Cartier and India
The foundations of jewellery shrouded in myths and legends
|Le Maharajah of ’Indore, Yashwant Rao Holkar |
and three of his sons
The Moghul jades, ruby beads, engraved emeralds… Indian stones bearing the history of civilisations, from their discovery in the 16th century by the Spaniards in Colombia, traded by the Portuguese in India before returning once again to Europe. A cultural and gemmological journey in which Cartier was one of the major players in its day.
Cartier, transporting the indian dream
Where religions and civilisations meet, India provides Cartier with the chance to use its myths and symbols, its jewellery tradition, its mysteries. A continent of creative and universal freedom that allows the jeweller one day to work on an emerald engraved with verses from the Koran, which he mounts for the Aga Khan in 1930, on another to produce an emerald engraved with the ascetic Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati seated on a tiger skin backdrop, the central stone in a necklace created at the New York workshops in 1925.
India had always had its own approach to stone cutting. Rubies and emeralds were ribbed or engraved, diamonds were briolette or rose cut. A timeless craft, such as these small enamelled plates from Jaipur, decorated in red, green and white with birds and branches in flower mounted by Cartier in the rigid and graphical frame of its vanity cases or cigarette-holder. A blend of East and West, a new and daring combination of stylistic influences in which, contrary to prejudices, the floral or figurative motifs do not conflict with Cartier’s geometric choices, but rather, lift them.The motifs, lotus flowers and palms or cone-shaped clusters of leaves with tilted points, as in the Kashmiri shawls, lightness laced with a powerful symbolism,which Cartier translated to the present-day.
Cartier bestowed upon indian antiques the secret of eternal youth
|Column gravity pendulum,|
Cartier Paris, 192 *
So, while the maharajahs had Cartier re-set their gold parures into platinum, Cartier, in turn, took an interest in traditional Indian creations. Works of art that it adapted and brought into the 20th century, Moghul miniatures whose natural brilliance embellished elegant everyday objects, such as jewellery boxes or ashtrays; intricate and formal portraits of Shah Bahadur I, the Shah Jahan who erected the Taj Mahal, that Cartier framed or highlighted with a line of red or green enamel.Transformed but retaining their original spirit, these 17th century turbaned figures appear as a mysterious punctuation mark on the bare, almost minimal front of a nephrite cigarette-case. Images from Indian tales, the subjects are anecdotal, the objects useful, the form pure, geometrical and precious. Once created, women clamoured for this Indian style. Everywhere, in Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, from London to New York, they demanded the stunning blend of original authenticity and sophistication in these yellow gold jewels, some of which included antique pieces, such as a necklace made of a locket in the shape of a jade plate, engraved with a ruby flower motif and a choker highlighted with enamel squares set with stones. It was provocative to wear this native finery and the women of the day relished it.
From exoticism to style… India's definitive contribution to Cartier's creations
Cartier created the fashion for Indian style which the West was clearly infatuated with, above all for the splendour of the stones, the Kashmiri sapphires, Burmese rubies and wonderful Moghul engraved emeralds. Cartier adored the poetry of the irregular shapes, threading them onto rows of twisted beads,strands of string held together by trimming cords.The stones were pear cut and then engraved. Some found them unrefined, while to others they were an expression of a natural style that lent elegance to these fragile platinum and diamond earrings, finished off with two supreme pear-cut emeralds. Motifs, stones, colours… Cartier had explored all the riches of India. With a single gesture that embraced a cosmopolitan and scintillating continent, Cartier encapsulated the cradle of flamboyant jewellery, transposing to it a sparkling splendour in the form of a style created in the pop years and baptised ‘Tutti Frutti’. An explosion of flower, fruit or anthemion motifs, smooth and ribbed beads, briolettes, rubies, sapphires and engraved emeralds with leaf motifs set in floral compositions, of which Daisy Fellowes’ necklace remains one of the best examples. The high priestess of fashion memorably wore this necklace at Carlos de Beistegui’s famous costume ball in Venice in 19513.
A triumphant meeting of two worlds, India with the profusion and tremendous variety of its gemstones, and the West, with its rigid structures but also its settings, the movement of its invisible hinges, the harmony of its superimpositions completed in Cartier’s workshops.
The marriage of these two genres is a mixture of abundant sensuality and artistic geometry, most purely represented in this sublime pendant composed of two engraved emeralds and a large cabochon sapphire, joined together with delicate rectangular links4.
The maharajahs and their extravagant orders
Cartier absorbed and incorporated the Orient. The influences came, went and replaced one another. Enter the maharajahs. They had money, stones, taste, Western aspirations, fashionable jewels and accessories, such as a yellow gold travel clock engraved with the coat of arms of the Maharajah of Rajpipla.
Charming princes, who were charmed by Paris, by Cartier, two words that sum up chic’s magical formula. They entrusted the jeweller of Rue de la Paix and New Bond Street with their family treasures so that they could be re-set to the fashions of the day. Nothing was too beautiful for these great dignitaries, nothing too spectacular, they were flamboyant spenders.
|Platinum Bracelet mounted with the historic |
"Star of the South" Diamond
The Maharajah of Kapurthala was also an enlightened admirer of European creativity. He had 250 timepieces, the majority of which were Cartier’s and for which he hired a servant who was in charge of winding up their mechanisms.
Supremely refined, he attached as much importance to the detail of his daily life as to his appearance when wearing ceremonial dress and ordered for his wife a gold cigarette-holder with clean lines held by a long stem and worn as a ring.
Simplicity became the hallmark of all Cartier creations for India, where the jeweller exploited the abundance of the stones and treasures, while stripping back and paring down the structures and settings,as exemplified by this elegant upper arm bracelet, made of 831 diamonds, a special commission in 1922 by Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomandji of Bombay. A platinum piece made up of an articulated central plate tobe adjusted around the arm and three leaf-shaped detachable parts, joined together by large rings decorated with a diamond pavage… A traditional Indian decoration transformed by Cartier. Here, as is often the case, the exotic is transcended for aesthetics, for a creative perspective, somewhere between geometric abstraction and exquisite oriental delights. This subtle, bold fusion, secures the future of Cartier, for whom style was never enslaved to a look. Every now and then, Cartier’s path returns to India. The India of stories and legends, the India of symbols, to which in 1991 it dedicated a collection entitled “On the road to the Indies” where the elephant was king. A historical India, whose grandeur was revived in 2000 when Cartier recreated the ceremonial necklace of Sir Bhupindar Singh, Maharajah of Patiala. But also the India of stones, such as the famous “Star of the South” diamond, which originated in Brazil and then went on to join one of the most beautiful Indian collections, that of the Maharajah of Baroda, later to be mounted on a bracelet by Cartier for the 2006 Biennale des Antiquaires.
And finally modern India, vibrant with energy, serene and spiritual, sensual and mysterious, the India upon which Cartier rests its marvelled and marvellous gaze with its latest jewellery collection opening its doors in September 2007 to spellbound creations.