Under the management of Maurice Coüet, Cartier has produced mysterious clocks during the early decades of the 19th century, each being a masterpiece of engineering and arts. The previous article of the series covers Cartier’s mystery clocks.
Cartier’s eventful history is enriched not only by iconic pieces but by iconic personalities too. From the golden days of Hollywood and the 60s-70s Cartier watches and jewels appear on many photographs being the favourite pieces of movie stars, artists and musicians.
Marlene Dietrich who became famous with the Blue Angel was a true femme fatale, Clark Gable – known as the king of Hollywood or Igor Stravinsky – one of the most prominent composers of the 20th century all wore Cartier watches. My favourite photo of Romy Schneider was shot on the set of the Triple Cross in 1967, she can be seen with her Baignoire watch in a beige hat and multi-strand pearl necklace. (Rue des Archives/BCA)
“I don’t wear a Tank watch to tell the time. Actually I never even wind it. I wear a Tank because it is the watch to wear!” – Andy Warhol poses with his dachshund, Tank Must de Cartier watch on his wrist. Sotheby’s auctioned off pieces from the eccentric artist’s collection in 1988, including an 18K yellow gold Tank with black crocodile straps.
The name of Elizabeth Taylor (1932–2011) is practically inseparable from fine jewellery; the title of her autobiography My Love Affair with Jewellery also reveals the object of her affection. The relationship between Taylor and Richard Burton is legendary, and is paved with grand and expensive jewellery. The splendid diamond and ruby necklace on show was a gift from Taylor’s third husband, producer Mike Todd.
Grace Kelly, as the wife of Prince Rainier III became Princess Grace of Monaco (1929-1982). The Cartier House has been the official jeweller of Prince Albert I since 1920, among other pieces this is also evidenced by a brooch with the Monaco Coat of Arms, decorated with diamond, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. Princess Grace of Monaco liked to wear Cartier jewels both in the official photographs and in her private life. Her engagement ring was also from Cartier, featuring an exceptionally clear 10.47 ct emerald-cut diamond, framed by two baguette-cut diamonds.
María Félix (1914-2002) was a Mexican actress, also known, particularly in her later years, by the honorific La Doña name. She was also well known in France, and led a rather eventful and conspicuous life in Mexico and Europe. She preferred extravagance in interior design, fashion and jewellery. Her collection includes unique diamonds and custom Cartier pieces too. The platinum and white gold Serpent necklace was created with a hinged technique thus making the diamond reptile even more life-like. María Felix adored crocodiles, and so a necklace featuring two crocs that could be dismantled was created for her. The two crocodile bodies were made of gold, one covered with 1023 yellow diamonds, while the other with 1060 circular cut emeralds. Her somewhat more „everyday” wear was a coral necklace with carved coral bellflowers set in platinum with emerald, onyx and white coral beads.
In 2006 Cartier dedicated a series of watches to the memory of the actress: La Doña de Cartier. The face of the watch is reminiscent of a crocodile head, and the wristband of the watch resembles the contours of a crocodile in large, bold and gold scales
In addition to the various stars of the ages many heiresses and socialites were great fans of the Cartier jewellery house.
American Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) inherited her father’s wealth and company, the Postum cereal Company at 27. In addition to leading a luxurious social life, Ms Post was also known for being a collector and fan of precious stones and jewellery. She was a great enthusiast of European taste, and Cartier was the embodiment of French style for her thus many unique pieces were created on her commission. The platinum, diamond and sapphire necklace is from 1937, it consists of two bracelets (De Sedles) and the central sapphire can also be worn separately as a brooch.
The third husband of Wallis Simpson (1896-1986) was Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor and thus she became the Duchess of Windsor. They got acquainted in early 1934 and according to Wallis she fell in love with the prince in August during a private yacht excursion. As a result of their marriage her husband was deprived of the throne as the Anglican Church did not permit marriage of heirs with a divorcee. Albeit the lady was a controversial figure of British history, her taste, elegance and exemplary hospitality vein are unquestionable. The Cartier house can thank her for numerous unique and colourful orders. Wallis adored bright colours, the Bib necklace adorned with large amethysts, turquoise and diamonds is one of these extravagant pieces. She was the first for whom Cartier created the 3D leopard jewels which remain symbolic to this day. Wallis’s significant jewellery collection was auctioned off by Sotheby’s in Geneva not long after her death and the revenue of over USD 40 million was donated to medical research purposes.
Cartier approached even the most “royal” jewels with an innovative flair and thus steel also entered the range of material they used. In 1902 the Scroll tiara was made using a combination of silver and gold. This piece was sold to the Countess of Essex. The tiara was put on auction at the end of the 20th century at Christie’s in London and the gem trader who won the auction almost dismantled the piece for the diamonds. Fortunately Éric Nussbaum (former Director of Cartier Collection) purchased the tiara from him and thus the piece was saved and now enriches the Cartier Collection.
Scroll Tiara, Cartier Paris, special order, 1902, silver, gold, diamonds, sold to the Countess of Essex
The Kokoshnik tiaras received their name from a particular type of headdress in Russian folklore. The headdress was adopted by the Imperial family in the 19th century. Later the Russian style was embraced in the West, and the Kokoshnik tiara became fashionable in the early 20th century. One of the most beautiful examples of this was made by Cartier in 1908, from platinum with 15 pear-shaped diamonds and pearls. The unique feature of the tiara is the so-called “muguet” setting. A delicate rim of platinum in the shape of a lily-of-the-valley (muguet) holds a large brilliant surrounded by several tightly packed diamonds that create the impression of a single stone.
Photo credits: Loupiosity.com.
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