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The History of An Innovative Genius: Cartier

In the Paris of the Second Empire, when the entire town was rebuilt after Baron Haussmann’s urban plans, Cartier makes its way on the Italian Boulevard. Now the brand begins to compete with the big jewelry salons of the era: Bapst, Sauvenat and Boucheron. All of them created pieces that were of very high quality, but none dared to create models inspired by the “historical” styles of previous eras. After the fall of the Empire and the bitter days that followed, Paris again became the world capital of elegance. Rue de la Paix knew the splendors created by Worth, Guerlain, Vever and Meller, whose prestige attracted the European and American elite.  In 1873, Alfred Cartier becomes an associate at his father’s company, Francois. Times were changing, they were very restless

In the Paris of the Second Empire, when the entire town was rebuilt after Baron Haussmann’s urban plans, Cartier makes its way on the Italian Boulevard.

Now the brand begins to compete with the big jewelry salons of the era: Bapst, Sauvenat and Boucheron. All of them created pieces that were of very high quality, but none dared to create models inspired by the “historical” styles of previous eras.

After the fall of the Empire and the bitter days that followed, Paris again became the world capital of elegance. Rue de la Paix knew the splendors created by Worth, Guerlain, Vever and Meller, whose prestige attracted the European and American elite. 

In 1873, Alfred Cartier becomes an associate at his father’s company, Francois. Times were changing, they were very restless and creative. Paris transformed ifself into “ville lumier ” and “Belle Epoque” began to be animated by the presence of elites in Europe who frequented fashionable bars and cabarets.

Among all those aristocrats and millionaires visiting the jewelry and fashion houses, the commercial talent of Francois Cartier has found those who will soon become his true buyers. Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan are the American tycoons were the ones who spent fortunes to be able to enter “high society”, already having real power in their hands. 

“America, America – there we will succeed,” said Francois to his son and grandson, thinking at the profit he could make with a store in New York.

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In 1894, Francois, the founder of Cartier, returns from Russia where he just ended a collaboration with Carl Faberge. His grandson Louis made his first steps as a brilliant and creative designer, being recognized for his talent and part of one of the fashion and jewelry designers that was dictating the trends worldwide.

Louis had frequent contradictions with fashion designers, as he didn’t like the disharmony between his jewelry and the dresses.

The idea of ” baguette” diamonds had just appeared is Louis’s innovations. He was an exceptional witness of that end of the century, while he began to create samples of his avant-garde talent. Many are unable to explain how he did not unite with the Art-Nouveau movement, which was very successful among the high society. Lalique, who worked for Cartier, was the king of fashion in the jewelry business, working with plant shapes and semiprecious stones. 

But apparently Louis Cartier had the same idea as Oscar Wilde who said that too much modernism will make the fashion trends fade away much faster. And so it was. Lalique and its Art-Nouveau was an interesting phenomenon but a temporary one.

Cartier was predicting the future of jewelry for a new type of clientele: the bourgeoisie elite who was eager to stand out from the crowd. Tiffany also studied the trend, creating jewelry for the Castelane-Gould wedding. Also, several workshops were thinking to make some changes to the way they worked. 

L. Cartier has decided to work with platinum, being the first who introduced this metal into the fashion world. The platinum mining industry grew by the day and this white malleable material, who did not oxidize at any temperature and was resistant to any acid, was the only one that allowed the creation of an infinite number of jewelry mountings.

On the platinum mountings, the queen of precious stones is the diamond, because the mechanism that holds the stone in place made the mount  invisible. L. Cartier searches through the jewelry designs of the eighteenth century for the fantastic properties of platinum, going through libraries, big and small bookstores and studying day and night. 

In the mean time, his father Alfred wanted to propose something important to him: the union Cartier – Worth, mediating Louis’s wedding with Jean-Philippe’s daughter, Andree Caroline.

The wedding celebration was posponed because for the moment, Louis was involved in much more important projects. He created something new: a line of watches that was based on the French watch design from the eighteenth century. With the manufacturing technique that was constanly evolving and a new clientele that was less refined, the nineteenth century watch making was more focused on the utility of the wath and not so much on its design. 

For L. Cartier, the twenteenth century announced the need for review of the values that imposed a new design for the jewelery and watch industry. The Worth-Cartier alliance is created through the wedding of Louis and Andrée-Caroline.

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In 1898, the shops from Rue de la Paix number 13 are bought by Cartier and the clientele from Worth (fashion saloons) starts to visit Cartier jewelry stores. No. 13 becomes legendary as a lucky number for L. Catier. In the Cartier headquarters there were 13 workshop operators, 13 vendors and 13 helpers. The vendors had to be bilingual, to know all the subtleties of creating jewelry (the drawing process, different aspects of mineralogy), and besides all of these, to know the famous people who were visiting Paris. As something mandatory, their clothes had to present them as true gentleman.

L. Cartier opens a big department store in London in 1902, and lets his brother, Pierre Cartier, take care of the business. Pierre was 24 years old. A few years later he opened another store in New York that will be entrusted to the youngest of the brothers, Jacques Cartier.

One of the great talents L. Cartier had was to subtily predict the changes in trends and to meet the changing aesthetic tastes with his revolutionary and amazing creations.

After a short period of time, he divorces Andree-Caroline.

After World War I, in 1916, L. Cartier starts working with the Couet brothers to create the clock called “Mistery”, one of his greatest achievements. He also meets and start to colaborate with Jeanne Toussaint, a woman who has been called the Coco Chanel of jewelry and who served as style inspiration for some of Louis Cartier’s designs.

Louis Cartier will marry for the second time with the Hungarian countess, Almássy. 

In 1925, Cartier uses platinum, diamond, crystal, onyx, imperial jade, rubies, coral and emerald in its jewelry that are literally “embroidered” in the flowers and fauna that was used excessively in “Art Nouveau”.

Following the years of crisis in America, when “Black Thursday” happened on Wall Street, L. Cartier was so caught up is his creations that he forgets about the world’s problems; but a serious heart attack forces him to give up everything. 

From this moment (1933), Jeanne is in charge of the whole business. Platinum is no longer used because it was expensive and Cartier moves to gold mounts.

On July 24, 1944, a simple note appears in the newspaper ” Aujourd’ hui “: Louis Cartier died yesterday in New York after a long period of suffering. 

The great genius of the twentieth century glamorized art had disappeared. The name Cartier is a myth today, a legend associated with very refined tastes. He was the jeweler of European royal houses and American multimillionaires. 

Today Cartier is a multinational company that has thousands of employees all over the world, doing its best to keep the line of elegance, distinction and good taste that characterizes this house since 1847.

Louis Cartier’s great creations are now listed on international auction houses and sold like true works of art.

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