These fabulous jewels are items from the world-famous House of Cartier range of jewellery. This Parisian icon was founded by Louis-François Cartier in 1847 when he acquired the workshop from his master, the great Adolphe Picard. Cartier’s son Alfred inherited the company in 1874, but it was Alfred’s sons Louis, Pierre and Jacques Cartier who established the brand name worldwide. Louis ran the Paris branch, moving to the Rue de la Paix in 1899.
- Louis Cartier was responsible for some of the company’s most celebrated exotic Orientalist Art Deco designs, including the colourful “Tutti Frutti” jewels.
- Many of these ‘gems’ were created by French jeweller Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1976) who became the first female creative director of luxury jewellery at Cartier in 1933.
- A position Toussaint held until her retirement in 1970.
Toussaint was originally hired by Cartier in 1913 as director of bags, accessories and objects. With her interests in Art Deco, sculpture and India, Toussaint created a revival of an enriched “Tutti Frutti-style” of jewellery incorporating multi-coloured designs, featuring emeralds, rubies and sapphires with diamond accents around the carved stones. Inspired by the colour of the gems and the gold, she also urged the designers at Cartier to return to yellow gold after a predominance of platinum settings which had lasted over 30 years.
Toussaint was responsible for introducing the enduring Panthère collection. ‘Le Panthère’ appears to be a nickname given to her by Louis Cartier due to her magnetic charm, rebellious spirit, feline allure and sharp mind. There were rumours that Louis Cartier and Toussaint had a secret and passionate relationship together despite his marriage in 1924 to a Hungarian aristocrat. By 1933 Louis had retracted from the company’s creative side and spent time with his wife in Budapest to avoid the gossip about Toussaint and himself. By 1954, Toussaint married her long-time partner Baron Pierre Hely d’Oissel.
- Toussaint was a major influence within Cartier. People have been known to refer to Toussaint’s designs as the ‘Toussaint taste‘ in relation to her jewellery style.
The Duchess of Windsor, the former American socialite, Wallis Simpson was most fond of Cartier jewellery and during her lifetime collected many pieces during the Toussaint years.
- One such piece depicted above is Cartier’s Sapphire and diamond ‘Le Panthere‘ clip (1949); and
- Ruby, sapphire, emerald citrine and diamond clip designed as a Flamingo (1948).
Both of these items were sent to auction at Sotheby’s in Geneva, 1986, as part of the the Estate of the Duchess of Windsor. The Duchess’ collection of jewellery was sold in aid of the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The proceeds from the sale which totalled SF74 million (US$50 million) was donated to the construction and maintenance of laboratories for research into retroviruses, cancer and AIDS.
Although not part of this collection or auction, I have included a more recent example of Cartier jewellery.
- Cartier’s Opal Austral bracelet with its perfectly smooth 57.95 carat Australian opal which was on display at the Biennale des Antiquaires, held under the domed glass roof of the Grand Palais in Paris.
“Is It Art?”