From the Halo tiara Kate Middleton wore at her wedding to Prince William to Grace Kelly’s engagement ring, Cartier has a rich history. Now that history is on display, in the new exhibition Cartier: Style and History at the Grand Palais in Paris.
The exhibition includes 534 pieces from the Cartier Collection, 16 private loans, 104 loans from museums and institutions, 294 documents from the Cartier Archives, 28 tiaras and 18 mystery clocks. Highlights include Cartier’s famous Tank watches, one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite brooches, Middleton’s tiara, and pieces from the late actress Elizabeth Taylor.
Here are some of our favorite highlights:
Kate Middleton, on the occasion of her marriage to Prince William, on April 29, 2011, gave new life to the Halo tiara. Composed of stylized petals and paved with 739 brilliant-cut diamonds and 149 baguette-cut diamonds, this head ornament takes its name from its halo shape. The tiara, which can be disassembled into two or three parts, was commissioned in 1936 by the future King George VI, for his wife Elizabeth. As dictated by tradition, the Duchess of Cambridge wore it with femininity and timeless grace at her wedding.
Created specially for his friend the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, who wanted to tell time easily while flying, the Santos wristwatch symbolizes Louis Cartier’s visionary approach. Louis was convinced that this accessory should be worn on the wrist. A certainty he was the first to promulgate forty years ahead of anyone! Pocket watches disappeared only in the mid-1940s.
This bold brooch was inspired by the Ballets Russes and illustrates Cartier’s pre-Art Deco design, announcing a modernity that combines the geometry of a simplified form with color. A beautiful example of the Parisian style, mixing the avant-garde with virtuosity and lightness.
By the 1920s, Jeanne Toussaint, with the help of House designers, oversaw the small leather goods and all objects from her office at 13, rue de la Paix, including the delicate vanity cases. In 1933, Toussaint became official stylistic Director of the entire House and profoundly influenced the Cartier style with her impeccable taste and audacity. It was Toussaint who introduced the panther theme that was first used for objects before becoming the House emblem, a particular favorite of the Duchess of Windsor.
Cartier’s fondness for other cultures is perfectly exemplified in this bracelet. Inspired by Indian jewelry, it is remarkable for its flexibility and the delicacy of its execution. This tree-shaped bracelet displays a color palette of great audacity; the flowers’ exuberance and the fruits of carved gemstones enchanted women of distinct tastes, such as Lady Mountbatten, Mrs. Cole Porter and Daisy Fellowes.
This piece, unique in the world, was created at the request of Sir Bhupindar Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala, and is the most monumental commission ever entrusted to a Western jeweler. The necklace was originally set with 2,930 diamonds for a total weight of 1000 carats.
Despite its magnificence, the recently restored collar seems as light as it is elegant and bold. This unique piece is part of a long tradition of ceremonial necklaces, and its cascading composition, with five Art Deco- style platinum chains paved with diamonds, dazzles with the force of its style, celebrating the spirit of Cartier Paris.
It is said that a batch of precious stones, dismounted from jewels belonging to the Duchess of Windsor, ended up one day on the table of the rue de la Paix workshop. From this set of sapphires, rubies and emeralds the notion of a bird brooch was born in the mind of Jeanne Toussaint — a flamingo majestic in size and surprising in its multicolored plumage. The brooch immediately charmed the Duchess and illustrates the strong affinity in tastes between Toussaint and the Windsor couple. The House would wait until 2010 to acquire this unique piece for inclusion in the Cartier Collection.
This Panther brooch marks a special milestone in the history of the House. Even the newspapers of the time referred to it as the “atomic bomb of jewelry.” Conceived like a sculpture, this three-dimensional creation, which was not made on commission but intended as a stock piece, is striking for its sophistication and the cat’s naturalness and elegance, and exudes a genuine magnetism. A creation of Jeanne Toussaint’s unerring intuition, it appealed immediately to the Duchess of Windsor — this Panther could only be for her!
María Félix’s Crocodile necklace exemplifies the Mexican star — no limits. The woman who played the flamboyant character at the arm of Jean Gabin in French Cancan, loves extravagance. A faithful client of the House, she once visited her official jeweler at rue de la Paix accompanied by a baby crocodile in an aquarium and requested that he reproduce the animal in the form of a necklace. The piece was completed a few months later. Larger than life, the necklace is fully articulated and each crocodile can be worn separately as a brooch.
The Cartier exhibition will be on display in the prestigious Salon d’Honneur room of the Grand Palais until February 16, 2014. For more information visit the Grand Palais’ website. Photos courtesy Cartier.