Few people outside of jewelry circles know Aldo Cipullo. However, hundreds of thousands of people around the world wear two of his pieces: “Love” and “Nail”, made for Cartier in the early 1970s.
By Sandrine Merle.
The chronological account written by historian Vivienne Becker with the creator’s brother, Renato Cipullo, begins in Rome in the 1950s. We discover a handsome Italian captivated by the culture of the United States that permeated post-war Italy. Aldo’s only thought was to escape the classical and baroque architecture of Rome, as well as the powerful hold exerted over him by his father and no doubt his wife. Buzzing with creative energy, he wanted “to live in the present, not in the past.” In 1959, he moved to New York, where he worked for David Webb before joining the Tiffany & Co design studio under the direction of the great Gene Moore. His pieces, sparkling with gold, coral and turquoise cabochons, are in the pure style of the time and the jeweler.
Aldo Cipullo and Cartier
His close collaboration with Cartier was central to his life, in every sense of the word: it began ten years after his arrival in NYC and ended ten years before his death in 1974. Short and intense, the partnership was immediately associated with the Love bracelet formed by two oval bands sealed with eight screws. In 1970, it was a dazzling success, which continues to this day. The designer never knew that his “Nail” – a piece designed to be wrapped around the wrist or finger, conceived the following year – would also become a cult item. With its hint of piercing long before the advent of punk rock, it plodded along for several decades before taking off in 2012, when Cartier renamed it “Juste Un Clou” and featured it at the reopening party of the historic NY boutique with an exhibition dedicated to Cipullo’s work for the maison.
A great idea
The success of the “Love” is mainly due to a brilliant conceit: it’s impossible to put the bracelet on yourself, obliging you to depend on someone else to close it. A commitment jewel that’s much more fun than a wedding ring or a huge diamond! It requires a form of ceremony during which this other person fixes the screws with the help of the vermeil micro-screwdriver provided along with the bracelet. And if they were to disappear with the screwdriver or throw it away? You’re literally a prisoner, handcuffed or padlocked for life…
NYC and Love
When Tiffany & Co refused “Love”, which was probably too avant-garde at the time, Aldo Cipullo slammed the door and offered it to the new president of Cartier NY, Michael Thomas, who immediately saw its potential. With its screws, it resonated perfectly with the Big Apple, Brooklyn Bridge and the iconic staircases climbing up the facades of buildings. An industrial city, in which everything is held together by bolts, nuts and screws. This fascinated the designer, who spent hours in the hardware store on 48th Street photographing these sparkling steel elements. As a symbol of love, refined and unisex, with a slight hint of mischief (it’s said that it was inspired by a chastity belt), it appeals to all categories of the population : young people, celebrities, men and gays. It’s the emblematic jewel of the famous Studio 54, everyone’s wearing it.
That Aldo Cipullo is known only for “Love” and “Juste un Clou” is perhaps no injustice. Although this book attempts to rehabilitate his earlier and later designs (for his own brand), they are less interesting. These two pieces, now Cartier mainstays, represent his best work and a huge achievement. Respect.
“Cipullo Making Jewelry Modern”, Assouline
Banner image: Cipullo wearing a “Scorpio” pendant and a “Nail” bracelet – Circa 1977 Photo Oscar Buitrago, All Rights Reserved, Courtesy Renato Cipullo