Van Cleef & Arpels have produced more than one piece of jewelry that is functionally fluid, morphing from bracelet to necklace, to brooch, to earrings and back again. However, the first transformational piece was patented in 1938.
Titled Bijou à transformations multiples, the French patent FR884209was granted on August 8, 1938, to the Van Cleef & Arpels Company.
FR884209 discloses a ribbon, consisting of a metal cable (1), and a clip (3) designed with several tracks (7) and pins (4) for the purposes of threading the cable, and restraining it at any given point. The cable also has end means (5, 6) designed both ornamentally as a pendant, and technically for attaching extensions. Thus, the cable can slide through the clip, which opens and closes with a spring mechanism (2), enabling to adjust, and pin down, cable sizes to a bracelet (Fig. 5), a choker (Fig. 4), a long, medium, short, single or double stranded necklace. The clip was also designed so that the cable could loop back (Fig. 3) into the tracks for added flexibility of function. Finally, the clip was also envisioned so that it could be ornamentally designed as a brooch and/or earrings.
This first Van Cleef and Arpels transformational piece of jewelry was marketed as the “passe-partout necklace". The 1938 marketed product displays an ornamental design of the clip in the shape of flowers, studded with precious stones.
Images showing various transformations of the historical “passe-partout” piece are included below. Figures 1 to 9 of the patent are also included to illustrate the clip design (Figs 7, 8 and 9), the tracks and restraining mechanism (Figs 1, 2 and 3), as well as some of the envisioned possibilities of wearing the piece (Figs 4, 5 and 6).