Saturday, 5 January 2013

THE ART OF CARTIER: Modernism vs Art Deco

Cartier Pendant/Brooch Panther watch 1915
Geometrical and abstract designs started to appear in jewellery as far backs as 1904, in clear contrast to the Garland style. In 1909 there was a very important artistic event: the Russian Ballet of Sergei Diagilev was a major success in Paris. Louis Cartier was fascinated by the explosion of colours. One of his favourite colour combinations was blue and green and he interpreted in a magnificent mix of turquoise, lapis lazuli and jade or emerald and sapphire.

Onix was used since the beginning of the Twentieth Century and it became one of Cartier's favourite gemstones. It was very useful to enhance the diamonds as well as the piece's geometrical design. In 1914 appeared one of the most iconic designs by Cartier, the "panther skin" set in diamonds and onix. During that period and until the early thirties, rock crystal also became one of Cartier's favourite materials.

Cartier, cigarette case, 1930

Cartier created the basics of the Art Deco style before the First World War. The term and the style would be properly acknowledged after the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts took place in Paris in 1925. The most pure geometrical shapes and patterns were restricted to some objects like cigarette cases and some brooches.

Cartier, Pyramid clip brooch, 1935

Towards the end of the 1920's, the height of the Art Deco style brought back platinum and diamonds in a new type of "white jewellery" reminiscent of the one at the beginning of the century. Daring cuts were introduced, like the baguette, which suit the geometrical trend in Art deco perfectly. The pieces were first designed as flat and two dimensional and towards the 1930's they started to acquire volume.

© Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Friday, 4 January 2013


Cartier, Rinceaux Tiara, 1910

Tiaras are considered the ultimate royal power symbol. They have evolved through centuries into ever more sophisticated and luxurious versions according to their wearer's rank.  They came back in fashion during the XIX Century and remained so until the First World War. The first tiaras made by Cartier date back to the beginning of the XX Century and most of them were set in platinum in the Garland style that reproduced the motifs from french art during the XVII and XVIII Centuries. It was a fundamental piece of adornment for the Belle Epoque dames.

Queen Elisabeth II Kokoshnik Tiara

In a similar way to the impressive brooches Devant de Corsage which could be worn thanks to the corset; the grand tiaras were fixed to sophisticated hair arrangements with high buns. After 1907, the russian influence brought the Kokoshnik style tiaras and Cartier created several pieces set with diamonds.
Cartier, Bandeau Tiara, 1924
The years between the First and Second World wars brought some of the most radical changes experienced by humankind in such short time. A few years of economic prosperity altered the order of society granting merchants and bankers entrance into the most exclusive circles. But perhaps the biggest change of all was the one related to women and their freedom. Many women were then able to emancipate and manage their own affairs, something that was forbidden in most countries until quite recently. This brought also changes to the way they dressed and the heavy tiaras were replaced by the lighter and more daring bandeau, worn on the forehead. It was the early twenties.

Cartier, Aquamarie Tiara, London 1937

During the late thirties, tiaras were not used either in New York nor Paris, but they were still worn in the English Court. However, after years of the deepest recession known, diamonds were substituted by other "fine" gemstones.

© Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Thursday, 3 January 2013

THE ART OF CARTIER: From Apprentice jeweller to Rue de la Paix

Cartier, Devant de Corsage, 1906

Louis-Francois Cartier (1819-1904) worked at a jewellery workshop owned by Adolphe Picard at 29, Rue Montorgueil in Paris. In 1847, Master Picard moved to other premises and asked young Cartier to look after the old one. It took Cartier only six years to gather the expertise, courage and capital to open his own business near Palais Royal. Due to their fine craftsmanship, his pieces (of classical inspiration) drew attention from the most elegant clients of the time. Princess Matilde, cousin to Napoleon III, bought more than two hundred pieces and in 1859, Empress Eugenia de Montijo commissioned a silver tea service.

In 1859 the shop moved to 9, Boulevard des Italiens, the new fashionable district and Alfred (1841-1925), son of Louis-Francoise took over the business in 1874. The discovery of the diamonds mines in South Africa that happened in 1860 had a major impact in the jewellery world and from then on, diamonds would be the preeminent gemstone of fine jewellery. The pieces during this period were set in silver and gold with motifs inspired by Louis XV style, it would be known as the Garland style. It reached its height in 1890 and it would last until the first World war. Alfred was the first jeweller to start using platinum instead of silver to set this white jewellery as he was worried about the oxidation of the latter.

Alfred Cartier had three sons: Louis (1875-1942), Pierre (1878-1964) and Jacques (1884-1942). Louis started working with his father in 1898 and he would be soon followed by his two brothers. In 1899, Louis convinced his father, Alfred, to move Cartier's premises to the most elegant address in Paris, 13 Rue de la Paix, where it remains today.

Alfred Cartier and his three sons, Louis, Pierre and Jacques in 1922

© Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza