The 20th Century: Art Deco, Cartier

Brenda Forman

Brenda Forman

The DC Chapter of GIA Alumni Association was treated to a look back in history as Brenda Forman, PhD presented the evolution of Art Deco as a style as well as a detailed account of the House of Cartier.

The Art Deco style flourished in all the arts after the conclusion of World War I.

The sleek, modern, minimalism could be seen in architecture, clothing design and in jewelry. Largely in preference to traditional precious gems, non-precious materials such as jet, coral, moonstone, onyx, frosted rock crystal, jade and wood became the hallmarks of the Art Deco movement.

Chapter VP Doris Voigt with tonight's speaker Brenda Forman

Chapter VP Doris Voigt with tonight's speaker Brenda Forman

The House of Cartier was founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier in Paris. In 1874, his son Alfred Cartier took over the business and in 1899, Cartier opened its Paris office. The London store opened in 1902. The New York store opened in 1909. The New York store moved to its Fifth Avenue location in 1917, in a building traded by Morton Plant in return for a superb double-strand necklace of Oriental pearls.

The House of Cartier kept detailed, meticulous records which is a blessing for historians of 20th century jewelry. In the early 20th century, Cartier was known for its “Garland” style, which used the fineness and strength of platinum wire to create settings of lacy delicacy. As fashions changed in the 1920s, the sautoir became the signature jewel, as its long, vertical line complemented the starkly vertical lines of flapper fashions. With the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, the House of Cartier developed an Egyptian revival line of jewelry and vanity cases. In 1925, the Indian line became fashionable, the Indian Maharajahs came to Cartier to reset their fabulous gems in platinum (modern and fashionable) rather than gold (in Indian tradition, the only proper metal for setting gems).

Pre-Deco jewelry by Cartier

Pre-Deco jewelry by Cartier

The “White Jewelry” style, using only platinum and diamonds, emerged in the late 1920s and lasted well into the 1930s. The “strap bracelet” was the signature jewel of the style and was a Cartier specialty. Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s head of “High Jewelry,” originated the “Panther” motif which has remained popular to this day.

A spectacular Cartier necklace from 1936

A spectacular Cartier necklace from 1936

The members were fascinated with Dr. Forman’s delightful presentation. She combined her vast knowledge of the subject with animated anecdotes about the jewelers and their work. She has the gift to make her audience always wanting more. The DC Chapter is fortunate to have her speak and more fortunate to call her member and friend.

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