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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