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Cartier

grandson paris louis london

B. 1819

D. 1904

Birthplace: Paris, France

Almost from the moment Louis-François Cartier took over the shop of his former employer in 1847, he attracted prosperous clients by selling jewelry and art objects which he purchased from numerous manufacturers. He opened several more locations over the years, but the Cartier name became even better known when, in 1899, son Alfred and grandson Louis opened a new shop at 13 Rue de la Paix in Paris, which was, at that time, the heart of the haute couture and jewelry district. Louis, in fact, married Andree Worth, granddaughter of Charles Frederick Worth, the “Father of Haute Couture,” that very same year. To this day, it is still Cartier’s primary location.

The fame of Cartier continued to grow, especially when the company started to restore, redesign, and create custom pieces for the aristocrats of Europe. For the coronation of Edward the VII, so many orders were received from London that the London branch was opened the same year, 1902, and eventually managed by grandson Jacques, who remained as director there for the rest of his life. In 1909 grandson Pierre opened the New York branch on 5th Avenue. Although the Cartier shops were located in only three cities until the 1960s, the business stretched throughout the world. From Saint Petersburg to Moscow, from Bombay to Kashmir, the House of Cartier offered the rich and powerful the most superb quality and design in watches, brooches, rings, bracelets, necklaces, and objets d’art.

Many new styles of jewelry came from the Cartier workshops. Among their best-known innovations are the broche de décolleté (dress clip or clasp), first shown at the 1925 Paris Exhibition; their convertible jewels, such as the brooch that turns into a pendant and the headband that converts to two bracelets; diamond “curls,” individually mounted and attached to one’s hair or eyebrow; and beautiful objects (cigarette cases, perfume bottles, desk clocks, powder boxes, and so on) inspired by ancient motifs from Egyptian amulets, Japanese scrolls, Chinese carvings, and Islamic miniatures.

The Cartier style was also differentiated by a nontraditional approach to design, such as the famous panther-skin ornamentation, which became the house symbol; the brilliant use of color (emeralds, mother of pearl, coral, lapis lazuli); and the introduction of platinum, the precious metal which Louis Cartier described as “the embroidery of jewelry” due to its ability to retain strength even when a very thin gauge is used. Evidence of its flexibility can be seen in the light and lacy effects for which their delicate pieces are known.

Still coveted today are the fine watches Cartier is known for, among which is the Tank, a modern simple rectangle with gold bars on each side, and the Santos-Dumont, a sleek and flat square which is both timeless and functional. Perhaps Cartier’s most enduring contribution to wristwatch style is the boucle deployante or folding buckle, introduced in 1910 and currently used in many contemporary timepieces.

The Maison Cartier was owned by family members until 1962, when great grandson Claude sold the New York branch and, within a few years, the Paris and London branches. In 1972 the company was reunited by its new owners, and in 1973 a new mass-produced line of articles known as Les Must de Cartier was introduced through Must boutiques throughout the world. Today, Cartier Monde is renowned for its writing instruments, handbags, perfumes, and scarves, as well as timeless gems of extraordinary quality.

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