Some days ago I watched a documentary about the jewellery of Cartier. The noble house was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier and already in 1899 the company resided at the posh Avenue de la Paix 13 in Paris which is their headquarter to the present day.
The Roaring 20ies
The most glamorous period for the jewellers of Cartier was the roaring twenties of the last century. After World War I people had a hunger for life and luxury which – as it seems – is still unbeaten. And Cartier did have some really rich people for customers.
Cartier always understood the spirit of the era and manufactured the jewels accordingly. Once it was the flowers, later the rather geometrically shaped Art Deco style and when in 1922 the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun was discovered by Howard Carter, Cartier satisfied people’s Egyptian fever by Pharaonic looking jewels. When in the 1940ies abundance became less they produced ingenious items that could be transformed from a pendent to earrings and the other way around. Fascinating, really.
Money can buy things that cost a lot or items which are expensive AND tasteful. Cartier definitely belonged to the second category.
But there is one “character” that survived the decades: La Panthère. There are panther rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. As different as they are, they have some features in common. What is supposed to be the fur is totally made of diamonds which are sprinkled either by emeralds, onyx or sapphires. The animal’s eyes are typically made of emerald and the snout is of onyx.
As far as I know the first panther was a bracelet ordered by Mrs Wallis Simpson who should become the Duchess of Windsor. She has the reputation to be crazy about jewellery and was one of the best clients of Cartier. The American heiress Barbara Hutton wanted la Panthère as well, but a personalized version. She got herself a pair of panther-earrings. These panthers would wag their tales with every move she made.
I understand the fascination of danger; especially when it is made of gold and diamonds. And Cartier still manufactures panther items.