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  • Harry Fane

What is the most famous piece of jewellery in the world?

When one asks this question, people are quite confounded. Of course, the jewellers all have their pet pieces. The Duchess of Windsor’s Cartier ‘Flamingo’ brooch is a familiar one but as for the man in the street, they generally say ‘The Crown Jewels’. But when corrected and the real ‘most famous piece of jewellery in the world’ is revealed everyone says, ‘Oh yes!!’.

So, what is it? It is the Cartier ‘Love Bangle’. It is amazing, everyone knows this piece. From Paris to Peking and from taxi drivers to Countesses. But ask anyone who actually designed it, and no-one (bar about three people) have a clue. So, at last, Assouline has published a book, co-written by the brilliant Vivienne Becker and Renato Cipullo, revealing to the world the man behind the bangle, Aldo Cipullo.

Whilst Aldo Cipullo was responsible for many exotic jewels designed for Cartier in the 1970s, his legacy is the ‘Love Bangle’ and the ‘Nail’. There are few jewellery designers who achieved such fame without any fame.

I remember when the 'Love Bangles' were the ‘new’ thing back in the 1970s. Whilst the book says the screwdriver was kept by whoever ‘screwed’ the bangle on, I remember the legend that once the bangle was on, the screwdriver was ceremoniously thrown away. Locked on forever!!

As for the Nail, those in the know, know I played a significant part in the resuscitation of this design. I always loved these bangles and have been buying the originals for years. Whereas in the past one could find pairs of the extra large ‘Nails’ in different colours of gold, yellow, red or white, nowadays, I very seldom see them. In fact, so unusual are they, that when a collector recently went to Cartier, Paris with a 1970s pair as the clasps needed tightening, Cartier told him they were fake. Slightly embarrassing for Cartier given the riches Aldo has given them!!

Although Aldo Cipullo was the first designer to be allowed by Cartier to sign his jewels with his name alongside Cartier’s, Aldo Cipullo was generally written out of the Cartier history. This changed at the 2014 Cartier exhibition at Le Grand Palais in Paris where Aldo’s jewellery was, at last, included. This beautiful book ‘Cipullo: Making Jewellery Modern’ is the testament he deserves for creating the most famous piece of jewellery in the world.

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