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10 timeless, iconic jewellery pieces you’ll treasure forever

18/11/2021

The inimitable Yves Saint Laurent put it best when he said, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” When it comes to curating a jewellery box that will serve you well for a lifetime, it’s worth remembering that some things truly never go out of style. Indeed, a few classic pieces have actually transcended time, achieving truly iconic status and the ability to bestow any outfit with instant polish.

With the festive season just around the corner, there’s no better time to treat yourself or a loved one to an iconic piece of jewellery that can be passed down for generations to come. These creations, loved by everyone from Hollywood icons to the Royal family, will always be a wise investment.

So, give the gift of longevity this season with a fine-jewellery piece that’ll bring joy for decades. From the instantly recognisable Cartier Love bangle to Chanel’s classic pearls, De Beer’s diamond studs and Van Cleef & Arpel’s lucky Alhambra talisman, here are 10 truly special pieces of jewellery to buy now and wear forever.

If you’re in the market for something with a slightly more petite price tag, make sure to consider these affordable jewellery brands, too.

 

The most iconic jewellery designs in history

 

The Cartier Tank Watch

Introduced in 1919, the Tank was named after the armoured vehicles that rumbled across the battlefields of World War I, but the sleek linearity of its design (its shape was inspired by a bird’s eye view of the first tanks, which had tracks running all around their bodies) has ensured a cult following ever since.

Its aficionados have included Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol, Jackie Kennedy, Diana, Princess of Wales, and, more recently, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex: all style icons in their own right.

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The Tiffany & Co Open Heart Pendant

The innovative Italian designer Elsa Peretti joined Tiffany & Co. in 1974, but the jewellery she created for the house is so masterfully modern, it still appears relevant and stylish almost half a century later.

Peretti’s fluid and sculptural pieces (such as the Bone Cuff, Bean pendant and the articulated Scorpion necklace) appealed to a rising wave of bold and powerful women like herself, including Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren and Liza Minelli, who adored them for being “so sensual, so sexy”.

One of the most instantly recognisable and best-loved of Peretti’s designs is the Open Heart pendant: a sleek, streamlined heart with an open centre, inspired the ’empty spaces’ of Henry Moore sculptures. It’s a fascinating conversation starter and an iconic piece of design history in its own right, whether worn on its own or layered up with other gold jewellery.

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The Chanel Pearl Earrings

Imbued with sophistication and poise, pearls are the perfect way to add instant polish to any outfit. So much so, that Coco Chanel once claimed that a woman “should have ropes and ropes” of them.

Though her clothing was considered minimalist and sporty in its day, Chanel herself loved theatrical jewellery, and famously wore piles of costume pearls alongside strands of the real deal. Her signature style eventually made her fashion house synonymous with the lustrous gem, and they are still a key Chanel motif almost a century later.

Pearl earrings are a brilliant way of bringing a touch of life and luminosity to your face. Chanel’s white gold and mother-of-pearl creations come with detachable cultured pearl drops, making them a transformable as well as luxurious addition to any jewellery box.

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The Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Necklace

Reminiscent of a traditional Moorish quatrefoil (a pattern with four overlapping circles) or a lucky four-leaf clover, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra necklace first launched in 1968 and is said to be named after the Alhambra Palace in Spain, which boasts iconic semi-circular archways.

The design debuted as a opera-length chain with 20 clover-shaped motifs, each framed with a gold beaded trim. Colourful semi-precious gems, such as turquoise, malachite, coral and lapis lazuli, were later introduced in the 1960s and Seventies.

These days, the Alhambra is an instantly recognisable Van Cleef signature, one that’s continually refreshed with new stones and design twists, ensuring it appeals to modern jewellery lovers and classic collectors alike. Take inspiration from Hollywood Alhambra devotees, like Grace Kelly and Romy Schneider, and use it to add instant lustre to any daytime look.

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The Bulgari Serpenti Watch

Lithe and sensuous, the serpent has been the symbol of the Italian jeweller Bulgari ever since it first appeared in the form of snake-like watches and bracelets in the 1940s.

In the early Sixties, it shot to fame when Elizabeth Taylor was photographed wearing Bulgari’s Serpenti watch on the set of Cleopatra, the film for which she became the first actress to secure a million-dollar contract.

The Serpenti has been an iconic design ever since, and can now be found slithering across a huge collection of Bulgari’s bags, jewellery and watches. Its most opulent new iteration is the Serpenti Spiga watch, which features a graphic diamond-set bracelet inspired by an archive design.

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The Boodles Diamond Tennis Bracelet

This sleek diamond bracelet has been around since the 1920s but rose to fame thanks to tennis player Chris Evert, who wore one while rising through the professional ranks in the 1970s.

The elegant simplicity of a row of diamonds is what makes this a hard-working piece; one which looks as chic with a cocktail dress as it does with tailored suit or a T-shirt and jeans. Boodles’ take on the classic design makes the perfect jewellery-box staple, and even comes with a tiny tennis ball charm as a nod to its origins.

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The Piaget Cuff Bracelet

Originally a watchmaker, Piaget acquired its first goldsmithing workshops in 1961 and since then has produced beautiful, tactile, sensuous gold jewellery with ornamental hard stones such as lapis, malachite and opal to complement its elegant watches.

Forever inspired by the hues of the Mediterranean, Piaget’s stackable gold bangles bring a touch of sunny warmth to whatever you wear them with.

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The Harry Winston Cluster Earrings

The American jeweller, Harry Winston, founded his eponymous house in 1932 and became renowned for handling some of the world’s most famous diamonds.

As the ‘King of Diamonds’, he was the first jeweller to lend diamonds to an actress (Jennifer Jones, who was nominated for her role in the film Songs of Bernadette) for the Academy Awards in 1944. His sparkle has been spotted on red carpets around the world ever since. Marylin Monroe even mentions him in her song Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Winston’s signature technique came about in the 1940s, when he combined pear and marquise-cut diamonds at varying angles to create ‘clusters’ of brilliants. The cluster remains a trademark of the jeweller to this day, and aficionados adore it for its intense sparkle – as seen on A-listers like Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, Helen Mirren and Natalie Portman.

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The Cartier Love Bracelet

The Love bangle is one of the most searched-for pieces of jewellery on Google, and with good reason; it’s an iconic, easy-to-wear piece imbued with a romantic underlying message.

Created by Italian jewellery designer Aldo Cipullo for Cartier in 1969, the bracelet was intended as a ‘modern handcuff’ for men or women: its oval shape sits as close to the skin as possible and it is secured around your wrist with tiny screws to signify the permanence of true love.

Legend has it that when the bracelet was first launched, Cartier gifted pairs of them to some of the most famous couples of the 20th century, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen; and Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti.

Over 50 years later, the bracelet is still so popular, it is said New York hospitals keep mini Love screwdrivers on hand in case they need to remove bracelets from patients in an emergency.

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The De Beers Diamond Stud Earrings

A classic pair of diamond studs is the jewellery equivalent of a Little Black Dress: effortlessly stylish and a fail-safe way to elevate any look. Whatever you pair them with – be it a workaday suit, denim or a cashmere jumper – they will add instant polish.

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From Harper’s Bazaar UK

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