Aldo Cipullo, an Italian jewelry designer who emigrated to New York in 1959. After a bit of time at Tiffany & Co and David Webb, Cipullo joined Cartier in 1969. The first design of his five-year tenure remains one of the best-selling jewelry items in Cartier’s history, the Love bangle.
Comprising two gold semi-circles, the bangle was fastened around the wrist by screws, using the tiny vermeil screwdriver it was sold with. It was nearly impossible to put on by oneself, and therefore intended to be purchased only as a gift for one’s true love.
Cipullo quickly followed up on the success of Love with Juste un Clou (Just a Nail) in 1970, taking the everyday household object and rendering it as an 18-carat gold bangle, elevating it to a fine jewelry fashion icon. Essentially a large gold nail that wrapped around the wrist, it was an audacious design that reflected the spirit of the times.
Aldo Cipullo left Cartier to establish his own atelier in 1974. As a freelance artist, Cipullo continued to produce high end, popular jewelry such as a renowned men’s collection (which won him the prestigious Coty award), a costume collection for Trifari and cheeky dollar sign jewelry – about which Cipullo remarked that the dollar sign “[was] the electric eye that reflects the mood of this country.” (Telegraph-Herald. Nov. 28, 1975). In 1978, the American Gem Society commissioned a limited collection to feature American gemstones such as Montana sapphires, diamonds from Arkansas and Arizona turquoise. The 31-piece grouping utilizing important precious and semi-precious stones toured the United States before being donated to the Smithsonian Museum’s impressive mineralogical collection. Yet, financial success and international acclaim were not enough for this ambitious designer. He planned to publish a book showcasing the development of this collection that would be used as a sort of guidebook for the future jewelry students he hoped would come to study at Aldo Cipullo, ltd. Unfortunately, this dream never came to fruition.
Aldo Cipullo died of a double heart attack in 1984 at the age of 48. His death was mourned by the hip, the Hollywood set and the high-end fashion world alike and in 1988 the Men’s Fashion Association paid Cipullo tribute when it renamed its Lulu Award for excellence in fashion journalism to the Aldo Award. Today, the legacy of this larger-than-life designer lives on in his perennially popular designs — jewelry that has gained permanence in a mercurial global culture.