according to his brother, Aldo Cipullo was transfixed by the modernity of the city, which evidently brushed off on him in his own designs. Cipullo died at the age of 42 in 1984, but clearly his jewellery legacy lives on: since 1847, the idea of the heart has been at the centre of Cartier, and hence the Love bracelet.

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