Cartier are renowned the world over for their incredible craftsmanship and aesthetic. From Egyptian and Indian influences to the monochrome style of the 1920's, the geometry of the 30’s and 40’s and the more organic shapes of the 60's and 70's, Cartier designs are synonymous with innovation and style!
But the story of Cartier started with modest roots. In 1847, a 27-year-old Louis-Francois Cartier took over the workshop of his master and began creating pieces which he sold on to other workshops and jewellers. Within less than a decade, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte purchased a piece by the maison and changed the course of Cartier forever!
However, it was not until the turn of the century, when the founder’s three grandsons became involved, that the evolution of Cartier truly began. With each brother running the flagships stores in Paris, London and New York, the success of Cartier remained in the family for decades to follow.
In Paris, under the guidance of the eldest brother Louis, Cartier released jewellery which combined neoclassical inspiration with the pioneering use of platinum. This type of design became known as the ‘Garland’ style, and was the precursor to much of the Edwardian and early Art Deco styles that followed.
In 1902, Cartier opened their London boutique on New Burlington Street. A mere two years after opening, they were commissioned to create 27 tiaras for the coronation of King Edward VII with the King himself famously quoted as calling Cartier ‘The Jeweller of Kings and the King of Jewellers’! Cartier were subsequently awarded the British Royal warrant, and also went on to create pieces for royals all around the globe!
By 1909, Cartier also had an established a presence in New York and in 1917, they famously acquired 653 Fifth Avenue in exchange for a double strand natural pearl necklace worth a staggering $1,000,000! This piece of prime real estate remains a flagship store to this day.
The history of Cartier cannot properly be told without reference to Jeanne Toussaint. Hired by the business in 1913, and named Creative Director in 1933, Toussaint was the creative driving force behind Cartier for a significant portion of the 20th century. She stepped away from Art Deco and entered the 1940's with a more sculptural approach. This led to the creation of one of her signature pieces, ‘La Panthère’, a gold and enamel panther brooch set with a cabochon emerald crafted for the Duchess of Windsor, Wallace Simpson, in 1948.
By the time Toussaint retired in 1970, she had established her legacy as an artistic visionary, creating pieces true to Louis Cartier’s motto “never imitate, always innovate”.
Apart from their timeless and elegant aesthetic, Cartier’s creations are a fascinating lesson in craftsmanship, fashion and history. The house of Cartier have been responsible for many milestones in the history of fine jewellery and have created some of the most iconic pieces for names including Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.
If you would like to purchase your own exciting antique or vintage Cartier design, we have pieces from various eras in our collection, beautifully showcasing Cartier across the years. You can view our collection both online or in our Hatton Garden store.