Fifty years ago, Cartier broke conventions in jewellery design as it elevates a familiar object into something infinitely bold, modern and iconic

There’s something to be said about industrial-inspired jewellery for bringing out the inner rebel in you. During the time when America was going through flower power, there was a French jewellery house in New York that was brewing a revolution of its own.

Conceived in 1969 and 1971 respectively, Cartier’s iconic Love and Juste un Clou bracelets have immediately caught on with celebrities and jewellery enthusiasts alike, and transformed the way people wore jewellery. During that time, jewellery was picked for special occasions or to match outfits but thanks to the audaciousness of the luxury jewellery maison, these unisex, hardware-inspired bracelets could be worn daily from day to night and have become a must-have item that continues to be coveted up to this day.

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Above Cartier Love bracelet in yellow gold
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Above The Love bracelet can only be unlocked with a specific screwdriver

The man behind them was Italian jewellery designer Aldo Cipullo, who designed the Love bracelet within a year of him joining the French jewellery house. Inspired by the symbolism of the medieval chastity belt, which maidens used to preserve their virtue while their beloved knights fought in The Crusades, Cipullo wanted to create an emblem of devotion and faithfulness, which he translated into the Love bracelet’s design. Made with two elliptical shapes and a flat top to lovingly curve around the wrist, with visible screws that act as a defining detail, the bracelet becomes whole when it is locked using a specific screwdriver. Akin to a precious handcuff, it can only be removed by unlocking it the same way. It is no wonder then that the Love bracelet is popular among couples, to symbolise their emotional connection to each other. 

When it was originally released, it was rumoured that Cartier once had a policy that Love bracelets could only be purchased by a couple. In fact, it’s been worn by famous couples of the era, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as well as Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen. Today, thanks to fans like Kylie Jenner, Sofia Coppola, Cameron Diaz and Kanye West, the Love bracelet has gained cult status and is reportedly the most searched jewellery item on Google. It is even given as a present for special occasions such as the birth of a child or as a gift to oneself.

The Love bracelet is one of the most recognisable designs in Cartier’s illustrious history, and has expanded into a collection of rings, necklaces and earrings which are available in different variations of gold or paved with diamonds or precious stones. 

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Above Cartier's Juste un Clou bracelet in pink gold
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Above Five stripes are engraved as a reference to the nail head

Its younger sister Juste un Clou, which means ‘Just a Nail’ was also a brainchild of Cipullo’s. Inspired by the designer’s affinity for common hardware, the original version was simply known as the Nail bracelet because it literally looked like one, which was gracefully bent to wrap around the wrist. And if you look very closely, five stripes are engraved before the nail head, making a reference to the lines on flathead hardware nails and further elevating these functional roots into aesthetic design elements. 

At the time it was released, the bracelet’s bold and unique design symbolised the rebellious spirit of 1970s New York. Indeed, it was all about breaking traditions and boundaries—a concept that still resonates today, half a century later. The modern Juste un Clou bracelets are slimmer and sleeker, available in small, classic or large sizes in simple white, pink or yellow gold or paved versions, and have expanded to add rings, earrings, necklaces and cufflinks to the collection. 

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Above Monica Bellucci with stacked Love bracelets in yellow gold
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Above Monica Bellucci wearing Love bracelets in yellow and white gold

Teeming with personality and edge, both collections can be worn as a standalone piece or stacked together for a more layered look—it’s really up to you. Take a gander at Italian screen siren and Bond girl Monica Bellucci, who looks stunning as ever at 56 and rocking the Love and Juste un Clou sparklers with her usual flair and panache. 

See also: Iconic Bracelets Worth Investing In For Your Everyday Wear

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