Brenda Forman

Brenda Forman spoke about the 20th century Art Deco movement, and Cartier. World War I fostered an explosion of new materials and new ways of using them. Art Deco was sleek, colorful, sexy, and stylized in a society that was in love with “modernity.” It was also in love with “fast”…airplanes, trains, cars, and machines in general. This translated into sleek geometric jewelry styles that were a radical change from earlier periods and used materials that previous eras shied away from, such as rock crystal, carved gems, etc. L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925 was the apex of this movement, being the culmination of the previous two decades in Europe. It was this exposition that gave the Art Deco movement its name.

The Cartier name was synonymous with the Art Deco movement, and was extremely influential in his designs. Cartier pioneered the use of finely drawn platinum wire, which was a major breakthrough in jewelry making. Many Cartier “Deco” designs predated the 1920’s by 10 years or more. The “tutti frutti” or fruit salad style used carved Indian gems with diamonds. At first the Indian gems acquired were of more commercial quality, but later designs were using finer qualities. Note: Many “Indian” emeralds were later found to have originated in Colombia! Vanity and cigarette cases also came into vogue as more women were then smoking, and it became acceptable to fix their makeup in public.

Indian maharajahs also played a part, for they became fascinated with the new styles and had lots of gems and jewelry they wanted to update. Cartier was happy to accommodate them. For example, the Patiola necklace, for the Maharaja of Patiola, took 3 years to make. This in turn created a fashion among non-Indians for Indian style jewelry.

The Art Deco became monochromatic (“White period”) in the late 1920’s through the 1930’s. The previous longer necklaces became short again, and massive. Jean Toussaint (the “Panther”), was very influential in Cartier from 1933 to post WWII. Both Louis and Jacques Cartier died after WWII. The Cartier firm began to decline after this, and by the late 1960’s was bought and sold by various investors. In the late 1980’s the firm began buying back historic and important vintage jewelry, and started the Cartier Collection.

Text by – Melanie Marts

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