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Cartier: The story of the most famous jewellery

Photos: Cartier

We present a tour of the main styles of Cartier, a walk through of the elegance and subtlety of its creations that have fascinated kings, princesses, aristocrats and celebrities from all over the world.

Like most success stories, it begins with a humble origin; in this case, the small workshop in Paris where, in 1847, Louis Francois Cartier opens his first jewelry shop. Louis, the eldest of his grandchildren, would move to the Rue de la Paix, the heart of the Parisian aristocracy, and from there, he would begin the long and glamorous career that Cartier enjoyed while becoming an icon for jewellery and luxury watchmaking.

The first customers were royals like Princess Matilde, (cousin of Emperor Napoleon III), Queen Alexandra of England, Russian Princess Olga Paley and Elisabeth, Queen of Belgium. And it was the British King Edward VII who baptizes Cartier as “King of jewellers, jeweller of Kings”, and honoured him with the first title of supplier to the Royal House of England. Very soon, this title was followed by recognition in the Courts of Spain, Portugal, Russia, Belgium, Greece, Italy and Monaco, among others.

These are Cartier’s most recognizable styles

- Garland:when Art Nouveau was the predominant trend, Louis Cartier chose to provide his own interpretation of eighteenth-century French neoclassicism. The jeweller was innovative in the use of platinum, a material that allows highly flexible mountings and is almost invisible and allows jewellers to reveal all the radiance of each diamond. These dazzling jewels seduced the royal courts. And they opened the doors to the world.

- Modern:although the garland style triumphed all over the world, Cartier and his company ventured in other directions: geometric stylization that associated with combinations of bold colours like blue and green, making the jewelry a precursor of Art Deco. A lover of clean lines, no Cartier goes from stylization to pure geometric abstraction.

- Panthère:Jeanne Toussaint took over the department of Quality Cartier Jewellery in Paris in 1933; her style was so important that it created a new taste known as “goût Toussaint”. Passionate about flowers and animals, she develops the considerable theme of the panther in the Maison. Working with great virtuosity in three dimensions, the panther seduces high profile clients such as the Duchess of Windsor and becomes the emblem of Cartier.

- Bestiary and reptiles: Since the 1940s, under the influence of Jeanne Toussaint, at Cartier world animals abound, both real and fantastic. The jewelry is inspired by the wild animals of Africa, particularly the wild beasts; also in the sacred animals of ancient Egypt; and Fu dogs, dragons and chimeras of China. But above all, the predominance is for reptiles, whose elastic forms are recreated in rings, bracelets and necklaces.

- Chimeras: Object of the mythical founder of Chinese civilization, a symbol of longevity and success, the dragon is a chimera, a fantastic combination of various animals. Fascinated by the magic and strange beauty of this creature, Cartier has regularly proposed Chimera jewelry since the 1920s. Cartier doesn’t imitate jewels or antique ornaments, but soaks up the spirit of ancient China to create unpublished pieces.

- Eclecticism: ancient, Byzantine and neo-renaissance motifs, floral or animal figurations, enamels and cameos, gold and precious stones: before 1900, Cartier reflected the eclecticism of the decorative arts and architecture of its time. A loyal customer gave it more celebrity: Princess Matilde, niece of Napoleon I and cousin of Napoleon III, whose salon was the busiest in Paris and who was known as “Notre Dame des Arts” (“Our Lady of the Arts “).

- Essential: Trinity, LOVE, Clou bracelet, three incarnations of the timeless spirit that Cartier works have held for more than a century. Unisex gold jewelry that has become emblematic, whose strength and emotion arise at the same time as its symbolism and its essential design.

Grace Kelly jewellery

The premiere of the film Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman, reflects the actress’s life. She was converted from an actress into to the princess of Monaco. A glamorous and sophisticated icon, she maintained a mutual attraction with Cartier jewellery. And the jewellery shined in her presence.

For the film, some of the most important jewels that Grace Kelly wore have been represented, such as the engagement ring (a central diamond the size of an emerald of 10,47 carats) and a tiara. Besides this, the jewellery firm was assigned to produce various pieces in order for actors and actresses to wear them during filming.

It should be noted that, at a dance for Grace Kelly’s 40th birthday celebration, held at the Monaco Palace, Elizabeth Taylor arrived wearing a necklace with the Burton-Taylor diamond. The stone, which was previously embedded in a ring, had been acquired for more than a million dollars (in 1969) by Cartier, and two days after, Richard Burton gave it to the actress. At that time, it was the most valuable diamond in private hands, and the 12th biggest in the world.