During the 19th and 20th centuries, in both Europe and the United States, there was a marked proliferation of retail jewelers and manufacturers who served the appetite for luxury of the surviving aristocracy and the newly developed industrial middle class. Most jewelers traditionally worked at a local level, rarely emerging beyond the limits of their immediate city. Only for a special few, national boundaries did not exist, and as travel and communications improved, even the most remote client became more accessible to them. These international jewelers were also enabled by these changing circumstances to produce new pieces reflecting foreign motifs.
Family leadership was the foundation of a jewelry enterprise. Maintaining a tradition and passing on a reputation to succeeding generations were essential for a continuing success, hut these were never to be taken for granted. Within the history of a jewelry family, there is invariably a certain period, presided over by one or more individuals, during which great design and production set unique standards for the House.
For nearly half a century, from 1900 to 1940, the House of Cartier eclipsed all its past and future achievements. Its combination of superb stones, exotic design, skilled production, and global merchandising in jewels, clocks, watches, boxes and objets set the supreme example for world jewelers. Although these extraordinary years were marked by war, prosperity and depression, Cartier maintained a consistent standard of excellence. The human element was responsible for the firm's successful activity. Three brothers Louis, Pierre and Jacques Carder inherited a strong family establishment which had been built during the last half of the 19th century on vision, organization and a sense of fashion. They were able to divide the world among themselves Alone, each assumed, enjoyed and excelled at his individual responsibilities; together, their teamwork created a jewelry empire that remains the model to this day.
In 1847, when Louis-Francois Cartier opened his small jewelry store in Paris, he was satisfying mercantile instincts, not creative design talents. In 19th-century European society, and particularly in Paris, there was a surging growth of a new middle class whose power extended into business and politics. Cartier quickly understood that a successful jeweler had to cater to the opulent tastes of the new wealth and not limit himself to the production and retailing of traditional jewels such as cameo parures and pearl ensembles. Cartier extended the range of his stock to include ivory pieces, fans, Wedgwood and Sevres porcelain, Christofle silver, and watches.
Alfred Cartier joined his father in the 1870s, assuming leadership of the store and organizing the first international exhibition in London, which attracted a new clientele.
European taste was being transformed by a spate of archaeological and scientific discoveries. Digs in Assyria, Egypt, Greece, and Italy were revealing ancient artifacts that jewelers were adapting and reproducing in the "archaeological style". This was also the period when scientific expeditions to Africa, South America, and Asia brought back to Europe unfamiliar fauna and flora shapes and colours that inspired jewelers to mimic nature and produce lizards, birds, and flowers with appropriate stones and enamel.
Although few 19th-century Cartier jewels survive, designs and sales records from the House archives reveal fashionable pieces dictated by contemporary taste. In addition to the jewels imitating nature and drawing their inspiration from ancient Egypt and Rome, Cartier also created the overstated diamond pieces that the new middle class demanded.
Certainly the Louvre exhibition of the French Crown Jewels in 1884 and their subsequent public auction sale in 1887 reinforced the appetite for ostentation. The discovery of diamond mines in South Africa and the organization of De Beers in 1880 assured European jewelers of a steady supply of this most precious decorative material.
Concurrently, the imaginative design and workmanship of Lalique jewelry offered a dramatic break with tradition. Established Houses in Paris like Fouquet, Vever, and Aucoc followed the creative genius of Lalique. In the world of painting, the Salons and academies were being challenged in a similar fashion by the Impressionists. For Cartier, however, the "Art Nouveau" look, with its exaggeration of nature's themes and abundant use of such [materials as ivory and horn, was deemed totally inappropriate for the firm's image.
At the approach of the new century, Cartier was respected as a successful fine jeweler with an international clientele. But it was also apparent that changes would come about with the emergence of a new (third) family generation.
In 1898 Louis Cartier, the twenty-three-year-old eldest son of Alfred join his father in business, By 1906 his younger brothers, Pierre und Jacques, followed Louis to create the tem that would establish Cartier as the preeminent jeweler in the world. In 1899 the Paris store completed its fourth and final move - to 13 Rue de la Paix, a fitting address for its growing reputation. In 1906 Jacques moved to London and in 1909 he organized the present Cartier store in New Bond Street. During that same year, Pierre travelled to New York, married an American socialite, and opened a store at 712 Fifth Avenue. The move to the present American headquarters at 653 Fifth Avenue which was brought about by an exchange for a famous Oriental pearl necklace occurred in 1917.
Each brother exercised independent management and creativity within his own store. Paris, London and New York had their respective designers, workshops and merchandising facilities. The brothers had very different interests and abilities, but the propagation of the Cartier image and jewelry was paramount. Louis, Pierre and Jacques were all great world travellers visiting clients, seeking aesthetic inspiration from foreign cultures, or combing primitive market places for stones and pearls. But in the end they always returned to Paris, the creative centre.
Louis was the one most concerned with design and production. When he joined the store at the turn of the century, the grand tradition Versailles and Louis XVI dominated the Cartier look.
In creating dog collars and tiaras, the eight House designers drew upon the ornamental motifs of the 17th and 18th centuries. Their efforts marked the beginnings of the Garland style, which evolved up to and through the First World War.
The advent of platinum, which replaced silver, allowed for an open lacework and embroidery pattern ac a polished backs ground for diamonds and pearls, &line important, however, were die production and fame of the Faberge workshops in Russia which had successfully carried on the Versailles stylistic tradition. Faberge's mastery of enameling also challenged Car-tier to create similar objets.
But the Russian aristocracies, at leak up to 1917 were the greatest consumers of jewels in the European market. What better resting-place for the spirit of the defunct French monarchy?
During his two exploratory trips to Russia, Pierre Cartier successfully opened up a foreign market for Cartier jewelry, just as he would later do in America.
The social contacts he established (as each of the Cartier brothers was expert in doing the world over) would serve him well through-out his professional life. Grand Duchess Vladimir, her son Boris, Grand Duchess Xenia, daughter of the Tsar, and Prince Felix Youssoupov all assisted Cartier in opening a St Petersburg branch in 1909. Although the venture was considered commercially successful, it was short-lived and closed down in 1914, through a combination of anticipated wartime restrictions and Alfred Cartier's intention to concentrate all the firm's overseas efforts on the new store in New York.
The important contribution of Russian &man and workmanship to 20th century jewelry was not limited to Faberge and the renewal of the Versailles style. Another strong Influence was exacted by the Batter Russes; The explosive launching of Diaghilev's ballet company in Paris in 1909 shook the traditions of Western European art and fashion.
The cultural wall that had isolated the Orient was breached. From the stage emanated movements, sounds, and colours which proclaimed an exotic taste unfamiliar to Western palettes. The contribution of Leon Bakst in particular was the use of vibrant, clashing greens, yellows, oranges, and blues to highlight textured costumes and sets. Together with dance and music, this visual shock served to contrast the exotic image of the Eastern woman with her bland and old-fashioned Western counterpart.
For Cartier this dramatic kaleidoscope of Eastern exoticism could not have been more propitious. The fresh energy brought to the House by the three brothers had resulted in new personnel and an exposition of overseas ventures.
In 1909 Louis hired a twenty-four-year-old designer, Charles Jacqueau, who was a graduate of the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs. At first, Jacqueau's personal creativity did not match his technical mastery of 18th-cen-tury forms. He was inspired by the Ballets Russes to visit the Louvre frequently to study the arts of India, Egypt, China and Japan. It was in this early period that he developed what would later be known as Art Deco jewelry. Only four years after he came to Cartier, Jacqueau designed a collection for the Paris shop that was exhibited and catalogued as "a choice of Persian, Indian, and Tibetan jewels adapted to the latest fashions". Jacqueau's studies in the Louvre allowed him to concentrate on the details of Persian miniatures, Moghul enamels, stylized Egyptian birds and flowers, the simplicity of Far Eastern inlay. For nearly twenty-five years he converted Oriental images into Western Art Deco jewels, clocks and objets that Cartier so successfully produced. From 1911 to 1935 he directed eleven designers in Paris to-wards this end.
Although both Pierre and Jacques Car-tier had brought French designers with them to New York and London, it was under Jacqueau’s influence in Paris that elegant set and refinement set the international tone Cartier jewelry, who also enjoyed was made. From the beginning, he worked closely with Louis Cartier, who also enjoyed, when his administrative Julio permitted visualizing a piece and then having the designer do renderings. Their closest collaboration occurred after 1922 and the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. During the 19th century the House of Cartier had been duly influenced by the Egyptian revivals revered by European fashion; but the discovery of the tomb's treasures served to underscore the message of the Ballets Russes. Not only were the colours and designs exceptionally strong, but the workmanship of the artifacts sur-passed modern creations. Louis Cartier was inspired to find original pieces to incorporate in modern jewels; collecting rare books, fine furniture, and drawings
The extraordinarily talented Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1978), who made an invaluable contribution to Cartier during the years of its greatest successes sharpened his taste and assisted him in finding suitable antiquities.
If Louis Cartier relied on Jacqueau for design excellence, he depended entirely on Jeanne Toussaint to share his responsibilities as the head of the firm. Joining Cartier in 1910 at the age of twenty three, Toussaint rounded out the creative and merchandising team that Louis was organizing. During the half-century that she worked for the House, Toussaint ranged over all its activities. Her approach to jewelry was modern, perfectly attuned to the changing attitudes of society towards women. Emerging from the Victorian closet, the 20th-century woman was shedding the restrictions of anonymity.
Apart from the achievement of political equality with men, her most visible gains appeared in fashion and society. Following the First World War, smoking in public became acceptable for women; make-up and cosmetics, once considered the emblems of moral depravity, became decorative necessities. The sleekness and relative simplicity of clothes emphasized the body and provided a fitting backdrop to the new jewelry.
Accordingly, Cartier designated Toussaint to acknowledge this new image and to oversee the production of jeweled articles for women. During the 19th century Car-tier had emphasized men's accessories such as cigarette cases, cigar cutters, hair and moustache brushes, desk sets; now the time had come for women's articles to share equal billing. With this objective, .Jeanne Toussaint organized nod directed Department S to produce in precious metals and materials a quantity of accessories for men, women, and the home. In retrospect, this successful effort was the precursor of the Must creations which were to originate fifty years later on a mass production scale.
Department S produced objects which were functional and yet stylish: handbags of gold and silver covered in alligator or crocodile skins or textured brocades from the Far East; men's cigarette cases made flat for the pocket and decorated in a geometric style; picture frames in precious metals and hardstones materials; night lamps; desk pieces such as magnifying glasses and letter openers all enlisted the creative energies of the House to reach a broader public.
In the case of high jewelry, Toussaint's taste was for Indian design and Moghul jewels. Along with Jacques Cartier and Jacqueau, she devised that Art Deco classic what future generations would call the "fruit salad" look. Jeweled European renditions of the Tree of Life and Indian gardens were set with a profusion of carved rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds. The combination of colours in Jaipur enamels, opulent gold mountings holding large stones, and the Eastern shapes of tassels and turban ornaments all served to divert Cartier jewelry from the conventional diamond look which had held sway at the end of the 19th century. This acknowledgement of the Indian style was not an isolated phenomenon, hut merely the continuation of a tradition that had started in the 16th century when European jewelers scoured India for designs and stones. The three-dimensional enamel jeweled pendants depicting human and animal forms produced in Europe during the Renaissance were directly inspired by their Indian counterparts. For three hundred years the Indian continent was for European jewelers the primary source of diamonds, pearls, and coloured stone.
During the 20th century Cartier was able to develop a reciprocal tradition with India. Because of England's imperial status, London had taken on the role of cultural and political centre for the maharajahs on their European visits. Naturally Jacques Cartier and the London store became their Comers for the House; Jacques had taken him first trip to the Persian Gulf and India in 1911. In the following mini, he was design, plated by his brothers to purchase pearls and precious stones for company designs and production. Jacques hired a full-time purchasing agent in New Delhi who would report directly to him and send back to London Mogul pieces as well as raw materials. Just as Pierre developed an affinity for the Brahmans of American society, so Jacques cultivated and enjoyed their counterparts in the Indian continent. The maharajahs still held an astounding wealth of native jewels, but in the process of being westernized, they were inclined to update their holdings. Jeweled turbans, armlets, ankle bracelets, nose rings, necklaces all were in need of a contemporary look, and Cartier design and workmanship were the most impressive available to them. It was ironic that Cartier should be asked totransform the very pieces which served as an inspiration for their Art Deco creations. Patiala, Baroda, Mysore, Hyderabad, Kapurthala were among the potentates who entrusted their Moghul jewels to Cartier for remounting. Jacques Cartier's success in India, coupled with the creative efforts of Jacqueau and Toussaint, allowed the House to set a pace in the design and production of Art Deco jewelry which outclassed all other European and American jewelers.
Along with the artifacts of ancient Egypt and the carved stones of India, Cartier borrowed from the art work of China and Japan in its Art Deco creations. Far Eastern motifs and symbols from architecture and gardens were also converted to this 20th-century idiom, appearing on vanity cases, clocks, perfume bottles and the like.
Large carved jade and agate figures, screen panels, lacquered mother-Of-pearl plaques were purchased by Cartier in the Orient as well as from ant it hue dealers in Park and London. In the United States Pierre would buy similar treasure from New England families whose forbears had traded in China during the 19th century. Cartier did not depend entirely on the old pieces, but also encouraged and patronized small independent Paris an Oriental workshop which specialized in the Oriental tradition of inlay and lacquer. France`s involvement with Indo-China had brought to Paris an Oriental work force capable handing launcher not so proficiently as the ancient Chinese, but skilled enough to make an important contribution to the Art Deco style.
Writer – Thames & Hudson