One man, his story, and the legacy behind the most searched bracelet in the world

The resurgence of the Cartier Love bracelet revolutionised jewellery, particularly among the younger generation. It now firmly stands as a staple in every fine jewellery connoisseur’s collection. Despite its popularity in the recent decade—mostly owing to its ubiquitousness in pop culture—most of its stalwart fans will be surprised to know that the design is over 50 years old! Perhaps this is the beauty of love: it is timeless.

Its story starts at 3am in 1969, as 20-something-year-old designer Aldo Cipullo recalls a sleepless night after a relationship came to an end. Ironic, considering that it was on this very night that he designed the most iconic symbol of love: the Love bracelet.

Cipullo wanted to create something which was a physical depiction of love and loyalty, which couldn’t be carelessly removed, replaced or taken away. He visualised that it could be worn in place of an engagement ring—and would stand as a symbol of someone in a committed relationship.

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Cipullo saw beauty in simplicity. Using the concept of a medieval chastity belt as its foundation, which was an archaic mechanism worn by women to prevent sexual intercourse, he paired this startling inspiration with the industrial elements he saw in New York, and created the bracelet’s infamous screw-on design.

During this time, he was a designer at Tiffany & Co. and would often be seen wearing a prototype of the bracelet. Tiffany & Co. (un)fortunately rejected the design. Instead of wallowing in defeat, Cipullo quit his job and pitched the idea to the Cartier New York branch, which due to new proprietorship, was seeking a new image. Perhaps, it was love at first sight.

This was a new age at Cartier New York: for the first time, a branch was not owned by the Cartier family, and the new owners were seeking a new generation of customers with new values and modern lifestyles. The 1970s was a time when high jewellery was worn on special occasions, and less formal pieces were worn every day. There was no market for the grey area of everyday fine jewellery, which could also be worn for a formal event. Simply put, the Love bracelet changed how people wore jewellery.

When interviewed, Cipullo said, “Design has to be part of function. That’s the secret of success. When you have function and design, married together, you always have a successful item.”

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The design of the bracelet itself is pure and simple. The distinct oval shape ensures it fits to the curvature of the wearer’s wrist. The screws—a hint to the later-conceptualised Cartier Santos watch—allow a loved one to lock the bracelet in place. Initially, Cipullo wanted the bracelet to be sold in pairs, so clients would be unable to purchase it for themselves. Now, of course, this is not the case. The 1970s version was only produced in a 18K gold plated version and retailed at US$250, roughly US$1800 in today’s money.

At the time of its introduction, Cartier reportedly sent 25 pairs of the bracelet to the most famous couples around the world. This included the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen, and Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti. More than a symbol of love, the piece has since become a part of pop culture, and it remains the most recognisable piece of jewellery in existence.

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Above Kylie Jenner with her Cartier Love bracelet stack (Photo: Getty Images)

The design was reborn in 2011 after Cartier switched out the screws for functioning screws which when opened—remained attached to the bracelet. It wasn’t long after this that the multi-hyphenate Kylie Jenner was spotted sporting a stack of them and caused the same uproar that had happened almost 40 years prior—encouraging a shift in their target demographic.

Over the years, Cartier has truly mastered the art of reinvention—from cuffs, to the luxurious pavé diamond-encrusted model—they have moulded the iconic design to suit the tastes and trends of every generation. 

Today, millennials’ fondness of the bracelet is exemplified by its place as the most searched piece of jewellery on Google—with four times more searches than the next item, the Tiffany engagement ring. 

Cipullo was one of two Cartier designers ever given the honour of inscribing his name into his design. In the original 18K version, you will find the name “Aldo Cipullo” next to Cartier on the inside edge. Cipullo lived fast and died young at aged 42 from two heart attacks in 1984. But we take solace that through his message, designs, and most importantly, his love of love—he is immortalised.

Like every iconic piece of fashion, it is always about more than just buying something. It represents the idea, the artist, and the experiences that led to that “lightbulb” moment. The true magic lies in the fact that it took a young, broken-hearted, jewellery maker’s son, to show the world what love is. 

In his words, which still ring true, “love has become too commercial, yet life without love is nothing”.

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