January 21, 2014

The jeweller of kings

In France, luxury is not about monetary value, rather it is about the time, skill and the vision it takes to create an object. That it may happen to be created using rare and expensive materials that few can afford is not the point. Craft is a major art form. So there is no place better suited to staging one of the first ever public gallery exhibitions of fine jewellery than the Grand Palais in Paris.

"Cartier: Style and History" took over Paris' Grand Palais, showcasing the French house's magnificent archives as jewelled reflections of the changing times. The display spanned more than a century from the French maison's birth in 1847, via its description by Edward VII as "the jeweller of kings, and the king of jewellers", up until the 1970s. 

Undaunted by wars, economic depression and upheaval, the exhibition revealed that when the going gets tough, the world's royals, heiresses, socialites, bankers' wives, celebrities and even maharajas get shopping for sparklers.

Skipping the line at the Grand Palais

Cartieroscope 2013: living frescos thanks to contemporary, digital technologies 
of projection and animation.

Tiaras of the last 100 years

Model ordered for Cartier's 100th anniversary: the interior boutique at 9, Blvd des Italiens

Pink cigarette box, cufflinks and buttons

 Ceremoninal Indian necklace composed of 2930 diamonds and two rubies and at its center a De Beers yellow stone diamond of 234.65 carats.

Elegant jewels commissioned for Princess Grace of Monaco.

Snake necklace as a special order for Maria Felix with 2473 diamonds.

True to her mantra, would-be royal Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, stated that "if you can afford it then there's no pleasure buying it". Simpson – exiled to Paris with little apparent source of income – set about making what the curators describe as "particularly extravagant orders": a three-dimensional diamond-encrusted panther atop a perfectly round sapphire larger than a hazelnut.

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