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

La Theorie et la Pratique du Jardinage

So this was a pretty exciting discovery. It’s a book on garden design that was lurking on my grandfather’s bookshelf – it dates from 1777!

OK, it may not be immediately obvious how 18th century formal French garden design relates to jewellery but the three Cartier brothers took inspiration from everywhere. It’s clearly a well-loved book that had been in the family for a while by the time my grandfather Jean-Jacques inherited it.

As with so many of the family books, there are little sketches and notes in the margin, or on yellowing scraps of paper tucked between the pages, mainly in the hand of my great-grandfather, Jacques Cartier.

And you can see the similarities between the very symmetrical garden designs and Cartier’s early geometrical jewellery. This 1920s Cartier art deco brooch for example (top left), shares certain elements of the illustrations in the book (oval shaped, scalloped edged, central rounded rectangle), albeit set in rose-cut diamonds rather than hedges and flowers.

It’s not identical to the images in the book of course – my grandfather explained to me that his father and brothers didn’t believe in copying – but they did look to translate into their jewellery the influences and ideas around them (whether from architecture, fabrics, mythology, flowers, animals or, as it turns out, garden design) while always staying true to their very distinct Cartier style.

Would be interested to hear views too.. has anyone seen any other old Cartier creations that are similar to the illustrations here?

#creatingcartier #saturdaystyle #throwback #vintagecartier

Interview with The Jewellery Editor

Thanks to @thejewelleryed for this interview. Inspired by the stories of my grandfather, I’ve travelled all over the world and interviewed some wonderful and fascinating people over the past decade – all part of my research into the story of Cartier from a family perspective. This article gives a taster of what I’ve found out along the way (some of the stories will be familiar to those of you who follow my feed!). Lots more to follow of course but for now, hope you enjoy. Full interview can be found at http://ift.tt/1k0ORte

The curse of the Hope Diamond

This must be one of the most famous gemstones in the world. The notoriously cursed Hope Diamond. The 45.52 carat deep blue diamond passed through my family’s hands in the early 20th century when Pierre Cartier (pictured right) bought it to sell in his newly opened American branch of Cartier and made it into a necklace.

He thought – rightly as it turned out – that even if the sale didn’t make him much profit (which it didn’t) news of the famous stone being sold by Cartier would be the perfect type of marketing in a country where the French jeweller was still relatively unknown.

The problem was, being cursed, the diamond proved pretty tricky to sell. Previous owners had reportedly succumbed to fates as diverse as being eaten alive by wild dogs, being beheaded and forced into abdication. My grandfather remembered being terrified when he found out that his Uncle Pierre had bought it – what if the curse would hit his family too?

Fortunately there was one rather rich society lady who didn’t fear the curse and simply loved enormous gemstones. Mrs Evalyn Walsh McLean (pictured left wearing the Hope), a recently married multimillionaire heiress, bought the diamond in 1911 when she was just 25 years old. She loved showing off her new purchase – at her infamous parties she would play “Hide the Hope” in the garden with all her guests, or she would put it around the neck of her great dane, Mike!

My great-great-uncle Pierre was right – the stone regularly made the gossip columns, and with it Cartier’s name too. But it didn’t work out so well for Mrs Evalyn McLean.

Whether it was the curse that followed her or whether she was just unlucky, her family suffered a succession of terrible misfortunes: her son tragically died in a car accident, her husband ran off with another woman and ended up in a sanatorium, her daughter killed herself and their family paper The Washington Post, went bankrupt.

Despite all that, she never believed the Hope curse was anything more than fiction. Still, I can see why my grandfather was worried…

#diamondnecklace #cartiervintage #hopediamond #curse #cartiernecklace #vintagecartier #antiquejewelry #familyhistory #bluediamond

The state of luxury circa 1900

Letters

Been enjoying being lost these past few weeks in the family archives. Just emerged from a trip to Belle Epoque Paris when Cartier wasn’t nearly as well known as it later became and my ancestors were focused on building their business.

What’s clear, and perhaps surprising, from these letters is the sense of camaraderie and friendship between them and other luxury family firms of the time. There are thoughtful telegrams from the Van Cleef and Arpels families – for example, on the birth of my grandfather in 1919, or on my great-great-grandfather’s death.

There are many heart-felt letters from the then incredibly famous haute-couture Worth family and the world’s best furriers – not exactly politically correct today but back then fur was the height of luxe – the Revillons (both of which became linked in marriage to the Cartiers).

There’s even a warm invitation from the head of Tiffany in Paris offering to host the wedding reception of my great-grandparents (his wife was my great-grandmother’s sister).

All in all, there’s not that bitter competitive rivalry between these families that you might expect – there’s a sense that they were all in it together. Of course, at a time when the aristocracy still held the power, these families were essentially way down the social scale: mere shopkeepers with ambitions.

Today it’s the famous fashion designers and international jewellers holding the elite parties that later appear in the glossy magazines, back then, they’d have been lucky to be invited!

#cartierhistory #creatingcartier #maisonworth #charlesfrederickworth #maisoncartier #vancleefandarpels #tiffany #revillon #hautecouture #couturier #fashionhistory #familybusiness #familyhistory #luxurybusiness

 

Jean Jacques Cartier and the perfect walnut

Happy belated Christmas! At this time of year, my grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, always had a bowl of walnuts on the dining table. He loved them – not just the taste but the look. It was one of the many objects, he felt, that nature had got just right.

So when he came up with the idea to make a walnut-shaped box, he knew that any attempt to imitate nature just wouldn’t be as good as the original. Instead he decided to cast a real walnut in gold.

I love the wrinkled gleaming result that just calls out to be held and opened but now I also look at the originals in a new light. In fact, I couldn’t resist buying a huge bag from the local market last week – cue much excitement from the kids desperate to dig out my grandfather’s neglected trusty old nutcracker so they could get to the crunchy rewards inside … and endless little painful walnut shell pieces all over the floor!

Apparently my grandfather took forever searching for the perfect walnut to cast, going through bag after bag until he found just the right one. That appreciation of nature and devotion to the details was an important part of the special man he was, and I share this post in his memory at Christmas time.

#jeanjacquescartier #cartierbox #cartierclock #goldbox #cartiergold #vintagecartier #cartierlove #cartierjewelry #highjewellery
#cartiervintage #familyhistory #cartierjewellery

Gorgeous Cartier turtle design

Turtle

As I just posted on Instagram, just been flicking through an old Christies Jewels catalogue and came across this gorgeous design for a diamond and gold turtle brooch, with pavé-set diamond sliding legs and head and an engraved gold shell.

It’s from Cartier London in the 1950s, which was when my grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, would have been at the helm.

I knew he always loved transforming animals into jewellery but had never seen this little turtle before – so sweet! Has anyone come across anything similar?

I love all the old designs, I know they were just a step along the process to the finished item of jewellery but I see them as miniature works of art in themselves.

Photos never really do them justice, in the flesh – or rather on the paper – the colours literally jump off the page.

The brooch itself was listed for $3500-$4500 in 1992, not sure what it sold for in the end but I imagine it would be worth rather more today..

#vintagebrooch #animaljewelry #broochlover #cartieranimals #cartierbrooch #diamondbrooch #cartierjewellery #vintagecartier #cartiergold #cartierlondon #cartiervintage #cartierdesign #jeanjacquescartier