Published - Transformable: Jewelry you can wear many ways

Transformables have long been a staple of fine jewelry, offering clients the opportunity to wear a piece more than one way. They first appeared around the turn of the 20th century, when jewelers created tiaras that could be dismantled to be worn as necklaces and hairpieces that could be worn as brooches. The ideal of versatility took root and endures to this day.

This year, several high-end jewelers are presenting versatile new creations that showcase their design ingenuity and know-how. At the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris, Boucheron, Bulgari, Cartier, Chanel, Chaumet and Van Cleef & Arpels are showing one-of-a-kind pieces that can be broken down into their components, to be worn together as a set or separately. 

Coco Chanel launched her first jewelry line in 1932 with several versatile pieces, including a necklace that could be transformed into three bracelets and a brooch. Chanel is now paying an 80th anniversary homage to its founder in its new 1932 Collection, which includes the Étoile Filante — a sautoir, or extra-long necklace, formed by a cascade of chains with baguette-cut diamonds, held by a large diamond star that can be removed to be worn as a brooch.

Chaumet, a master of metamorphosis, will also offer a new version of the sautoir that can be transformed to adorn not just the neckline, but also shoulders or hips. The jeweler is also giving a fresh twist to a classic headdress by presenting several transformable tiaras.

In one tiara, the central motif, a five-carat pear-cut diamond, can be removed and worn as a pendant on a necklace; in another, an aigrette — a feather-themed hair ornament — set with a 40-carat cabochon-cut white Ethiopian opal, can be worn on top of a bandeau as the central piece or as a brooch or pendant on a necklace; a third comes with dangling pearls that can be detached to create pendant earrings.

Boucheron, meanwhile, will be showcasing its first collection by its new creative director, Claire Choisne. For this L’Artisan du Rêve collection, Ms. Choisne looked into the Maison’s archives to reinterpret the jeweler’s savoir-faire and codes in a contemporary light.

‘‘Amongst these are many jewelry creations that can be worn in different ways, such as a brooch that can be placed on the shoulder or even in the hair, giving different options to accessorize,’’ Ms. Choisne said in an e-mail, noting that all the nine ‘‘chapters’’ of the collection have pieces that have ‘‘interchangeable wearing options or specific technical aspects that bring movement to the creations.’’

The Bouquet d’Ailes brooch, with emerald, colored sapphire, fine stone and diamonds, can also be worn as a hairpin; the Nature de Cristal necklace, made of diamond and rock crystal, has a detachable pendant that can be worn as a brooch, while the bracelet also has a small diamond tassel decorating the fastening that can be detached and worn as a brooch or pendant.

Ms. Choisne said that when creating a piece that has multiple wearing options the designer must take into consideration the aesthetic aspect of how the piece will look when worn in different manners as well as the specific hidden technical aspects that allow it to stay in place.

‘‘For example, in the brooch/hairpin, we created a pin attachment that also combines a barrette spring mechanism,’’ she said.

‘‘Most importantly, these mechanisms must be hidden when worn and thus sculpted to adapt to the form and movement of the jewelry creation,’’ she noted.

The challenge in creating such a piece lies in presenting jewelry that you would never guess is transformable, said Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director in charge of image, heritage and style. The jeweler often has to use the most sophisticated techniques to hide a piece’s mechanisms, Mr. Rainero noted.

Cartier will be presenting several transformable pieces, including a platinum necklace with brilliants, onyx and ruby briolettes, or pear-shaped beads. It can be worn in five ways: as a short necklace; a long necklace; four bracelets; a brooch, and earrings. To meet increasing demand for such versatile designs, Cartier has been developing its research to provide even more sophisticated and challenging creations, Mr. Rainero said.

Biennale exhibitors are not the only jewelers presenting new versatile pieces. Graff Diamonds has just introduced its Sautoir collection: it includes an expandable necklace that can be worn as one long single-strand necklace or two separate double strands. Graff has also created an emerald and diamond double brooch that can be worn in several ways — as a double brooch, as two separate single brooches or as a single drop, hanging elegantly from a necklace.

‘‘The process of creating pieces that are transformable is not as simple as creating a single piece of jewelry, as many more factors need to be taken into consideration, including the flawless ease of transformation, and ensuring the intricate settings and releases are discrete, regardless of how the item is worn,’’ the jeweler Laurence Graff said in an e-mail reply to questions. ‘‘These pieces are the true essence of Haute Joaillerie.’’

François Delage, chief executive of De Beers Diamond jewelers, said: ‘‘We do find that within high jewelry we have clients who are interested in pieces that are versatile and can be worn to create different looks for their special occasions.’’ Over the summer, De Beers unveiled a new collection of eight unique pieces, called ‘‘The Imaginary Nature,’’ which Mr. Delage describes as the company’s most creative high jewelry collection.

One of these pieces is a rivière, or short, simply strung necklace of pear-cut diamonds adorned with a detachable brooch featuring an 8.49-carat pear-cut diamond. It can be worn in three distinct ways: ‘‘The necklace worn alone is a contemporary interpretation of a classic; the brooch can be worn as the centerpiece to create a dramatic look, or the brooch can be attached to the necklace for the ultimate red carpet expression,’’ Mr. Delage said.