The 1920’s changed women’s lifestyles and attitudes with a loud roar. Women became athletic and counted their calories. They cut their hair short, threw off the corsets and wore long slinky dresses.
During the period from 1918-1937 Cartier was the world leader in creating fine jewelry in the Art Deco style. Incorporating intense colors in contrast with black and white the geometric modern jewelry became timeless art. The name Art Deco is derived from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. The “Cartier & America” exhibit at the Legion of Hono rhas some of the finest Cartier Art Deco jewelry on display.
The color combinations of this huge perfectly green emerald with the intense blue sapphires and stark white diamonds is just remarkable. I imagine the woman who was fortunate enough to wear this in Paris in 1922 was a beautiful flapper in a long low-waisted dress. The geometric form of the large brooch is exaggerated by the squared cuts of the stones. The emerald is 38.71 carats with an octagonal step cut and the sapphires are cabochons with pyramid cuts. I love the detail on the two palm leaf shaped motifs with small rectangular cut sapphires around the perimeter and added tiny round diamonds sprinkled like water droplets on the very edges. The large emerald has two diamonds set at diagonals in the center makes the brooch so true to the Art Deco form.
Cartier created jewelry for the new fashion with deco styled bandeaus (headbands), long chains with pendants and slim jeweled watches. Doris Duke, one of the richest women in the U.S. daughter of James B. Duke, founder of the American Tobacco Company. Nanaline Holt Inman, her mother, commissioned Cartier to design a bandeau with a white natural pearl set in the center of geometric shaped diamond motifs. The two tear drop shape diamonds at the top of the bandeau adds a ‘royal’ look. In 1924 Doris wore this modern diamond bandeau for her ‘coming out’ party at age 16.
In 1925 Jaeger, the French watchmaker now known as Jaeger Le Coultre, invented a very small watch mechanism called the “Duoplan.” Cartier purchased the watch movements in partnership with Jaeger to use them in the finely crafted watch cases. By using these movements Cartier was able to create small diamond watches with covers that camouflaged the dial. With a jeweled cover over the dial, the watch became a bracelet, an innovative design for the time. The long and slim bracelet watch was a perfect design to wear in the evening with the fashionable sleeveless dresses made in lightweight silk fabrics. Bracelet watches looked beautiful over long silk gloves or bared arms. This watch was made in 1927 for Millicent Veronica Wilson, the wife of William Randolph Hearst. The dial cover has a large emerald cut diamond set in the center of smaller emerald cut diamonds. At first glance it appears to be one very large rectangular diamond with many facets all reflecting the light–it’s just dazzling. Emerald cut diamonds are also interspersed on the double paved diamond bracelet with the squared paved diamond clasp the overall style is very deco and elegant.
The“Tutti-Fruitti” jewelry looks exactly what it’s named for, a “fruitbowl.” Inspired by the design of Indian Mogul royal jewelry, this colorful collection of carved green emeralds, rubies and sapphires are sprinkled with diamonds, glistening like droplets of water on fruit. In 1935 the heiress to the Singer sewing machine company, Daisy Fellowes, commissioned Cartier to create an Indian style necklace after she saw a Hindu Collar designed for the Indian Maharajah. Daisy started a trend in Paris and the socialites partied with an “Indian Theme,” dressed in the colorful cabochon cut stones and Indian saris. Apparently, at one of the Parisian parties an Indian elephant was imported to the estate.
Also on display is the Hindu bracelet and double clip brooches made for Mrs. Cole Porter. which could be taken apart and worn separately. Married to the composer she was said to be one of the most beautiful women from Kentucky
Fred Astaire, the suave and debonair dancer, purchased this Tank Cintree watch from Cartier London in 1929 for his race horse trainer, Felix Leach. The back of the watch is engraved “Felix from Fred ’29′.” The 1921 Tank Cintree is a revised deco style from the original tank design. The elongated rectangular case has a slight curve which fits the wrist comfortably. Inspired by the tanks which liberated France in 1917 the tank watch has been a classic since its creation. Cartier presented the first Tank watch to General John Perishing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, as an expression of gratitude at the end of WWI. With a slight modernized change the Tank Cintree was renamed in 1989 the “Tank Americaine.”
Another historically important item which Cartier created is the very innovative time zone clock. The clock was presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during WWII as a gift from Pierre Cartier on December 20, 1943. The five dial clock was designed specifically for his effort in the war and enabled the President to work more efficiently. President Roosevelt could read the time zones of London-Paris, Berlin-Rome, Tokyo, San Francisco and NewYork at one glance on the beautifully crafted dial. The squared clock with roman numerals on the perimeter was keeping with the clean linear lines of an art deco style. The clock is fabricated in black onyx, green nephrite and sterling silver. The inscription in French on the silver plate reads “The hour of victory in the world.”
Who would expect to see a large whimsical flamingo brooch on display? Only Cartier could create such a life like poised diamond encrusted bird with flaming feathers in ruby, emeralds and sapphires. Made for the Duchess of Windsor in 1940, her husband the Duke, commissioned Cartier Paris and collaborated with Jean Toussaint for the whimsical design. Using gems from dismantled line bracelets, the calibrated stones made for a perfect fluffed and colorful tail feathers. The Duchess wore her flaming flamingo brooch and was often photographed in it.
Janet Deleuse, All rights reserved