All text, and images © 2014, Debra Healy
unless otherwise stated.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

French Jewelry Today, Part 1- Cartier

I am a published writer in the field of jewelry history and decorative arts. I work as a writer, an illustrator, a jewelry historian, a designer, a design analyst and jewelry brand identity specialist. I trained as a fine jeweler, and I am an enamel expert.  For many years I restored important enamel piecesby, Faberge, Cartier, 18th Century snuff boxes, 19th and 20th century jewels, vanity cases, and clocks.   I have has worked for museums,  auction houses, dealers, and important collectors.  For a decade I worked with a prominent collector of jewelry and precious objects in New York where I assisted with sales to private clients,
corporations, and loans to major museums.


When I moved to France 15 years ago there was a seismic change underway in the world of high-end jewelry and watches.  This was lead by Richemont’s Vendome group and its acquisition of Cartier.
Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Mauboussin, Chaumet and Mellerio dits Meller were all still in the hands of the heirs.  This was a closed intimate world of retailers, suppliers, and workshops. Their  treasured clients often bought from several of them.  The principles of these firms all knew each other having grown up in the business, some of them with family members on both sides of the Atlantic.

An example of this intimate world, is a project I did in the 1980’s. I was asked by the late Claude Arpels, who headed the American operations of the Van Cleef & Arpels to restore an antique enamel brooch for a very special client, the client turned out to be Elizabeth Taylor.   The piece was not by Van Cleef & Arpels  but an Art Nouveau  plique-a-jour enamel butterfly brooch by Boucheron, circa 1900.
Elizabeth Taylor was so pleased with the restoration that when my team and I were working on our second book, Hollywood Jewels, Abrams, New York, 1992.   Elizabeth Taylor  personally sent her fabulous Krupp diamond ring, and  her Spanish crown jewel pearl necklace,  La Peregrina,  to us in New York to photograph for our book.  At that time her jewels were transported from L.A.  to New York by Cartier as a favor to her.

The biggest Change today is the ownership of these venerable old brands. 

Have a look at he chart below.

I would like to take you down Rue de la Paix and around Place Vendôme. We will look at the venerable French jewelry houses of 100 years or more who are still in business today.  In order of appearance, I will discuss, Cartier, Mellerio dits Meller, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mauboussin, and Chaumet. I will give you a brief history of each firm, and then take a  look into their windows to see what is happening with French jewelry today.

13 Rue de la Paix

Today Cartier is Part of the Richemont group.  Any brand astute enough to appoint a director of  image, style, and heritage  understands fully who they are, what they own, where the value is, and how to tell their story. They understand how to communicate this  with every product , advertisement, store window, packaging, exhibitions, catalogs and numerous books.

Cartier was founded in  1847 by Louis Françoise Cartier. 

His three grandson's Louis (1875-1942), Pierre (1878-1965), and Jacques (1884-1942),
developed the firm into a distinguished international jeweler, watchmaker, and clockmaker.

Image Christie's  
Cartier stomacher circa 1909

Cartier was a trend setter not a style follower.
In 1898-1899 Louis Cartier decided to set up an in-house design studio.
Cartier did not create jewels in the Art Nouveau style. During this period they were known for  the most elegant platinum and diamond jewels in the neo-classical and Louis  XVI-revival  styles, or as it is now referred to,  the garland-style. 

Cartier Tonneau wristwatch,  Paris 1907
Cartier lead the way with luxury wrist watches. As early as 1888 they
offered ornamental ladies wrist watches, this concept really took off after 1904.

The three brothers were joined by Jeanne Toussaint. 
 Her  influence was profound, 
she was eventually appointed director of fine jewelry in 1933.

Jeanne Toussaint

Jeanne Toussaint was not an artisan or an artist.  She was very chic and had unerring eye for style. She was a brilliant design analyst who could articulate what worked and what didn't.  She directed her designers and craftsmen to create remarkable jewels for nearly 55 years. 

 image Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor,  Sotheby's, 1987

Jeanne Toussaint is credited with creating the concept for Cartier's  famous great cat jewels.

Audry Hepburn Harper's Bazaar 1956

Audry Hepburn in wearing these Cartier coral, diamond, and platinum coffee beans earrings
 which developed by Jeanne Toussaint who was the artistic director until the firm left family hands in the 1960's

When Cartier was sold the 1960's,
the three branches were split-up, each with a different owner.
In 1972 a group on investors lead by Joseph Kanoui,  and Robert Hocq  who was the president of Cartier Paris,  started the reacquisition of Cartier.  Robert Hocq and Alain Dominique Perrin developed the global marketing concept Les Musts de Cartier with its associated  line of products. The three original branches, Paris, London and New York were reunited and merged with Les Musts de Cartier in 1976.

In 1983 an initiative was started by the Late Eric Nussbaum to re-acquire the best pieces ever made by Cartier.

 Each addition to the Cartier collection is thoroughly researched and given its original number form the well maintained archives.  This collection today numbers over 1360 pieces. The collection illustrates the evolution of the dynamic Cartier style. It contains jewelry, tiaras, accessories, objet d’art, boxes, smoking accessories, horology, and watches.  Everything and anything from jewels, toys to tools, even a playful gold yoyo, and can opener!
No other  jewelry or watch brand has so assiduously studied their heritage. They have analyzed the evolution of their style, identified the iconic products. and evolved methods of new product development that are relevant and appealing. They have developed a communication strategy that is superbly integrated and coherent. A Cartier product is known for unsurpassed quality, it is instantly recognizable, timeless,  distinctive, and highly differentiated. It takes a great deal of knowledge and experience to "read  archives", and to analyze and evaluate their collection.  The understanding of where the brand came from, and how to draw on that heritage to continue to develope in a modern context is the job of Pierre Rainero artistic, image, strategy, and  heritage director.  He has been with Cartier for 27 years since 1984. With a background in advertising and marketing. One could say he now holds the memories and articulates them with perfect pitch. This enables him to make the necessary design decisions like Jeanne Toussaint did in the past, he is responsible for 
"le goût Cartier". 

" My role is to take a decision based not on my personal taste but a frame of mind which, for decades has been steeped in Cartier's savoir-faire" Pierre Rainero .  

An integral part of their heritage discovery has been an important series of world-wide exhibitions, along with the exhibition catalogs, and gorgeous illustrated books.  Working with acknowledged scholars in the field, these exhibitions have also been very important because they serve to forge a connection between the local populations and Cartier, weather it is in China, Russia, Europe, or America. The exhibitions have lifted the perception of Cartier's creations, elevating them to a level worthy of being shown in world-class museums.These exhibitions have successfully generated a growing awareness kindling desire in a new generation of global customers. They do this by telling the brand's "story"  one iconic product at a time. Cartier knows better than anyone that every jewel tells a story.
With each successive exhibition their knowledge and competence has grown along with their ability to communicate, manage, and develop Cartier in the 21st Century.

Following is a brief exhibition and publishing history from 1982 to the present.

The  first  exhibition celebrating the Cartier  style “Retrospective Louis Cartier” was held in 1982
at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

The  success  and interest generated by this first retrospective was followed by the late  
Hans Nadelhoffer’s (1940-1988) pioneering  and brilliantly researched book  
Cartier Jewelers Extraordinary, Abrams, New York, 1984. 
This book was re-published in 2007, by Chronicle Books.

"l'Art de Cartier" was a dazzling exhibition at the Musee du Petit Palais in Paris, 1989/1990.
 A second "l'Art de Cartier" was held at the Ermitage Museum in St. Petersburg Russia in 1992.
 Many exhibitions followed, notably at The Metropolitan Museum in New York, followed by The British Museum in1997.

Cartier and America at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco 2009

Cartier's 100 Years in America 2009 in New York.
This was celebrated along with Bruce Weber's book,
Cartier I Love You.

On rue de la Paix the Cartier windows are elegant.
They seamlessly communicate the brand's heritage.
The pallet is sophisticated, subtly suggesting the finest art deco interiors. 

This necklace is a contemporary use of the classic Cartier panther-skin motif.
Cartier's first piece with the panther-skin motif, from 1914. 
Cartier Jewelers Extraordinary, Hans Nadelhoffer, Chronicle books, 2007

 Advertisement fromVogue Espana, No. 14  
 Cartier's  integrated communication strategy. 

A contemporary tiger, a great cat bracelet.

Cartier windows June 2011 
This necklace is a contemporary take on a definitive heritage-style.

A Cartier chimera wrapping around a cascade of red rubies.  The clasp is an orientalist cloud
swirling with diamonds, and trailing diamond briolette drops.

Cartier bracelet, 1929 platinum, diamonds,
sapphires, emeralds, and rock crystal.

 Trinity Bangle
The trinity concept was first developed by Cartier in 1924.
 Cartier watches,  June 2011.
Cartier continues to be a world leader in fine watches as well as jewelry.
 The Richemont  group is a smart learning organization, they are continually leveraging their accumulated knowledge, expertise, and resources.

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