Best Brands -By Aruna Rathod
Founded in 1847 by Louis-françois Cartier in Paris, the firm of Cartier initially had to overcome difficult financial times fraught with intense competition. Surviving these early hurdles, Cartier began to thrive. By 1856 they had secured the patronage of the Princess Mathilde, second cousin of Napoleon III and, shortly thereafter, the Empress Eugénie as well. Royalty believed in them and allowed them to flourish. Later, they continued to service a steadily increasing number of the well to do, besides the French royalty, aspirational bankers and industrialists.
Until the end of the nineteenth century, Cartier was primarily a retailer of jewelry and objects produced by outside manufacturers. When Cartier’s son Alfred took over in 1874, the firm gradually began repairing and improving jewelry, and then designing and manufacturing their own original pieces in the late 1800s. In 1899, they moved to 13 Rue de la Paix of Paris and situated the business in the heart of the important jewelry and couturier quarter of Paris. The move to the rue de la Paix coincided with a period of extraordinary economic growth and affluence in France and the world.
Cartier was also growing and expanding and had started to shift their emphasis from
retailing to design and manufacture. Although they produced a small number of pieces in the Art Nouveau style, Cartier paid scant attention to the movement. They made their distinguishing mark in pioneering the use of platinum in creating the delicate and graceful Garland style that came to be associated with the Belle Époque. The discovery of the great diamond deposits in South Africa in the late 1860’s engendered the popularity of extravagant diamond jewelry. The technical advances in the manufacturing of platinum enabled designs of great intricacy, strength and flexibility found expression in the spectacular résille designs of Cartier.
Exploring world markets
Encouraged by King Edward VII, Cartier opened a branch in London in 1902 managed by Alfred’s son Jacques. A royal commission was granted in 1904, followed quickly by commissions from Spain, Portugal, Russia, Siam, and Greece. These royal commissions helped to solidify Cartier’s reputation among the wealthy and famous the world over.
In 1904, the Brazilian pioneer aviator, Alberto Santosdumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier of the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying. Cartier designed a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. This watch was liked by not only Santos-dumont but also many other customers. Thus the “Santos” - Cartier’s first men’s wristwatch.
India and Cartier
Cartier’s exceptional ‘Tutti Frutti’ bracelet owes its colourful design to India. Cartier first came to India in 1901 to check out Indian designs, when Queen Alexandra commissioned the jewellers to create a necklace to accompany her collection of Indian gowns. In 1911, his brother, Jacques Cartier, embarked on his first voyage to India. He was fascinated by the colours of India and when he returned to Europe he incorporated the bright colours and traditionally carved cabochons into his pieces. What resulted were a sparkling tribute to Mughal decorative art, and following their inception, Cartier became a stopover for visiting maharajas.