THE VINTAGE CARTIER JEWELLERY DESIGNER YOU NEED TO KNOW
ALDO CIPULLO: THE VINTAGE CARTIER JEWELLERY DESIGNER YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
The man behind the most successful jewellery collection in Cartier’s history, and his designs to look out for…
What becomes of the broken-hearted? Well, if you’re Cartier jewellery designer, Aldo Cipullo, you channel your sorrow into creating a bracelet that, almost half a century later, will break the internet… Yes, Cartier’s much adored Love bracelet — an iconic emblem of undying love and one of the best-selling jewellery designs of all time — exists thanks to a failed relationship. Now that’s irony for you.
Born in Italy in 1936, Cipullo began his jewellery career apprenticed to his father’s costume jewellery business. But his precocious talent was always going to need a bigger stage, and in 1959 the young Italian emigrated to New York, where he worked for David Webb and Tiffany & Co.
Cipullo was still working for Tiffany when, heartbroken and unable to sleep, he devised what would eventually become the famed Cartier bracelet. As he put it: “It was three o’clock in the morning, I was feeling very sad and I wanted something nobody could take away from me.”
ALDO CIPULLO’S LOVE BRACELET – AN ICONIC JEWEL
With more than just a passing nod to both medieval chastity belts and Louis Cartier’s locking Menotte bracelet of the 1930s, the concept for Cipullo’s Love bracelet was beautiful in its simplicity. Comprised of two separate halves, the narrow, oval bangle had to be locked together onto the wrist by — and could only be removed with — a special, tiny vermeil screwdriver. Symbolising the enduring commitment that Cipullo had been searching for — of two becoming an inseparable one — here was a jewel that could never be simply tossed aside for another. “When it’s on, it’s on”, he explained. But the bracelet’s sleek style and minimalist screwhead motif didn’t suit Tiffany’s aesthetic of the time, and it was only when Cipullo moved to Cartier, in 1969, that the design was fully realised. (Hindsight, eh, Tiffany?)
Renowned for its important haute joaillerie — such as the 10.48-carat emerald cut diamond and platinum engagement ring created for Grace Kelly, and the visionary work of its artistic director, Jean Toussaint — this was an interesting time for Cartier. Its New York branch had recently been sold (the first to fall outside of the Cartier family’s control), and the new owners were keen to appeal to a younger, ‘hipper’ audience. In Cipullo they found the perfect revolutionary for the age. Until now, Cartier had never permitted designers to sign their work. This too changed, with Aldo becoming the first of only two Cartier jewellery designers — the other being the Vietnamese designer, Dinh Van — ever to receive this honour.
Combining true love with true style, the original 18K gold bracelet sold for the then princely sum of $250 (roughly $1,700 at today’s prices). But, or so the story goes, there was a twist: you couldn’t buy one for yourself. Instead, Cartier would only sell to couples — the idea being that they’d be bought as gifts by those looking to ‘lock’ their relationship down, with the recipient surrendering the key to their lover.
“Love has become too commercial, yet life without love is nothing — a fat zero,” explained Cipullo. “What modern people want are love symbols that look semi-permanent — or, at least, require a trick to remove. After all, love symbols should suggest an everlasting quality.”
His very first design for Cartier, the Love bracelet sent Cipullo’s career into the stratosphere. With ever the eye for a marketing opportunity, Cartier gifted bracelet sets to 25 of the world’s most famous couples, including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Nancy and Frank Sinatra. It was a genius move.
The must have-jewel of the fashionably rich and famous, Ali McGraw notably wore nothing more than her Love bracelet — a gift from her-then husband, Robert Evans — in the shower scene of the film ‘The Getaway’. That she fell for her co-star — and soon to be future husband — Steve McQueen, on set, suggests that ownership didn’t always signify fidelity! Regardless, by the early 1970s, anyone who was anyone was sporting a Love bracelet.
The intervening half-century has seen Cartier’s Love collection expand to incorporate earrings, rings — including gold and diamond engagement rings and wedding bands — and, for a while, cufflinks (vintage examples of which are much sought after). And while the bracelet’s design is mostly unchanged, it’s now available in white, rose or yellow gold, with prices starting at $4,250 for the original 18K yellow gold design and rising to $59,000 for a white gold, diamond-paved version, featuring 216 brilliant-cut diamonds.
THE CARTIER BRACELET THAT BROKE THE INTERNET
Still a firm favourite with celebrities, the timeless bracelet’s diverse fanbase ranges from Kate Middleton to the Kardashians. And when, in 2016, Kylie Jenner posted on social media that she couldn’t get her bracelet off, the internet went into meltdown. Averaging some 353,840 Google searches a month, the Cartier Love bracelet was by far the most searched for jewellery item of the year.
Today, vintage, signed Love bracelets and rings from the early 1970s remain both highly collectable and hugely sought after. Janus Jewels offers free advice on buying and selling, so do get in touch if you’d like more info’.
THE JUSTE UN CLOU COLLECTION
At a time when pearls and diamond jewellery still ruled supreme, Cipullo’s radical eye found inspiration in the most unlikely utilitarian items. Joking that his second home was a “hardware store”, Cipullo’s 1971 nail jewellery for Cartier proved the perfect case in point. The concept, as before, was sublimely simple: a humble nail turned precious jewel…wrapped sinuously, seemingly irremovably, around the wrist. Capturing the rebellious zeitgeist of early-seventies New York, Cipullo’s provocative bracelet saw the dull and functional transformed into fiercely beautiful jewellery. Undoubtedly ahead of its time (remember, punk was still a few years off shouting to make itself heard), the unconventional range, which included rings, pins and necklaces, wasn’t the commercial success that Cartier had hoped. Early pieces are both rare and highly coveted, with those that do come onto the market quickly snapped up.
Then, in 2012, the designs were resurrected — this time to universal acclaim. The Juste Un Clou collection (French for ‘Just a Nail’) is now a core Cartier offering. Today, prices range from $850 for an individual, 18K yellow gold earring, to £330,000 for an exquisitely edgy, 18K white gold cuff bracelet, set with 2,352 brilliant-cut diamonds.
MORE ALDO CIPULLO JEWELLERY TO COLLECT
While rightly famed for his Love and Juste Un Clou collections, Cipullo was also revered for his avant-garde, gem-set jewellery, that paired yellow gold with carved semi-precious gems such as carnelian, chrysoprase, turquoise and amethyst. Inspired by medieval goldsmiths, the modernist pieces often featured bold colour combinations, such as jade and lapiz lazuli, or coral and black onyx. Both elegant and offbeat — and undeniably seventies — these works are also much in demand.
ALDO CIPULLO (1936-1984) — A LASTING LEGACY
Cipullo spent just five years at Cartier, before leaving to set up his own atelier, focusing on costume and men’s jewellery. But it will be for Cartier’s striking, minimalist Love Bracelet that he is most remembered. It wasn’t that his design seemed sprung from a handyman’s toolbox, or even the bracelet’s deliberate androgyny that proved ultimately ground-breaking. It was its permanence, for this was an age when, traditionally, a ‘lady’ still switched jewellery with every outfit change. That the unisex bracelet was supposed to be worn day in, day out — whatever the occasion — was a notion as audacious as it was liberating. By turning the mundane into not just high jewellery, but high jewellery that nobody wanted to — or could easily — take off, the Italian designer transformed the fine jewellery landscape forever.
Undoubtedly, one of the great jewellery designers of the last century; sadly, Cipullo’s brilliant career was all too brief. In 1984, he suffered a double heart attack and died, aged just 48. But despite today’s throw-away culture, his perennially popular designs ensure his name lives on.
CARTIER JEWELLERY DESIGNERS – BUYING AND SELLING VINTAGE JEWELLERY
Do you own vintage Cartier and would like to know its worth? Are you searching for specific designs by Aldo Cipullo? From complimentary valuations to sourcing rare Cartier ‘must-haves’, Janus Jewels is at your service. Whether you’re contemplating buying or selling, get in touch today for a free, no-obligation chat as to how we can help you.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Love Bracelet’s distinctive screw-heads pay homage to those on the bezel of Cartier’s Santos watch; created by Louis Cartier in 1904 for his great friend, the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont. Believed to be the first purpose-designed men’s wristwatch; the Santos is yet another Cartier-designed, luxury accessory that has, no pun intended, more than stood the test of time.