Patented in 1938, the Passe-Partout jewel is one of the first examples of the transformative pieces pioneered by Van Cleef & Arpels. Designed to adapt to its wearer’s mood, it was the perfect creation for modern women who wanted to be able to match their jewelry to different clothes and different situations. It was one of the Maison’s best-known pieces throughout the late 1930s and 1940s.
The Passe-Partout jewel is based on an ingenious technical innovation. Hidden by two flower clips, a system of metal rails enables a flexible yellow gold snake chain to slide in and out, transforming the piece into a necklace, a choker, an opera-length necklace, a bracelet or a belt. The flowers can also be worn alone as clips and some can even be worn as earclips.
This jewel was always accompanied by floral designs, as in this example from 1939 whose contrasting blue and yellow flowers are colored sapphires, rubies and diamonds.
Drawing featuring a Passe-Partout bracelet, circa 1940
Van Cleef & Arpels Archives