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Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

A Brief History of Cartier A Brief History of Cartier

Historic Cartier Logo

The story of Cartier jewellery begins with Louis-Francois Cartier, who began as an apprentice watchmaker and later bought the business from his boss, Adolphe Picard, in 1847. At this stage, the business dealt primarily with watches, but under Louis-Francois’ new ownership, began to act as a jewellery dealer and retailer.

Louis Francois Cartier
Louis-Francois Cartier

Soon after, however, Paris was subject to considerable political instability and conflict. Louis-Francois’ son, Alfred, had begun to work in the family business by the time that the Paris Commune, a socialist government, had taken over in 1870 and began waging war against the elites. Alfred was savvy, and helped many aristocrats who were desperate to use jewellery as a means of raising capital to flee, as they had restricted access to their banks. As a result, by the time that the Paris Commune had collapsed only a short time later in 1871 and the wealthy could start spending again, Cartier had amassed one of the finest collections of jewellery in France, for a fraction of its worth. In the final two decades of the nineteenth century, Alfred took on ownership of the business and Cartier had become an important jewellery destination for French elites. Still acting largely as a jewellery retailer, there was a noticeable increase in bespoke jewellery requests.

Pierre, Louis, Alfred and Jacques Cartier
Pierre, Louis, Alfred and Jacques Cartier

By the end of the nineteenth century, Cartier had positioned itself as one of the premier jewellery houses in Paris, yet competition was fierce. Alfred had begun to extend Cartier’s reach beyond Paris to other French cities, but it was not until his three sons, Louis, Pierre and Jacques, started working for the business at the turn of the century that Cartier really began to make a name for itself. One of the key reasons behind Cartier’s rise to global pre-eminence is widely considered to be the three brothers’ seemingly global presence as Louis headed the Paris showroom on Rue de la Paix, Pierre ran the New York branch on Fifth Avenue and Pierre was in charge of the London branch on Bond Street. This gave Cartier access to different markets and different customers across the world, enabling them move stock and source pieces across the globe with relative ease. Between the three of them, they took on commissions from European royalty, Indian Maharajas, and the incredibly wealthy nouveau riche of North America, creating both bespoke pieces and dealing in some of the globe’s finest and most illustrious gemstones (for example: the Hope Diamond!).

Evalyn Walsh Mclean with the Hope Diamond
Evalyn Walsh Mclean, pictured, purchased the Hope Diamond from Pierre Cartier in 1911 for $180,000, equivalent to $5 million today.

Two of the three brothers instrumental in Cartier’s global success, Louis and Jacques, sadly passed away within months of each other in 1942, and whilst the company remained in family hands until Jacques’ death in 1964, the individual Cartier stores were sold separately until they were bought and reunified under the same umbrella in 1972. Despite maintaining its position as one of the leading global jewellery brands, Cartier has never quite achieved the same level of ingenuity and creativity as it had done so in its earlier heyday, and as such, antique and vintage Cartier jewellery remains highly collectible and sought after.


Icons of the Cartier Style

Known for their mantra "never copy, only create", Cartier have been responsible for an unquantifiable number of innovative, inctricate and technically impressive designs over the course of their history. There are, however, some designs that have developed an iconic status synonymous with Cartier over the course of the twentieth century, and will likely look familiar to you. Let's take a brief look:

Firstly, they largely pioneered the use of platinum around the turn of the twentieth century – which enabled more delicate, refined designs to be possible around the Belle Epoque and Edwardian eras.

Belle Epoque necklace by Cartier
Belle Epoque necklace by Cartier

Secondly, inspired by the jewels that Jacques had seen in India when visiting his Maharaja clients, Cartier’s ‘Tutti Frutti’ designs were an entirely novel and unique style introduced by Cartier. Only latterly nicknamed ‘tutti frutti’ in the 1970’s, at the time, Jacques called them his ‘Hindou Jewels’, and they were characterised by the use of carved emeralds, rubies, and sapphires set in combination with diamonds, often in foliate or berry, naturalistic patterns.

Daisy Fellows wearing her 'Collier Hindou' by Cartier
Daisy Fellowes wearing her 'Collier Hindou' made by Cartier in 1936.

Daisy Fellowes' 'Collier Hindou'
The tutti frutti necklace as worn by Daisy Fellowes, made in 1936.

Cartier’s Panthere collection was designed by Jeanne Toussaint, one of the lead designers at Cartier Paris. It began with a few smaller items from the 1910’s but really propelled to fame after Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, began to wear larger Panthere pieces that she had commissioned by Cartier in the 1940’s.

Cartier Panthere sapphire and diamond brooch
Wallis Simpson's sapphire and diamond Cartier Panthere Brooch, 1949.

Cartier’s Tank watch has some serious cult status, and is even now one of the most easily recognised watch designs in the world. Designed in 1917 during the First World War, inspired by the new Renault Tanks which were being used by the USA forces, production began in 1919 with only 6 models being made. It has a characteristically rectangular shape, with Roman numeral dials, sword shape hands and a simple cabochon sapphire. It has been worn by countless global fashion icons, royalty and celebrities over the decades: from Princess Diana, to Andy Warhol, and has since had several editions released.

Cartier Tank watch
Cartier Tank watch

Designed by Cartier in 1924, the Trinity collection remains hugely popular today. Representing fidelity, friendship and love, the Trinity collection is designed with three interlocking circles and was originally made as a lower cost product alternative in a post-war world. Legend has it that the French poet Jean Cocteau had a dream about Saturn's rings, and tasked Louis Cartier with creating an item of jewellery with this as inspiration.

Jean Cocteau, French Poet, wearing the Trinity Ring
Jean Cocteau, French Poet, wearing Cartier's Trinity ring

The Love bracelet is one of the most easily recognisable Cartier pieces. Designed by Aldo Cipullo in 1969, inspired by the theme of everlasting love, they are characteristically ornamented with a screw head motif. On a bracelet, two of the screws will be functioning, so that the bracelet cannot be removed without unscrewing – resulting in a piece of jewellery designed to be treasured and never taken off.

1970's Cartier Love Bracelet Advertisement
1970's Advertisement for Aldo Cipullo's Cartier Love Bracelet

Aldo Cipullo was also responsible for designing the Juste en Clou range in 1971, shortly after the Love design. A simple design, literally meaning ‘Just a Nail’, the bracelet is designed as a simple nail which gracefully wraps itself around the wrist. It can be worn with from day to night, in an effortlessly casual way. 
Cartier Juste en Cloue
Aldo Cipullo's Juste en Cloue bracelet

If you love vintage and modern Cartier, take a look below at some of our favourite pieces from our Cartier collection, available now:

4.39ct emerald cut diamond ring by Cartier
4.39ct I VS1 emerald cut diamond ring by Cartier

Art Deco brooch by Cartier
Art Deco Brooch by Cartier

Tutti Frutti dress clips/brooch by Cartier
Vintage Tutti Frutti dress clips/brooch by Cartier

Vintage Cartier 14ct yellow gold and diamond leaf earrings
Vintage 14ct satin gold and diamond leaf earrings

Vintage aquamarine and diamond flower earrings
Vintage aquamarine and diamond flower earrings

Diamond set Cartier Love ring
Diamond set Cartier Love ring


And if this has whet your appetite, you can view the rest of our Cartier collection here.
Historic Cartier Logo

The story of Cartier jewellery begins with Louis-Francois Cartier, who began as an apprentice watchmaker and later bought the business from his boss, Adolphe Picard, in 1847. At this stage, the business dealt primarily with watches, but under Louis-Francois’ new ownership, began to act as a jewellery dealer and retailer.

Louis Francois Cartier
Louis-Francois Cartier

Soon after, however, Paris was subject to considerable political instability and conflict. Louis-Francois’ son, Alfred, had begun to work in the family business by the time that the Paris Commune, a socialist government, had taken over in 1870 and began waging war against the elites. Alfred was savvy, and helped many aristocrats who were desperate to use jewellery as a means of raising capital to flee, as they had restricted access to their banks. As a result, by the time that the Paris Commune had collapsed only a short time later in 1871 and the wealthy could start spending again, Cartier had amassed one of the finest collections of jewellery in France, for a fraction of its worth. In the final two decades of the nineteenth century, Alfred took on ownership of the business and Cartier had become an important jewellery destination for French elites. Still acting largely as a jewellery retailer, there was a noticeable increase in bespoke jewellery requests.

Pierre, Louis, Alfred and Jacques Cartier
Pierre, Louis, Alfred and Jacques Cartier

By the end of the nineteenth century, Cartier had positioned itself as one of the premier jewellery houses in Paris, yet competition was fierce. Alfred had begun to extend Cartier’s reach beyond Paris to other French cities, but it was not until his three sons, Louis, Pierre and Jacques, started working for the business at the turn of the century that Cartier really began to make a name for itself. One of the key reasons behind Cartier’s rise to global pre-eminence is widely considered to be the three brothers’ seemingly global presence as Louis headed the Paris showroom on Rue de la Paix, Pierre ran the New York branch on Fifth Avenue and Pierre was in charge of the London branch on Bond Street. This gave Cartier access to different markets and different customers across the world, enabling them move stock and source pieces across the globe with relative ease. Between the three of them, they took on commissions from European royalty, Indian Maharajas, and the incredibly wealthy nouveau riche of North America, creating both bespoke pieces and dealing in some of the globe’s finest and most illustrious gemstones (for example: the Hope Diamond!).

Evalyn Walsh Mclean with the Hope Diamond
Evalyn Walsh Mclean, pictured, purchased the Hope Diamond from Pierre Cartier in 1911 for $180,000, equivalent to $5 million today.

Two of the three brothers instrumental in Cartier’s global success, Louis and Jacques, sadly passed away within months of each other in 1942, and whilst the company remained in family hands until Jacques’ death in 1964, the individual Cartier stores were sold separately until they were bought and reunified under the same umbrella in 1972. Despite maintaining its position as one of the leading global jewellery brands, Cartier has never quite achieved the same level of ingenuity and creativity as it had done so in its earlier heyday, and as such, antique and vintage Cartier jewellery remains highly collectible and sought after.


Icons of the Cartier Style

Known for their mantra "never copy, only create", Cartier have been responsible for an unquantifiable number of innovative, inctricate and technically impressive designs over the course of their history. There are, however, some designs that have developed an iconic status synonymous with Cartier over the course of the twentieth century, and will likely look familiar to you. Let's take a brief look:

Firstly, they largely pioneered the use of platinum around the turn of the twentieth century – which enabled more delicate, refined designs to be possible around the Belle Epoque and Edwardian eras.

Belle Epoque necklace by Cartier
Belle Epoque necklace by Cartier

Secondly, inspired by the jewels that Jacques had seen in India when visiting his Maharaja clients, Cartier’s ‘Tutti Frutti’ designs were an entirely novel and unique style introduced by Cartier. Only latterly nicknamed ‘tutti frutti’ in the 1970’s, at the time, Jacques called them his ‘Hindou Jewels’, and they were characterised by the use of carved emeralds, rubies, and sapphires set in combination with diamonds, often in foliate or berry, naturalistic patterns.

Daisy Fellows wearing her 'Collier Hindou' by Cartier
Daisy Fellowes wearing her 'Collier Hindou' made by Cartier in 1936.

Daisy Fellowes' 'Collier Hindou'
The tutti frutti necklace as worn by Daisy Fellowes, made in 1936.

Cartier’s Panthere collection was designed by Jeanne Toussaint, one of the lead designers at Cartier Paris. It began with a few smaller items from the 1910’s but really propelled to fame after Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, began to wear larger Panthere pieces that she had commissioned by Cartier in the 1940’s.

Cartier Panthere sapphire and diamond brooch
Wallis Simpson's sapphire and diamond Cartier Panthere Brooch, 1949.

Cartier’s Tank watch has some serious cult status, and is even now one of the most easily recognised watch designs in the world. Designed in 1917 during the First World War, inspired by the new Renault Tanks which were being used by the USA forces, production began in 1919 with only 6 models being made. It has a characteristically rectangular shape, with Roman numeral dials, sword shape hands and a simple cabochon sapphire. It has been worn by countless global fashion icons, royalty and celebrities over the decades: from Princess Diana, to Andy Warhol, and has since had several editions released.

Cartier Tank watch
Cartier Tank watch

Designed by Cartier in 1924, the Trinity collection remains hugely popular today. Representing fidelity, friendship and love, the Trinity collection is designed with three interlocking circles and was originally made as a lower cost product alternative in a post-war world. Legend has it that the French poet Jean Cocteau had a dream about Saturn's rings, and tasked Louis Cartier with creating an item of jewellery with this as inspiration.

Jean Cocteau, French Poet, wearing the Trinity Ring
Jean Cocteau, French Poet, wearing Cartier's Trinity ring

The Love bracelet is one of the most easily recognisable Cartier pieces. Designed by Aldo Cipullo in 1969, inspired by the theme of everlasting love, they are characteristically ornamented with a screw head motif. On a bracelet, two of the screws will be functioning, so that the bracelet cannot be removed without unscrewing – resulting in a piece of jewellery designed to be treasured and never taken off.

1970's Cartier Love Bracelet Advertisement
1970's Advertisement for Aldo Cipullo's Cartier Love Bracelet

Aldo Cipullo was also responsible for designing the Juste en Clou range in 1971, shortly after the Love design. A simple design, literally meaning ‘Just a Nail’, the bracelet is designed as a simple nail which gracefully wraps itself around the wrist. It can be worn with from day to night, in an effortlessly casual way. 
Cartier Juste en Cloue
Aldo Cipullo's Juste en Cloue bracelet

If you love vintage and modern Cartier, take a look below at some of our favourite pieces from our Cartier collection, available now:

4.39ct emerald cut diamond ring by Cartier
4.39ct I VS1 emerald cut diamond ring by Cartier

Art Deco brooch by Cartier
Art Deco Brooch by Cartier

Tutti Frutti dress clips/brooch by Cartier
Vintage Tutti Frutti dress clips/brooch by Cartier

Vintage Cartier 14ct yellow gold and diamond leaf earrings
Vintage 14ct satin gold and diamond leaf earrings

Vintage aquamarine and diamond flower earrings
Vintage aquamarine and diamond flower earrings

Diamond set Cartier Love ring
Diamond set Cartier Love ring


And if this has whet your appetite, you can view the rest of our Cartier collection here.

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