World War II and its effect on global resources drastically altered the way jewelry houses approached their creations. With precious metals diverted to military production and trade routes of diamonds and colored stones massively interrupted, jewelers of the twentieth century were forced to revamp their designs and go in an entirely new direction. Gone were the days of white diamonds set in gossamer-like platinum settings, in favor of bold yellow and rose gold setting with colorful precious and semi-precious gemstones.
A champion of this paradigm shift was Van Cleef & Arpels. Important innovations from the firm during this time period include the iconic ‘Zip’ necklace, the Ludo Hexagon motif, and bold designs in the form of snowflakes and ballerinas, all still incredibly sought-after today.
Rather than disregarding contemporary events, Van Cleef & Arpels embraced the newly popular machine and military-like motifs. Mirroring the wartime efforts and rapid advancement in military technology, jewelry began to include elements resembling tank tracks and gas pipes. The strong geometric lines of the gold links and bold scrolling elements evoke these military themes. Similarly, the daring color combination and increased scale (compared to bracelets of the early twentieth century) would have instantly conjured the ongoing war efforts for the contemporary wearer.
Lot 73 is regarded as such a significant piece within the oeuvre of Van Cleef & Arpels’ work that it has been featured in two important books by Sylvie Raulet, her surveys on the house of Van Cleef & Arpels and Retro jewels of the 1940s and 1950s. This bracelet represents a time of immense innovation and daring creativity during one of the greatest hardships of the twentieth century.