Iconic Zip Stylish Neckalces 2011-12


Today we are taking a look at another category of jewelry from the Set in Style, The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Today’s subject is “Innovation,” and who better to analyze than an original famewhore, the Duchess of Windsor and the “Zip” necklace.  Around 1939, the Duchess collaborated with Renee Puissant, the artistic director of VC&A, and asked the renowned jeweler to create a platinum and diamond zipper for one of her evening dresses. Zippers were relatively new at the time, but even for someone as ostentatious as she, a platinum and diamond zipper for a dress was a little over the top. Can you imagine having the kind of downtime that allows you to come up with such an idea?
Never mind the scarcity of platinum during this time. Keep in mind that even today, compared to silver and gold, there is relatively little platinum available. Per the Platinum Guild, “Platinum is 30 times more rare than gold. If platinum mining ceased today, the available supply would be exhausted in two years, compared to a quarter of a century for gold,” so you can imagine how rare the metal was in the 1930s.  The Guild further states, “With the outbreak of war in 1939, platinum is declared a strategic metal in the USA, used for the manufacture of armaments. Its use for making jewelry is forbidden.” (But Wallis whined, “I need that zipper – buttons are so hard to do!”). So while it was a very creative notion on the part of the Duchess to use one of those newfangled zipper things as a jewelry idea, her self-focused sense of timing was terrible.