Marlene Dietrich’s Jarretière Bracelet- a ruby and diamond cuff by Van Cleef & Arpels
This jewel is as much a star as it’s famous owner! Considered a masterpiece of 1930s design, this cuff bracelet is dominated by a large retro-style loop of platinum, set with rows of cushion- cut rubies of various sizes, centered around a thick, trapezoidal band of baguette and round- cut white diamonds, and trimmed by a single row of calibre-cut diamonds, all set atop a flexible diamond- studded platinum band. Done in the classic jarretière (garter) style, the bracelet takes the form of two flat straps of bejewelled stations, joined by lines of expanding interior links that are attached to a large central hinge clasp (in this case, the diamond components at the front of the cuff). The bracelet is quite flexible but maintains it’s shape and rigidity along it’s width, while remaining adjustable and allowing the wearer to alter it’s length to comfortably conform to their wrist.
Marlene Dietrich collected delectable jewels throughout her life, but especially during the height of her film career, which spanned from the 1930s to the 1950s. One of the most famous pieces within her collection, this bracelet is a smashing example of Old Hollywood Glam, and had the added distinction of being one of the starlet’s favourite jewels. A custom order, it was created by Louis Arpels in 1937 and was based on of the advice of Ms. Dietrich’s longtime friend and companion Erich Maria Remarque, who suggested that she have several pieces of her jewelry taken apart and combined into one fabulous piece. 30 pieces of jewelry- diamond earrings, a diamond necklace, a matching ruby bracelet and necklace, a couple of pins and several other baubles she had lying about, went into the construction of this famous bracelet. As a personal friend of Ms. Dietrich, Louis Arpels made sure that the completed jewel did not disappoint, and it became one of his most iconic and enduring creations, while becoming an intrinsic part of the story of Marlene Dietrich.
It was certainly one of Ms. Dietrich’s favourite pieces- she often wore the bracelet for publicity photos, and famously in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 film Stage Fright, as the perfect accessory to her Christian Dior gown. Yet despite this fondness for it, Ms. Dietrich wore this bracelet only once after it’s film debut, locking it away in a bank vault along with many of her other fabulous adornments sometime in 1951. A sad fate for a glorious gem, her actions most likely stemmed from the changing public attitudes towards ostentation of postwar America, which viewed opulence (like a glittering bracelet) to be in poor taste. She also must have thought it the safer and less expensive option when compared to the cost of insuring and keeping her near-priceless jewels at home.
As the times and tastes changed, so too did Ms. Dietrich’s lifestyle. As years passed, the famed femme fatale was no longer striking out on the town in slinky sequined gowns and diamond jewels. Though she made two films in the 1960s and one as late as 1978, she primarily performed as a singer on stage and in cabarets throughout her later life, entertaining in her usual glamorous way until she was no longer physically able to perform.
Throughout the waning years of her life, economic circumstances ultimately compelled Marlene Dietrich to sell most of her stunning jewels and she ultimately discarded all but one piece of her collection: her beloved Jarretière Cuff. It was the only remaining jewel she possessed at the time of her death in May 1992.
Marlene Dietrich’s Van Cleef & Arpels Jarretière Cuff was sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York in October 1992 as part of her estate. The bracelet now belongs to an anonymous private collection.
For reasons unknown, Ms. Dietrich held onto this masterpiece throughout her life, and it makes one wonder at the significance of this piece held for her. Maybe the gemstones it comprised of were of significant importance, even if their original settings were not? Could those bits and pieces have been heirlooms of some sort, brought over from Germany at the beginning of her career? Or could the bracelet itself have been kept as a remembrance of her close friend and sometime lover Enrich Remarque? It could have embodied the endurance of her affection for him, or his for her… or it was a reminder of all the happy times she spent with him over the course of their 40 year relationship. Whatever her reasons, Ms. Dietrich kept them to herself, imbuing this piece with even more romantic mystery than it already had.
To me, a jewel with a story is the best type of jewel, and this has such a mysterious one!
What a stunner!
Xx – Ana