SIDE BY SIDE… A SPARKLING STORY The tale of how Cartier’s dazzling jewellery defined the spirit of the times on the pages of Bazaar
Vivienne Becker on how Cartier and Bazaar have gone hand in bejewelled hand throughout their dazzling histories
On the striking cover of the November 1956 issue of US Harper’s Bazaar, an immaculately manicured female hand, with long, slender fingers and cinnamon-polished fingernails, reaches out to the reader holding a note, promising all manner of ‘New Riches’: fashion, furs, jewels… Especially, it seems, jewels. Set against a stark black background, the woman’s wrist is encircled by a dramatic bracelet, a trail of smooth, oval coral beads, edged with diamonds. Each end is finished with a sculpted gold and gem-set ram’s head, one with diamond horns, the other with emeralds. This extravagant jewel is a masterpiece from Cartier New York, clearly inspired by the ideas and imagination of Jeanne Toussaint, the house’s legendary creative director of jewellery from 1933 until 1970, when she retired at the age of 83.
Toussaint’s influence was and is still immense. Nicknamed ‘La Panthère’, she gave life to Cartier’s panther motif, turning it into an icon of 20th-century design. She understood and even anticipated the changing ideals and values of femininity, and, as a strong, fiery and independent career woman herself, distilled them, brilliantly, into thrilling jewels.
Vibrant with colour, sculptural volume and vivacity, underpinned with meaning, cultural references and narrative, they became a powerful expression of personal style. No wonder that Bazaar, with Carmel Snow, an equally powerful and visionary woman at the helm, found her work so irresistible; on another cover that same year, Audrey Hepburn is pictured in a black and white zebra-striped hat wearing luscious Cartier coral flower earclips.
But for me it is the arresting graphic effect of the ‘New Riches’ cover, the elegance of the woman’s hand, the ‘dash of daring’ provided by the bracelet, that is the perfect encapsulation of almost a century of collaboration between Bazaar and Cartier. For both the legendary Parisian jeweller and the magazine are founded on a precious heritage that enshrines values and drives inspiration, that is the impetus for ever-evolving, restless innovation and the creation of beauty, whether in the form of a fashion magazine or as exquisite jewellery, watches and objets d’art designed to capture and reflect a moment in time…
Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by LouisFrançois Cartier; and by 1899, his entrepreneurial grandson Pierre was regularly visiting London to see clients who included the Duchess of Manchester and, a few years later, Queen Alexandra. Described by Edward VII as the ‘jeweller of kings and king of jewellers’, Cartier catered to royalty, aristocracy and high society – including the Hon Daisy Fellowes, Bazaar ’s Paris correspondent in the 1930s. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Cartier pieces featured regularly on the pages of the magazine from the late 1920s, both as editorial and in fashion shoots as well as advertisements. In this mutually creative exchange of ideas and inspirations, stimulated by Cartier’s inimitable style, Bazaar ’s fashion editors used the jewels to create memorable, often iconic visions of contemporary femininity. For the March 1931 issue, a feature on daytime jewels advocated teaming long turquoise floral drop earrings with a clip pinned to a black tricorne hat, and suggested that coral ornaments would work well with the ‘shrimp’ pink that was then all the rage. Cartier jewels were also a vital ingredient in Bazaar’s celebrated society portraits: for the February 1932 issue, Baron de Meyer photographed Marquise de Casa Maury wearing a spectacular diamond rose bangle; in the following year, Barbara Hutton, one of Cartier’s most devoted clients, posed for Bazaar in her tiara, and for June 1936, Man Ray photographed the
Described by Edward VII asthe‘jeweller of kings and king of jewellers’, Cartier catered to royalty and high society
Duchess of Windsor wearing a Mainbocher Chinese dinner dress, her famous cross charm bracelet, charting the course of the royal romance, just visible under her sleeve. Here was extraordinary storytelling through jewels and images.
In 1934, Cartier tapped into Bazaar ’s society connections with the Social Occasions Series of wittily evocative illustrated advertisements, one a month, each depicting an aspect of social life, including ‘An Engagement Reception’, ‘Mummy Dresses for the Party’, ‘Somewhereon-Sea’ and ‘A Marriage has been Arranged’. The society wedding, and how to navigate it in style, was mutually fruitful territory. Bazaar covered every aspect of marital dressing and etiquette, while Cartier was the destination for engagement rings, wedding jewels and presents, which were always on display. As Evelyn Waugh reported in April 1938 in his article ‘Wedding Presents’, these were among the prime attractions at any society nuptials. In the same issue, a feature entitled ‘For the Bride’ noted ‘the groom may choose his gift to the bride from any number of places, but should Cartier be his happy hunting ground, it will only be a question of which of the many jewels to take!’ Suggestions included ‘enchanting’ clips in gold, set with gems to look like flowerpots, enormous cabbage roses, clusters of mixed blooms ‘à la Constance Spry’, and monochrome jewels of black lacquer and diamonds.
Through the 1930s, the majestic tiara lit up Bazaar ’s pages, the ultimate symbol of feminine status. Cartier London excelled in the most daring, exotic creations, such as the ‘Siamese’ one that curled around the ears, as pictured in a 1931 style commentary by Baron de Meyer. Tiaras were obligatory, of course, for the 1937 Coronation, taking pride of place among the 10,000 or so designs recorded in Cartier’s stock books. But from that time on, jewellery fashion began to evolve, with a seismic shift away from cool, streamlined platinum and diamonds towards huge, confidently effervescent ‘cocktail’ jewels with sweeps and swirls of sun-yellow gold studded with coloured stones: wartime compromise made glamorous. ‘Paris gives you chunky jewellery,’ Bazaar told readers in 1945, featuring models wearing chic Cartier pieces including a colossal stylised flower, photographed by François Kollar; the February 1947 cover of Bazaar shows four cocktail rings from Cartier Paris, each piled high with abstract ribbed, swirled or twisted yellow gold, dotted with sapphires and rubies, one designed as a skyscraper in an ode to New York and its influence on jewellery styles. Inside, the magazine credited ‘the new altitudinous dimension for a ring and the hand that wears it’.
This look, confident and forthright, is echoed in today’s vibrant, jaunty Cactus de Cartier collection.
During the 1950s, Bazaar worked with great photographers such as Richard Avedon to capture the essence of elegant high jewellery, its refinement influenced by the new golden era of couture. In 1951, a Cartier diamond necklace described as a ‘glacial river of diamonds’ was recommended as a way of thoroughly ‘icing’ the most delicious evening dresses, while the maison’s expressive diamond brooches provided the ‘dazzle’ in iconic fashion shoots, their exuberant, lilting leaves, flowers and swirling clusters pinned onto exquisite gowns by Worth or Mainbocher, the brooches often worn in pairs and in unexpected places, the back, shoulder, waist, or on either side of a neckline, punctuating soignée sophistication with a dash of scintillating audacity. At the same time, in 1953, the workshops of Cartier London were putting the finishing touches to a sublime diamond flower brooch created for the newly crowned Elizabeth II, which centred on the staggeringly rare and beautiful Williamson pink diamond, a gift from the owner of the mine in Tanzania where it was unearthed. The brooch, still one of Her Majesty’s favourite jewels, makes an appearance as a modest entry in the Cartier stock books for that year.
Flora gave way to fauna; by the 1960s, the magazine’s pages were alive with charismatic characterful creatures, from Cartier’s iconic predatory panther to marinethemed jewels, featured in May 1968 and signalling a figurative style reprised for decades to come.
In the 1970s, Cartier’s masterful modernity was rooted in New York, in the trailblazing designs of Aldo Cipullo, the creator of the Love bangle and Juste un Clou, the revolutionary, androgynous hardware ‘daytime or anytime’ jewels, that pulsated with the beat of Studio 54, and were perfectly in tune with social, cultural and artistic, youthfuelled rebellion. Both designs are now enjoying a revival, fitting with today’s genderfluid mood and reinvigorated with new iterations.
Looking through the archives at Cartier and Bazaar, it is illuminating to see how that creative collaboration continued to thrive, as the two brands responded to and, indeed, foresaw the dramatic changes in the way in which their female clientele dressed, worked, dreamt and lived their lives.
Over the decades, the focus for both shifts from royalty and aristocracy to modern meritocracy and a new client: a multitasking working woman. Cartier’s dynamic ‘boutique’ concept, Les Must, launched in the midSeventies to appeal to this new breed: the London Must boutique, at the back of the Bond Street store, was heralded as a ‘breath of youth on Albemarle Street’. On the same taboobreaking path, in the postfeminist 1980s, Bazaar accessorised denim with dramatic Cartier jewels that women could buy for themselves, and channelled Nineties minimalism into the pareddown, essential purity of the diamond. In December 1992, Bazaar explained how diamonds were no longer a ‘means to dazzle’ but more a ‘private pleasure’, to be worn with the same ease, comfort and familiarity as a favourite sweater, illustrating the point with a shoot featuring stacked Cartier diamond bracelets. Cartier jewels adapted, chameleonlike, to features and photoshoots highlighting trends from street style, through to satin slip evening dresses, to the rapper’s gold bling, until the new millennium ushered in an age of megagems and the rise of the couture spirit of highjewellery collections, richly layered with cultural references, alive with storytelling, showcasing the world’s rarest, most intriguing and attractive gemstones and celebrating the art of craftsmanship.
According to Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s image, style and heritage director, the brand uses its own rich history not as a ‘model’ to be imitated, but as a precious store of values, a single vision, a living visual language to be continually enriched, reinterpreted and contemporised, for each new generation, each shift and evolving mood. Cartier has instinctively understood that jewels are and have always been a barometer of femininity and the most powerful expression of individuality and personal style, in the same way that Bazaar has mirrored modern womanhood, told their stories and enlarged their boundaries. Their connection is priceless.
Man Ray photographed the Duchess of Windsor for Bazaar in 1936 – extraordinary storytelling through jewels and images
Top: a Cartier bracelet on the November 1956 cover. Above: an illustration of Cartier jewellery from March 1931. Right: Man Ray’s shot of the Duchess of Windsor from June 1936