Cartier, François

Cartier, “King of Jewelers, Jeweler to Kings,” was founded in 1847 by Parisian jeweler Louis-François Cartier. Appealing to royalty from the first, Cartier found its first royal patron in Princess Mathilde, niece to Napoleon I and cousin to Emperor Napoleon III, in 1856. Ever since, Cartier has earned a reputation as an enduring leader in luxury, crafting the world’s most desirable pieces of fine jewelry and timepieces for royalty, Hollywood stars, and society’s elite.

The first decade of the 20th century launched Cartier onto the international luxury scene. In 1902, the firm opened a boutique in London - its first outside of Paris - in honor of the coronation of Edward VII. Two years later, Cartier received its first royal warrant, making the jeweler the official purveyor to the new ruler of England, King Edward VII. Cartier expanded across the Atlantic to New York City in 1909, establishing itself as a global jeweler—desired by European royalty and American celebrities and socialites alike. Less than a decade later, Cartier’s New York location relocated to 653 Fifth Avenue, its current storefront and the once mansion home of Morton F. Plant, which Pierre Cartier famously acquired for a double-strand necklace of natural pearls.

During the jeweler’s expansion of the early 1900s, Cartier shocked its clientele with the innovations of neoclassical diamond jewelry mounted in platinum, as well as the creation of the wristwatch, specifically designed by Louis Cartier for his friend and Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Durmont. During this period, well before World War I, Cartier designers anticipated the new style that would later be dubbed “Art Deco.” Geometric lines, abstract patters, luxurious onyx, and vibrant gems dominated the designs of Cartier. In 1914, Cartier jewelers used their outstanding skill in mounting precious stones in their state-of-the-art wristwatch design to debut their most coveted motif to date, the panther.

By the final years of the 1920s, Cartier’s smooth-surfaced designs transformed into abstract, three-dimensional creations. Jeanne Toussaint, nicknamed “the panther,” assumed leadership of Cartier’s luxury jewelry department in 1933. Her decades spent steering Cartier with confident grace led to the creation of dramatic designs inspired by exotic locales and the figural depictions of fauna, flora, and animals (namely panthers, serpents, and whimsical birds) - motifs for which Cartier is best known today.

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