As breathtaking works of art that adorn the body, jewellery has a long tradition of radical design and unbelievable craftwork that symbolise some of the most iconic pieces of statement jewellery ever sold.
Whilst certain pieces of bespoke crystal jewellery will always be timeless, these exceptionally iconic pieces are often so connected to a particular design movement, ethos or designer that they evoke a particular era, although not in a way that makes them ever feel dated.
Here are some of the most striking pieces of jewellery ever sold.
Just A Nail
Designed by Aldo Cipullo for Cartier the Juste un Clou bracelet was inherently evocative of both a particular time and place, those being the 1970s and New York respectively.
In the early 1970s, the fast-paced centre of style that was New York City welcomed several particularly striking design movements, but one of the biggest in jewellery was industrialism, with designs that embraced the aesthetic of manufacturing and construction.
Prior to 1971, the most famous example of this in jewellery was Aldo Cipullo’s Love Bracelet, a minimalist bracelet that featured locking screws and an included screwdriver necklace to tighten it in place.
This was itself very popular, becoming one of Cartier’s most successful jewellery lines ever, and Just A Nail was a fitting follow-up.
The minimalist spiral bracelet design of Juste Un Clou immediately turns heads and redefined luxury in an age when designers were breaking every rule they could.
Van Cleef Zip
One of the boldest, most innovative and most technically challenging necklaces ever made, the Zip by Van Cleef & Arpels was initially inspired by the then-new fastener as well as an idea by Wallis Simpson, the Dutchess of Windsor.
The idea was that, much like how a zip can transform the look of a fleece or jacket, a zip-up necklace could function as a necklace, a choker or a bracelet depending on how closed the design was.
It is difficult to choose a single piece from the Panthére range because the entire collection is innately and inherently striking. Very few jewellery ranges look like exotic big cats, after all, their spots glistening with diamonds and precious stones.
Whilst it is available in many different guises, from panther head rings to necklaces with that distinct pattern-work, arguably the most famous was the Panthére most associated with Wallis Simpson.
This particular panther had joints along its entire length, which allowed for the panther to lounge and drape over the wrist more naturally than the more rigid bangles available in the modern collection.
It is difficult to think of a piece of jewellery designed in quite this way, and it is telling that its last sale at the Sotheby’s auction house saw the panther sold for £4.5m, making it one of the most valuable bracelets ever made.
Much like how Cartier is forever connected to the panther, Italian jeweller Bulgari is well known for its striking Serpenti watches which coil around the wrists of many celebrities and socialites.
It was most famously worn by Elizabeth Taylor, who fittingly wore the watch on the set of Cleopatra, given the legendary myths surrounding the Egyptian queen’s death.