Dame Nellie Melba and Cartier

This is a pretty special piece. What do you think of it? More dated perhaps than some of Cartier’s later Art Deco creations? It was made over 115 years ago for Dame Nellie Melba (right), the famous Australian opera singer, who was a great Cartier client at the turn of the 20th century. Having failed to make a huge success of her singing career in her home town (Melba is a pseudonym for Melbourne), she decided, in her mid-20s, to set sail for Europe in search of stardom. It was a good move. The opera houses of Paris, London and Brussels adored her and she became a worldwide sensation. While based in London as the lead soprano at Covent Garden, she became a friend of my great-great uncle, Pierre Cartier (who managed Cartier London in its early years). He would lend her jewels to wear on stage – great publicity – and she would buy a fair few herself too. Basically she was an early brand ambassador for the firm – much like a Hollywood starlet today, she made it into the social columns and people flocked to see her. This particular Cartier platinum, diamond and pearl Belle Epoque necklace actually started out as a devant-de-corsage, pinned to the corset of a dress rather than being worn around the neck. It made its first appearance at the Royal Albert Hall performance for Edward VII’s 1902 coronation, where Nellie sang the National Anthem. In the days before TV and social media, product placement doesn’t get much better than that –literally centre-stage in front of a wealthy audience. Today the piece has been shortened so it can be worn as a necklace (devant-de-corsages sadly stopped being so practical once corsets were abandoned – hard to pin a huge diamond creation on a silk evening gown..) and is said to be worth somewhere between £1-1.5million. Good news though (at least if you’re anywhere near the @nationalgalleryaus), it’s on display in the Cartier Exhibition until July. #belleepoque #belleepoquejewelry #diamondnecklace #cartiernecklace #devantdecorsage #nelliemelba #vintagecartier #cartier #pearls #royalalberthall

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