PUBLISHED: 17:09 13 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013
Christina Trevanion, Head of Halls' Jewellery Department looks at work of Louis Cartier - Jeweller to Kings and King of Jewellers whose pieces are ever more desirable.
Christina Trevanion, Head of Halls' Jewellery Department looks at work of Louis Cartier - Jeweller to Kings and King of Jewellers whose pieces are ever more desirable
Style Moderne or, as it became more popularly known 'Art Deco', flourished during the roaring 1920s. The opulent style, synonymous with elegant simplicity, was born primarily as a reaction to the forced austerity endured by the population during the First World War. It was established as a forward looking movement which embraced the machine age and celebrated the beauty of technology. It took influences from many different styles and movements; Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau, Ancient Egypt and Aztec Mexico being just a few of the periods which heavily influenced the designers of the time.
The style used sweeping curves, stepped forms bold geometric patterns and shapes which infiltrated not only design but also every day life to an extent not seen before. It was instantly successful, not for what it was but for what it stood for. It didn't have political or philosophical roots like so many of its predecessors and, although seen as luxurious, it could also be adopted as a functional style. It was employed extensively throughout the decorative arts in interior design, industrial design, art, the graphic arts, film, consumer goods, fashion and, of course, jewellery design. Fashion at the time had evolved to suit the freer, active lifestyle; jewellery became more streamlined and angular to complement this new, flatter silhouette.
I have been fortunate enough recently to handle two pieces of exceptional quality made by the leading jeweller of the Art Deco period, Louis Cartier (1875-1942). A lady's platinum and diamond set wristwatch and a clutch bag, which were offered for sale at our recent auction of silver, jewellery and watches.
Jeweller to Royalty and the aristocracy, Cartier created beautiful pieces of quality and style and was described by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, as 'The jeweller of Kings, the King among jewellers'. Cartier's designs for his wristwatches were elegant, small, accurate and a statement of the times in which they were made. Their ingenious designs often meant that they set the fashion themselves rather than following it.
The wristwatch itself was a very modern concept. Prior to this development, the classic pocket watch was the only timepiece it was considered a gentleman should carry. However, in 1904, Louis Cartier met the Brazilian aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, who complained about the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches whilst he was flying. Cartier designed him a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. This watch was not only a hit with Santos-Dumont, but also with Cartier's many clients. The 'Santos' wristwatch was born and this timeless classic is still produced today.
Ladies' wristwatches also became popular as soon as they realised how comfortable they were to wear compared to the cumbersome pocket or fob watches they were so used to. Cartier's wristwatches fast became the status symbol of the rich and famous and people became eager to purchase them. Cartier's strength lay in their ability to create many unique wristwatches which customers were able to select from various designs.
The lady's wristwatch that we sold (pictured) was a classic piece of Art Deco Cartier; the contrasting black and white colour scheme, the diamond set bezel and instantly recognisable square face, all set in platinum (the most expensive precious metal money can buy) and with half moon shoulders also diamond set, created not only a stylish wristwatch of exceptional quality, but also a beautiful piece of jewellery. The watch generated a huge amount of interest, both nationally and internationally and was finally knocked down to a £9,000 bid, to the delight of the vendor whose father had bought the piece at a country house sale in the 1960s.
Alongside his wristwatches and jewellery collections Cartier designed accessories to complement his pieces, which are equally collectable today. The Cartier clutch bag we sold (pictured), which was, remarkably, in its original characteristic red and gold tooled case from the 1930s. Made of two tone suede and with diamond and ruby set clasp, this clutch bag is instantly recognisable as an Art Deco piece with its clean lines and modest simplicity. It was keenly fought over and eventually sold to a telephone bidder for £2,900.
Vintage Cartier will always be collectable, its quality and appeal is timeless.
Halls is currently consigning for its next fine silver, jewellery, watches and paintings sale on November 5. Christina can be contacted at Halls, Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury. Tel: 08451 309610.
This lady's platinum and diamond set wristwatch, a classic piece of Art Deco Cartier, sold for £9,000.
This Cartier clutch bag in two tone suede with diamond and ruby set clasp, which was still in its original characteristic red and gold tooled case from the 1930s, sold for £2,900.
The famous Cartier name on the clutch bag.