Once upon a time when medieval knights were called away from their fair maidens for long periods of time they ensured fidelity in their absence by use of a chastity belt. Fast forward to late 1960’s New York and young Italian designer, Aldo Cipullo, fresh from making his name with Tiffany & Co. takes a job at Cartier. The first design he comes up with while there? A timeless style of bracelet modelled on the precept of the ancient chastity belt. The flat bangle is designed in two halves which are held together by two screws which are tightened, locking the LOVE Bracelet to the wearer’s wrist. It can only be removed by a special tiny screwdriver which comes in the box.
‘But who would wear something like that?’ you may ask, well it turns out a lot of people! The new jewellery design was an instant hit. Cartier gifted the new bracelet to celebrity couples of the time including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and before long the simple, elegant piece became known as a symbol of eternal love. The designer, Cipullo, was quoted at the time as saying that ‘love has become too commercial, yet life without love is nothing… What modern people want are love symbols that look semi-permanent – or, at least, require a trick to remove.’
In 1969, when the bracelet launched, Cartier are said to have restricted purchases to couples only – buying one for yourself simply wasn’t allowed! The jewellers also suggested that the screwdriver was to be kept by the gifting party so that they would have to remove the bangle if you wanted to take it off.
If that all sounds a little last century to you, you may be surprised to know that, following a relaunch in 2011, Cartier’s LOVE Bracelets are as popular today as ever. Celebrities from Angelina Jolie to Kanye West and Justin Bieber to Katie Holmes have all been seen sporting the jewellery on account of its universally appealing style. Kanye is said to wear three while Kylie Jenner wears five! Needless to say, the original sentiment behind the bracelet has faded with time and people now buy them for any occasion. Katie Holmes received hers from Tom Cruise when she gave birth to their daughter in 2006.
By and large, the current design has remained true to the original. Some small changes are evident, however, where the original screws were free to be removed entirely, the newer ones can be loosened but not removed to prevent loss. The newer bangles are all also engraved with serial numbers in an attempt to clamp down on counterfeits. The range has also been extended and now incorporates rings, earrings and necklaces and the bracelet comes in a range of styles and finishes. There are options in white, yellow and pink gold, diamond encrusted ones and for those of us less sure of our commitment, half bangles that don’t lock.
What do you think of Cartier’s ‘universal symbol of love and commitment’? Would you wear it or does the notion of being locked into a piece of jewellery sound too archaic for your modern tastes? Comment and let us know!