The love of fabrics and the technique of replicating them in precious metal has been a jewelers challenge since early jewelry design. Ribbon bow jewels can be traced to the mid-1600s and were created by craftsman such as Gilles Legare, the court jeweler to Louis XIV. Bow and ribbon motifs continued into the 1900s and reached frenzied popularity in the early part of the 20th century. Advances in platinum allowed for incredible strength while maintaining the most intricate of detail, leading to the name "Belle Epoque", literally translated as "Beautiful Era" for the jewels of the time.
With the advent of World War II, jewelry design endured a dramatic change. Precious stones were no longer plentiful as shipping and trading were blocked and platinum was limited due to rationing. The gold brooches, rings and bracelets, set with large semi-precious stones such as citrines and amethysts, helped to diminish the sober military-inspired outline and fabrics of the time. In 1939, Van Cleef & Arpels produced a "Clip Noeud Dentelle", a pierced and fretted gold bow brooch enhanced by a central diamond-set flower. For the next two decades, jewelers of many of the leading houses would embellish on this theme. Towards the end of the war, prompted by Dior's "New Look" of 1947, fashion took a turn and regained interest in sumptuous fabrics which looked and felt luxurious. After years of fabric and silk rationing due to the war effort, jewelers and couturiers of the time began creating lace and fabric pieces with a new found intensity. Serge, herringbone, jersey and tulle were mimicked in virtuoso "tromp-l'oeil" effects and trimmings such as braid, cord, fringes-- even zippers were produced in countless combinations.
The suite illustrated here is a delicate necklace, brooch and ear clips designed in the iconic lace style set with diamonds and sapphires. The fact that it is mounted in platinum adds additional rarity to this unusual jewel. It is also a multi-functional jewel and is able to be worn together as a pendant necklace or separately as a brooch and clips. Convertible jewels, sometimes referred to as "passe-partout" were extremely popular from the 1920s through the 1950s.