Cartier is a French historic jewelry store. Founded in 1847 by Louis François Cartier, it is synonymous with luxury and elegance
- The origins
1.1 The Santos: the first wristwatch
1.2 Louis Cartier
1.3 Louis Cartier and Jean Cocteau
1.4 The panther of Jeanne Toussaint
1.5 The bracelets Love and Juste a highlight
1.6 The Crash watch
- The 80s and 90s
2.1 The Fondation Cartier pour l’Art cryontemporain
2.2 The Pasha watch
2.3 From Vendôme Luxury Group to the acquisition of Richemont
- The ladies of Cartier
- The 2000s
Cartier is now more than a century and a half old, but its creative vitality is unstoppable and has not lost the right to be considered the world leader in the group of major international brands.
In 1847, Louis François Cartier opened his first workshop in Paris, on rue Montorgueil. It was a small goldsmith’s workshop that gave life to the first examples of a production that would be appreciated, a few decades later, by the royal courts around the world. Cartier jewelry became famous when, in 1856, Princess Matilda, granddaughter of Napoleon I, wore her first Cartier jewelry. This was followed by Empress Eugenie and Edward VII, who ordered 27 diadems for her coronation. Louis Cartier was named “King of Jewellers, Jeweler of Kings”. Twelve years after the opening, he moved the shop to Bouvelard des Italiens and began to be appreciated by the most prestigious and demanding clientele of the capital.
When his son Alfred joined the company, production developed considerably. In 1899 it moved to Rue de la Paix, when Cartier jewelry had become very famous. A year earlier, in ’98, Alfred’s son, Louis, had made a particularly fruitful liaison with the beautiful Parisian world by marrying Andrée Worth, the daughter of the famous tailor Charles Frédéric Worth. The jewelry, located a few steps from the fashion atelier, attracts interest with its extraordinary pieces created in garland style inspired by the art of the eighteenth century.
After the success at the English court, on the occasion of his coronation, Edward VII pronounced the famous phrase about Cartier: “rois des joailliers parce que joaillier de rois”. A branch was opened in London, in New Burlington Street, under the direction of Jaques Cartier, Louis’ younger brother.
Pierre, on the other hand, was entrusted with the New York store on Fifth Avenue in 1908. The most famous watches date back to those early ‘900; Santos, made in 1904 for the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, Tonneau (1906) and Tortoue (1912).
Santos: the first wristwatch
Cartier Santos was the first watch designed to be worn on the wrist. Its based on the concept of form, essential lines, the rigor of proportions and the search for details. Born from the desire of the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont to want to read the time while he was in flight, his friend Louis Cartier invented the first watch “to wear” on the wrist. Since then, the watch has become an iconic piece of the brand with a design that reinvents itself over time, reflecting the tastes of an era.
Louis is the soul of Cartier jewelry whose image he shapes thanks to his artistic sensitivity, his intellectual creativity, his creative taste that knows neither cultural nor geographical boundaries. Great traveller, frequenters of worldly salons, he is a man with a casual and aristocratic attitude. From 1907, abandoning the garland genre, he invented geometric patterns that preceded the Déco.
Influenced by oriental art, by the Ballets Russes, brought to Paris by Diaghilev, by the neo-Egyptian fashion prevailing in the early ’20s, he led the Cartier style to complete realization. Along with jewelry in onyx, rock crystal, enamel, coral, diamonds, precious stones, the famous “mysterious clocks” were born, masterpieces of technical virtuosity played on the chromatic magic of semi-precious stones.
Louis Cartier and Jean Cocteau
In 1924 the Trinity ring was created, consisting of three rings joined together: one in rose gold, symbol of love, one in yellow gold, symbol of fidelity and the last in platinum, symbol of friendship. The jewel was commissioned by the poet Jean Cocteau, a friend and trusted customer, who also commissioned the supply of diamonds that would form the tears on the face of La Bella, played by Josette Day, in his film La Belle et la Bête.
The relationship of trust with Louis Cartier reached its peak in 1955, when Jean Cocteau was accepted into the Académie Française and ordered Cartier his “immortal” sword, designed by Cocteau himself and produced by Cartier workshops.
In the ’30s it was the turn of the creation “Tutti i Frutti”: the protagonists were the precious coloured stones.
The Panther by Jeanne Toussaint
In the meantime Jeanne Toussaint joined Louis for the design, a very talented creator who signed many famous pieces; from cosmetic bags to cigarette cases, from watches to jewelry. At the time of the Roaring Twenties, Jeanne Toussaint stood out for her red boots and Chinese silk pajamas. Nicknamed “the panther”, she became among the first women to direct a maison proposing innovative and breaking creations, for the maison she created a unique style called “Touissant style” characterized by contrasting combinations of precious metals and colored stones. For her jewels she drew inspiration from oriental landscapes and cultures, especially from Persia, China, India.
From the genius of Toussaint, in 1948 the first all-round brooch with a panther appeared: a self-celebration of the designer, declined in different shapes and materials, symbol of an affirmed femininity. The panther has become the distinctive element of the brand and has appeared on watches, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Jeanne Toussaint was very successful among the Kings of the House of Windsor, and Cartier became the official supplier of the English crown. He designed the famous flamingo-shaped brooches for Duchess Wallis Simpson in the 40s and a particular 1949 Panthére brooch in platinum on a 152.35 carat Kashmiri cabochon sapphire.
Pierre Cartier became president in 1945 after the death of Louis and Jacques, and maintained the position until his death in 1964. The Cartier family retained ownership of the company until 1964, then Robert Hocq took over, the creator of Les Must de Cartier jewelry. After a few changes of ownership, in 1972 the company found its buyers, namely a group of investors led by Joseph Kanoui. Alain Dominique then took over the presidency. Perrin.
Love and Juste un clou bracelets.
Cartier creations are surrounded by mystery and legendary stories. This is the case of two bracelets that soon became iconic, as well as the most requested of the maison, the Love and the Juste un clou bracelet.
The Love bracelet was created in New York in 1969 by designer Aldo Cipullo. It has essential lines and rigour of proportions; an oval shape wraps around the wrist and is removed with a gold screwdriver. Symbol of absolute passion, it seals the most intense loves. In fact, for the promotion of the bracelet, Cartier gave the bracelet to the most famous couples of the moment such as Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti. According to a legend, in New York hospitals, screwdrivers are hidden to open the bracelet in case an emergency patient arrives wearing one. To make each bracelet unique, the serial number is engraved inside.
Created by Cartier in 1971 in New York, the Juste un Clou bracelet was first called Nail Bracelet. The Juste un Clou bracelet is a nail transformed into a jewel. The purity of the lines sublimates a simple nail, transforming it into a precious object. The design of the bracelet starts from an essential line that intends to bring the object to its most essential expression: the pure structure of a nail.
The Crash watch
In the 60s the introduction of another Cartier legend occured: in 1967 the brand launched the iconic Cartier Crash. This model was created in London and seems to have come out of a painting by Dali, but according to a story a customer had brought back a crashed watch to Jean-Jacques Cartier, at the time at the head of Cartier Londres, and he was fascinated by the shape of the case, to the point of wanting to reproduce it as it was.
The 80s and 90s
Alain Domenique Perrin commercially opened the company to a younger clientele. In 1981, the Maison launched the Must perfume and deluxe leather goods. For Cartier’s first perfume, an elegant packaging was chosen, a glass bottle with unique and original lines. The bottle, embellished with a red band imprinted with the name of the maison, revealed in transparency the colour of the perfume that recalled the most precious metal: gold.
The Fondation Cartier pour l’Art contemporain
In 1984 the “Fondation Cartier pour l’Art contemporain” was created. Ten years after its creation, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain moved to Paris on Boulevard Raspail, in the spaces designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Here it continued an intense activity aimed at organizing avant-garde exhibitions and cultural events, aimed at affirming an eclectic and multidisciplinary dimension.
The Pasha watch
The creation of another iconic watch of the brand, the Pasha, dates back to 1985. Designed by the legendary Gérald Genta, the Pasha, is characterized by the design of a square within a circle. It immediately became an object of worship among men. Even women soon began to consider it a status symbol of style and power. According to an apocryphal fable, the name derives from a custom-made timepiece that Louis Cartier had created in the early 30s for the Sultan of Marrakech (Pasha is in fact the title that officers of the Ottoman Empire used to have).
From Vendôme Luxury Group to the acquisition of Richemont
After Kanoui, in 1993, the umbrella company Vendôme Luxury Group acquired Cartier together with other important watch and jewelry brands such as Baume & Mercier, Piaget, Duhnill, Panerai and Vacheron Constantin. In 1997 Cartier celebrated its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary with the great retrospective Cartier 1900-1939, presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, at the British Museum in London and in other prestigious venues. Domenique Perrin left his position as CEO in 1998.
In 1999, the Vendôme Luxury group passed under the dominion of the Richemont ’99 group, the Parisian jewelry brand Vam Cleef & Arpels.
The ladies of Cartier
Cartier has been synonymous with luxury and sophistication since its inception, all its pieces have been a source of admiration and status symbol. The company has transformed its jewels into works of art collected by some of the most famous and powerful women in the world such as Grace Kelly, Barbara Hutton, Anne Hathaway, Kate Middelton, Celine Dion and Marilyn Monroe who, in the famous film Men Prefer Blondes, sang “Diamonds are girl’s best friend” wearing Cartier jewelry.
In 1969, Cartier acquired a 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond and sold it to Richard Burton for $1.1 million. Burton gave the diamond to his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor, so the diamond was renamed Taylor-Burton. Following the couple’s separation, the diamond was sold for about $3 million to a jeweler in New York.
Cartier, which is present all over the world with more than 200 boutiques, celebrated its liaison with art and culture in 2002 by organizing, under the artistic direction of the architect Ettore Sottsass, at the Vitra Design Museum in Berlin and at Palazzo Reale in Milan, the exhibition Cartier design seen by Ettore Sottsass, more than two hundred jewels, watches, accessories and precious objects.
In 2006, Cartier founded the Cartier Women’s Initiative, an international program in partnership with INSEAD Business School with the aim of identifying, supporting and promoting women entrepreneurs and their businesses.
In addition, the maison is committed to the promotion and transmission of artistic crafts with the foundation of La Maison des Métiers d’Art, the Institut Joaillerie Cartier in 2014.
The story continues
In 2015 Cartier inaugurated the Maison des Métiers d’Art in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
Three years later, in 2018, the Guirlande de Cartier bag was released on the market and in 2019 also the Clash de Cartier collection was released.
Also in 2019, the retrospective “Beyond Boundaries: Cartier and the Palace Museum Craftsmanship and Restoration Exhibition” was held at the Palace Museum in Beijing. A few months later, the exhibition “Crystallization of Time”, dedicated to Cartier’s style, proposed the combination of historical models from the Cartier Collection and contemporary creations, at the National Art Center in Tokyo. The exhibition was organized by the agency New Material Research Laboratory, founded by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Tomoyuki Sakakida.
Cartier will participate in the ‘CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge’, the challenge launched in 2019 by Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri to tackle the global environmental crisis. The CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge was also taken up by the CEOs of Sanpellegrino, Lavazza, Sap, The RealReal and Levin Sources.
CFDA (council of fashion designers of America)