As one of the country’s most prominent buyers of fine estate jewelry, Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers regularly purchases previously-owned Cartier jewelry, including used Cartier rings and watches. The house of Cartier (much like it’s American counterpart Tiffany & Co.) is a luxury brand always in demand, with vintage pieces that remain as stylish today as the year they were made.
The following article will provide you with some background on the antique & vintage jewelry designs of Cartier and the reasons why the brand is among the world’s most coveted and admired.
The Earliest Days of the Maison Cartier
Established in Paris by Louis-François Cartier in 1847, the jewelry firm Cartier has always been associated with the finest jewelry design in the world. From the grandeur of La Belle Époch through the eclectic geometric designs of the Art Deco movement and throughout the late 20th century, Cartier has created some of the most iconic signed pieces in the history of jewelry design. Their consistent excellence in both craftsmanship and design have kept them at the forefront of jewelry making and made the name Cartier synonymous with luxury and elegance.
The house of Cartier originally established itself as a retailer rather than a design firm, and sold a variety of luxury goods, including silverware, porcelain, and bronze busts, as well as jewelry and watches. Jewelry design during this time reflected the tastes of the era, including Gothic and Renaissance Revival styles. While not particularly original, these early signed pieces were increasingly recognized for their exemplary execution and fine workmanship. By 1853, Louis-Francois was able to secure the patronage of Princess Mathilde, the cousin of Napoleon III, beginning a long association of Cartier with royalty and the upper echelons of society.
In 1874 Alfred Cartier took over the company from his father Louis-Francois, and in 1898 he moved the firm to 13 rue de La Paix, the epicenter of the French luxury trade. In addition to housing some of the most famous jewelry firms of the day, the rue de La Paix was also home to the great fashion houses, particularly Worth. Together, the firms of Cartier and Worth helped Paris become the center of luxury fashion, securing a steady stream of elite clients from all over the world.
Antique Cartier: The Garland Style
After Cartier’s move to the rue de La Paix, Alfred was joined by his 21 year old son Louis, and the modern history of Cartier began, with a shift in emphasis from retailing to manufacture and design. Although Cartier produced a few pieces in the Art Nouveau style during this period, it was the young Louis’s innovation with platinum that set Cartier apart.
By combining technological advances in the platinum manufacturing process with recently discovered diamond deposits in South Africa, Louis Cartier created the Garland style. Platinum was worked into extremely fine threads, and its inherent strength allowed for delicate settings with multiple diamonds without making the pieces too heavy to wear.
Louis Cartier also encouraged his designers to wander the streets of Paris and sketch the varied styles of decoration used in the city’s architecture, and these sketches provided inspiration for the garland style. These signed pieces incorporated flowers, laurel wreaths, and garland motifs in tiaras, stomachers, lavalieres, and corsage ornaments, as well as hair ornaments like tiaras and diadems.
“Cartier: The Jeweler of Kings, the King Among Jewelers”
While Louis ran the company in Paris, Alfred Cartier’s other sons branched out to open other shops, Pierre in New York and Jacques in London. The London branch was opened based largely on the successful relationship Cartier had forged with Edward, Prince of Wales. The popular prince once described Maison Cartier as “Jeweler to Kings, and the King of Jewelers”—a celebrity endorsement that carried real weight with London’s leading families. In fact, when the prince was crowned King Edward VII in 1902, he commissioned a staggering twenty-seven tiaras to honor the event.
Cartier’s connections to royalty grew (including the courts of Russia, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Siam) and between 1904 and 1939, Maison Cartier was awarded 15 royal patents. Tiaras were created for Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia; Elizabeth, Queen of the Belgians; and Queen Victoria-Eugenie of Spain. Perhaps no royal tiara is as famous as the “Halo Tiara.” Originally commissioned in 1936 for the Duchess of York and future Queen Elizabeth, the “Halo Tiara” was worn by Princess Margaret in 1955, and most recently in 2011 when Kate Middleton was married to Prince William.
Vintage Cartier: Art Deco
While not named as such until after World War I, the Art Deco movement was well underway before the outbreak of the first World War. Stemming from an unprecedented connection between art, theater, and literature, the movement is characterized by vivid color and bold geometric shapes.
Cartier’s vintage art deco pieces include colorful gems like jade and lapis, combined with contrasting opaque and translucent stones like onyx and diamonds. These striking combinations were then coupled with the geometric influence of Cubist painters and the continued exotic influence of Egypt and the Far East.
Cartier’s art deco pieces included pieces in the style that became known as “tutti frutti.” Inspired by his travels to India, Jacques Cartier used ancient carved Mughal stones, most notably emeralds, set in contemporary mountings. Combining these emeralds with rubies and sapphires, Cartier created a multigem style that seemed to resemble berries or bright hard candies. These tutti frutti pieces increased the demand for art deco fine jewelry, and are still highly prized today.
Jeanne Toussaint and the Cartier Panther
The panther motif had long been popular in Europe before Cartier created a diamond and onyx watch, the first Cartier piece in the “peau de panthere” style. In 1917 Louis Cartier designed the first fully representational panther on a black onyx vanity case for Jeanne Toussaint, his creative director affectionately known as “Panther.” While not a designer herself, Toussaint oversaw Cartier’s jewelry department for several decades, and is widely credited with many key design ideas, including the now iconic panther series of jewels.
Perhaps the most famous panther piece was created for the Duchess of Windsor in 1952. A fully articulated bracelet with diamonds and black onyx, the piece was sold at auction in 2010 for seven million dollars, making it the most expensive bracelet ever sold at auction.
Vintage Cartier Watches
The first Santos went on sale commercially in 1911, and Cartier wristwatches for gentlemen soon became a status symbol for the rich. This timeless design is still produced today, in much the same form as the original.
Cartier went on to produce many innovative and original watches, using their ability to produce the timepieces in house to actually guide the fashion trends. The “Tank” wristwatch was introduced in 1917 and became Cartier’s most famous model. Inspired by the new war machines the Americans introduced to Europe, the “Tank” was a sturdy and beautiful watch, and soon became became a classic.
Today’s Cartier watches include the classic “Tank,” the “Tank Francaise,” a sports watch that traces its lineage to the original “Santos,” and the popular ladies watches, the “Pasha” and the “Panther.” You can take a journey into the world of Cartier’s watchmakers, from the first inventions to the latest concept watches of the 21st century, by watching the video above.
If you own used Cartier jewelry that you would like to sell for a generous price, please contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today for a free Cartier appraisal and immediate cash offer. Or proceed to the following link to learn more: How Much is My Cartier Jewelry Worth?
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