Cartier’s meticulous designs have played an important role in precious moments in royal courts.
Cartier has realised dreams of tiaras and jewellery that befits a dazzling heroine, precious pieces that are not only exquisite but also a reflection of the maison’s attention to detail. Delicate tiaras are designed to rest lightly, for which reason the jeweller chooses platinum from the early 20th century. A resistant yet malleable metal, that lends itself to the whims of the garland style. Diamond lace with flower and leaf motifs sublimely adorn these head ornaments, which are used by women to style their hair, less to establish their power than for purely aesthetic motifs. Their complexion is flattered by the sparkle of the stones held by the foliate scrolls of this tiara, alive with volute scrolls and movement.
Each tiara is the hallmark of personal style. Queen Elisabeth of Belgium chose the foliate scroll and imperial laurel leaf design, while Princess Andrée, wife of Aga Khan III, opted for the lotus flower. Cartier fashions each tiara with details, such as the hanging drop tiara, inspired by the version owned by the Grand Duchess Vladimir, which offers multiple facets to the light. Cartier’s head garment gained popularity and was the subject of themed parties organised by aristocratic families, with this custom soon being taken up by the rich heiresses to financial dynasties. One of them was Lila Vanderbilt Field, a direct descendent of one of the most important steel magnates in the United States, who adopted the incredible modernity of a hairdressing piece created by Cartier. The three waves of diamonds on her tiara curve like the clean stroke of an artist.
The bandeau, an Art Deco feature, was created by Cartier in 1914 when it created this blackened steel strip that highlights the white gleam of thirteen pear-shaped diamonds underlined by calibrated rubies, using red, white and black for contrast. In 1920, Paul Poiret introduced la garçonne, a style that cuts everything short, from dress to hair. As the Dutch bob became a dominant trend, Cartier created new types of head jewellery, with lighter lines, geometric patterns, and a far cry from the kokoshnik shapes reminiscent of the headdresses worn by Russian peasant women.
Cartier was also a part of the story of a legendary couple — King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson or Duchess of Windsor. For this woman, Edward VIII renounced the English throne. A Christmas gift from Wallis Simpson to the Prince of Wales, the first of jewels and precious objects exchanged in their relationship, was a rose gold cigarette case by Cartier with the inscription “David from Wallis. Christmas 1935”. The one-of-a-kind piece was engraved with a map of their travels across Europe, each capital city plotted with a different gemstone, and the destinations joined by enamelled wire. The Duke of Windsor presented Wallis Simpson with an engagement ring set with a 20.33-carat cushion-cut emerald from Cartier’s London studio, and the couple commissioned sentimentally-charged pieces from Cartier. The initials “WE” were a favourite motif. One of the most iconic tributes to their love was a gem-set cross bracelet. The Duchess affixed to the bracelet nine Latin crosses given to her by the Duke to commemorate certain events in their lives, such as “Our Marriage Cross Wallis 3-VI-37 David”, “Appendectomy Cross Wallis 31-VIII-44 David” to commemorate the Duchess’ admission to the hospital, and “WE are too”, the secret language that bound the Duke and Duchess to one another throughout their lives together.
Cartier was also a part of another legendary love story as Prince Rainier III proposed to Grace Kelly, a tasteful and simple American actress. She’s a symbol of refined perfection that found a natural echo in Cartier jewellery. Their engagement ring was a platinum Cartier ring bearing an emerald-cut diamond of 10.47 carat, which she wore everywhere with her, to the point of insisting on wearing it on the set of High Society, the Hollywood film she made that year with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. On her wedding day, Princess Grace appeared in official photographs wearing a Cartier platinum tiara set with round and baguette-cut diamonds, enhanced by three floral motifs each blooming with a ruby cabochon: a delicate lattice of jewellery whose three detachable motifs formed a group of brooches. She created a bridal look touted by women around the world as the model of perfection.
The Queen Mother visited the London craftsmen working at Cartier’s London workshops, known as “The English Art Works”, to pay homage to their expertise, as Princess Margaret had done before her. The unique bond between Cartier and the English royal court is invaluable, and this is why Cartier is still known as an elite and timeless brand today.