The Objects of Affection We Crave

From iconic talismans to contemporary creations, these jewellers are crafting keepsakes that are as meaningful as they are stylish.

Article by Victoria Pearson

On model's right hand, from top: Cartier Love yellow gold bracelet, $9,850; Tiffany & Co. Atlas X Closed Wide rose gold and diamond ring, $11,900; and Cartier Love rose gold, amethyst, garnet and sapphire ring, $4,350. On model's left hand, from left: Tiffany & Co. True Engagement yellow gold and diamond ring, price on request, True Narrow yellow gold and diamond ring, $7,150, and True Band yellow gold and diamond ring, $1,650; Chanel Coco Crush Toi et Moi beige and white gold and diamond rings, $4,650 and $7,250; and Jan Logan Kimberley white gold and diamond ring, $9,650. Clockwise from top left: Chopard Happy Hearts Golden Hearts rose gold and diamond necklace, $18,700; Hermès Kelly Chaine rose gold and diamond necklace, $17,850; Chopard Happy Hearts rose gold and diamond bangle, $4,270; Tiffany & Co. T1 Wide Diamond Hinged white gold and diamond bangle, $51,000; and Cartier Love yellow gold earrings (on saucer), $2,780, and rose and white gold and diamond necklace, $4,950. Photography by Benito Martin.

“Love symbols should suggest an everlasting quality,” said the jewellery designer Aldo Cipullo, the man widely credited with bringing love to the house of Cartier. An Italian craftsman whose success appeared preordained, Cipullo honed his expertise working beside his costume jewellery-making father before migrating to Manhattan at the end of the 1950s. Like the oft-cited “right place, right time” mechanics of a bourgeoning romance, his talent harmonised seamlessly with the supercharged energy of New York City (he was as likely to be found amid the disco-era headiness of Studio 54 as he was in his studio).

Cipullo spent early career stints at David Webb and Tiffany & Co. before causing a sensation when he moved to Cartier and debuted the brand’s unisex Love bracelet in 1969. The bracelet’s aesthetic simplicity was radical: two rigid arcs that had to be fastened together using an accompanying screwdriver (the design’s genesis was mildly controversial, inspired by medieval chastity belts), and the screws were left exposed, in sync with the boltlike imprints dotted around the band.

Commitment-inspired pieces weren’t groundbreaking in ’69 — bijoux had been gifted between lovers and the betrothed for centuries. What made the design so innovative was its departure from the norm, favouring practicality over pure ornamentation. Rather than a gift designed for special occasions only, the Love bracelet was intended to be worn on a daily basis. “Jewellery has to be part of a person,” Cipullo told the Calgary Herald in 1983. “It enters into the psychology of the person, it always represents love, affection — all this kind of symbolism. That is why jewellery will never die.”

Like most long-term relationships, Cartier’s Love motif evolved. The Love ring launched in the 1970s, followed by white and rose gold adaptations, an edition paved with precious stones and a slimmer version in 2016 (the year the Love bracelet became Google’s most searched jewellery item). Half a century on, it remains one of the brand’s most sought-after pieces. And following last year’s periods of government-mandated isolation (coupled with the absence of any kind of certainty), there seems to be an even greater desire for treasures that convey permanence, connection and the promise of forever.

Inspired by the formative romantic and artistic encounters that enriched Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s life and legacy, Chanel’s new Coco Crush Toi et Moi collection embodies the meeting and intertwining of destinies. The dual quilted half bands hug to form a C, rendered in combinations of beige, yellow and white gold, and diamonds. “Some encounters you wear forever,” the brand proclaims. Should the relationship sour, at least you’ll always have your crush.

“Chained to you” also takes on new meaning with Hermès’ delicate Kelly Chaine necklace. An ode to femininity and modernity, it reinterprets the eponymous bag’s clasp by pairing it with a romantic rose gold chain. Tiffany & Co., synonymous with so many of pop culture’s declarations of commitment, continues to reinvent classic emblems of love. Of its Tiffany T1 collection, which includes the 18-karat white gold Wide Diamond Hinged Bangle, the chief artistic officer Reed Krakoff said, “Through these pieces, we convey that precious stones aren’t just for special occasions — they can be worn every day as a celebration of yourself.” Meanwhile, the heart plays an integral role in Chopard’s creations. Self-described “artisans of emotions”, the Swiss jeweller looks to the strength and purpose of the James Bond woman to inspire its Happy Hearts — Golden Hearts collection. The maison’s red stone Happy Hearts bangle supports the All Hands and Hearts Smart Response initiative, which works to rebuild schools and aid communities affected by natural disasters.

In certain corners of the internet, reference to “love languages” is as ubiquitous as zodiac signs. First introduced in 1992 by the pastor Gary Chapman, its theory asserts that there are five primary love languages (modes for receiving love) and each of us favours one over the others. If this season has taught us anything, however, it’s that six might be a more appropriate number. True, gifts were already an option, but affection (be it romantic, familial, platonic or personal) communicated specifically through jewellery design is a whole new love story — one rendered in lustrous metals, adorned with precious stones, crafted for forever. “Love has become too commercial, yet life without love is nothing — a fat zero,” Cipullo once said. The solution? “What modern people want are love symbols that look semi-permanent — or, at least, require a trick to remove.”

A version of this article appears in print in our second edition, Page 4 of our Jewellery and Watch Special, with the headline:
“Objects of Affection”
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