Best Brands -By Aruna Rathod

The Luxury Collection - - Contents - -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.

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