Everyone suffered for the war effort during the 1940s, even glamorous ladies like European Countess Tilly Losch, actress, dancer, socialite, and then-wife of Britain’s Earl of Carnarvon. They wore gold rather than platinum (which was used for armament). And they dressed up in flashy jewelry rather than fancy clothes, since new fabric was in short supply. Take this shot of Losch, who donned a forgettable outfit but four remarkable yellow gold creations by Van Cleef & Arpels when she posed for Cecil Beaton in 1946.
“If you look at what she’s wearing, it’s very simple,” explains Nicolas Luchsinger, Van Cleef & Arpels’ vice president of retail operations in the Americas. “There’s a fur coat, but your eye is attracted to the jewelry, not the clothes.” The countess’ collar holds a detachable leaf-shape diamond and ruby brooch in the jeweler’s signature mystery setting; her wrist is wrapped in the Mon Chou—French for my cabbage—bracelet (its diamond-dotted pieces resemble the leafy vegetable); her earrings are bows, a popular Van Cleef style at the time; and her ring is called the Ballerina, as the diamond surround gives the impression of a tutu. “Losch wanted the attention on her jewelry,” says Luchsinger. Wish granted.