For many wearers, fine jewellery is intensely personal, a form of self-expression and individual style. Convertible jewellery pieces are a clever way to maximize this element and truly customize your collection.

Whether reconfiguring a piece completely, such as turning a tiara into a necklace, or simply connecting a pair of bracelets end-to-end, transformable jewellery allows you to create a number of different styles: take your look from day to night, from office to out on the town, from chic to glam.

An Art Deco Diamond and Platinum Necklace, circa 1930

Perhaps the most appealing part of convertible jewellery is the practical aspect. Not only do you get to enjoy wearing the same piece multiple ways, this idea speaks to the minimalism trend – Marie Kondo would have to agree a beautiful piece of fine jewellery that eliminates the need for several other pieces would definitely spark joy. Transformable pieces are also ideal for travelling, since you will only need to pack one or two pieces but will still able to enjoy several different looks.

You also get greater cost per wear value from your jewellery collection – without having to sacrifice and settle for lower quality. You still get fine craftsmanship without breaking the budget. The luxury version of two for the price of one!

Diamond ring with jacket of organic freeform design.

What exactly is convertible jewellery?

Convertible jewellery is essentially an item that can shape-shift via an easy and somewhat temporary modification without the need to dash over to your local jewellery professional: it’s something you can do on your own, in the privacy of your own home, no special skillset or professional tools required, thus giving the illusion there’s more than one piece in play, rather than just a single jewellery item.

A Pair of Emerald and Diamond Ear Pendants, by Buccellati.

Transformable designs can be achieved in myriad ways: attaching or removing an elaborate drop pendant from a simpler surmount creates the style known as a Day/Night earring; four matching bracelets attach to form a long necklace, and vice versa, that same long necklace divides to be worn as a shorter version with a single bracelet. One of the most common examples would be a double-clip brooch that separates into a pair of brooches. For a special event, your simple diamond solitaire ring can take centre stage amidst a removable bejewelled “jacket” that slips over the main stone. Classic diamond studs can also benefit from the same type of embellishment. The possibilities are limitless and a true testament to a designer’s skill.

From necessity to luxury

Convertible jewellery first began trending after the stock market crash in 1929 and the early years of the Great Depression. Clever and creative jewellery houses acknowledged the tough times, but also saw an opportunity that allowed them to market to women with tighter purse strings: versatile, economical and very appealing.

Something born out of practicality soon became something coveted in its own right, inspiring remarkable feats of design that have earned prominent houses a place in history with their technical intricacy. The innovations of luxury brands such as Van Cleef & Arpels­, Cartier and Chaumet have made a mark that’s left a lasting impression on the world of jewellery design.

Iconic transformable jewellery

Convertible jewellery pieces are still very much haute couture, as revivals of this trend gain notice on Paris runways, with debuts from De Beers, Anna Hu and Piaget in recent years.

Then there are the absolutely iconic transformable pieces, either original to, or inspired by the Art Deco era, having earned their place in fine jewellery history.

ZIP necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels. Photo credit: Van Cleef & Arpels, vancleefarpels.com

Arguably the most notable piece of transformable jewellery is the famous Zip necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels, an idea inspired by the Duchess of Windsor in the 1930s, and the first zipper crafted from precious metal. The design can be worn as a bracelet or a necklace and took years to perfect.

Transformable jewels from the upcoming auction.

Important Jewels Auction

November 17, 2019

If you are looking for fabulous jewellery for all your generous Christmas and Hanukkah gift-giving, you’ll not want to miss our upcoming November auction – don’t forget to choose something special for yourself, too.

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