Cartier

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The French jewellery house was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier (1819 – 1904). By 1850 it had already been noticed by Princess Mathilde and Empress Eugénie. At his demise, the line was continued by Louis-François’ son Alfred in 1874. Sensitive to the evolution taking place in French society at the time, Alfred created an eclectic collection complimenting fine jewellery with silverware and clocks. This breadth appealed to aristocrats, industrialists and finance workers as well as the usual clientele of royal families. Louis Cartier joined his father in 1898 and added his own vision to the company. Whilst the rest of the world drowned itself in the Art Nouveau movement, Cartier concentrated on more traditional jewellery designs and impeccable workmanship. They experimented with Platinum and were one of the first jewellers to embrace the new metal and the new possibilities for intricate delicate designs that would characterise the house’s production in this period. This is epitomised by their garland style, which is both iconic and unusual for the period. The new century also saw the firm’s expansion abroad as Louis’ brother Jacques opened in London in 1902 and Pierre in New York in 1909. Cartier remained faithful to their international vision and the brothers travelled extensively expanding their network of clients and their pool of inspiration. This is seen both in their success in the Fabergé-dominated market in Russia, where they regularly exhibited, and the various cultures that can be seen reflected in the different series produced in this period. As the Modernist lines and geometric shapes began to dominate the Decorative Arts during the 1920s, Cartier added their own inspirations to the movement, creating some of their most memorable jewels in the 1920s and 1930s. These exotic injections were as international as their travels allowed; Asia was represented by the ‘Chinnoiserie’ motifs centred around pagodas and Chinese dragons; ‘Japonisme’ inspired delicate cherry blossoms and the bold colour contrasts; Persia gave birth to engraved gold boxes; Ancient Egypt (which fascinated many during this period as the advances in archaeology, and eventually the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, left imaginations running wild) was incorporated using ancient artefacts in blue faience into jewels reviving the Egyptian style. The Maharajas of India also set an enviable example with their extravagance. Their opulent palette can be seen in many designs from the 1920s and their carved gems eventually led to the creation of the famous ‘Tutti Frutti’ jewels synonymous with the period. The 1930s ushered in the age of the monochrome and under Jeanne Toussaint the large diamond and platinum bracelets and sautoirs were also complimented by exotic animals such as big cats and birds of paradise, most famously, the panther which eventually became one of its most iconic images. Whilst employing talented designers such as Toussaint or Peter Lemarchand, Cartier were able to keep evolving and, with the careful direction of the Cartier family, keep their identity whilst evolving and instigating current trends. The war obviously affected manufacture and design as the resources became increasingly scarce and semi-precious stones such as citrines and thin expanses of lower carat gold were employed. The social changes felt throughout Europe in the 1960s are also reflected in the company’s evolution as easy to wear demi-parures and dress rings in bright colours reflected the new businesswoman’s wardrobe and pocket. Throughout each period of its impressive history, Cartier continued to produce iconic designs by successfully moulding the company aesthetic around the current trends, wider historical influences and technological advances, resulting in Cartier being rightfully considered as one of the top global jewellery houses to this day.