Jewelry design is not just about dazzling gems, as the exhibition Van Cleef & Arpels, L’Art de la Haute Joaillerie at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs demonstrates. Their invention of the Serti Mystérieux (Invisible Setting) revolutionized the world of precious stones. The virtuoso technique, patented in 1933, allows stones to be mounted side by side without visible claws or bezels holding them in place.
Two Americans also had a hand in Van Cleef & Arpels innovations. In the 1930s, Florence Gould, daughter-in-law of robber baron Jay Gould and a literary personage and philanthropist in her own right, used a metal Lucky Strike cigarette carton as an evening bag. As the story goes, Frank Arpels, startled at the sight, invented a luxurious replacement, the minaudière—a jeweled gold and lacquer case with compartments for Gould’s necessities. The Duchess of Windsor suggested the remarkable Zip necklace in 1938, but the first one, in platinum and diamonds, took 13 years to perfect—an adjustable necklace that could be “zipped” into a bracelet.
Until Feb. 10. www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr 
Originally published in the November 2012 issue of France Today