CARTIER, the very name denotes qualtiy and opulence. Founded in 1847 in Paris, the firm became one of the world's greatest designers and manufacturers of jewelry and objets d'art, and a supplier to royalty, nobility, and the wealthy. Once memorably hailed as the "Jeweler of Kings, & the King of Jewelers" by King Edward VII Cartier remains today, one of the worlds' best known luxury brands and a byword for quality & style.
Until the end of the 19th 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, the move to 13 Rue de la Paix situated the business in the heart of the important jewelry and couturier quarter of Paris.
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.
To better deal with American millionaires, who from the beginning formed a large part of Cartier's clientele, a New York branch was opened in 1909 by Alfred's other son, Pierre. Until World War I, Cartier maintained close relations with clients in Russia, and the princes and maharajas of India sought Cartier to design and mount their jewels. Jewelry and accessories were also made as stock items for the stores or were commissioned by individuals.
Until the 1960's, the Paris, London, and New York branches were part of a single firm but operated independently, collaborating whenever necessary. In 1962, the New York branch was sold, followed by the Paris branch in 1965, thus ending the unity. The firm was reunited and reorganized in 1979 as Cartier Monde, and today shops and boutiques can be found in cities around the world.
With each of the branches headed by a Cartier brother, the first four decades of the 20th century were a time of originality in design and technique in which a distinctive Cartier aesthetic emerged. Most of the pieces in this exhibition date to this period and reflect in part the range of materials and decorative techniques employed by Cartier.