Louis Cartier

Reflec­tions of Cartier: The Art Deco Years.

(Orig­i­nally published in The Boston Phoenix, May, 1990)

It’s delightful, it’s deli­cious, it’s delec­table, it’s delirious, it’s dilemma, it’s delimit, it’s deluxe, it’s delovely.
 — Cole Porter

Louis Cartier (1875 ‑ 1942) was the third gener­a­tion of the House of Cartier. He pioneered the use of plat­inum in jewelry, and the combi­na­tion of plat­inum’s cool surface with the shimmer of dozens of tiny diamonds is the essence of sophis­ti­ca­tion – just like a Cole Porter song. Louis Cartier’s designs used diamonds and other precious mate­rials in a highly polished, sparkling, and yet almost casual way — the way Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced, so it all looks as light and graceful as bubbles of cham­pagne. Most of the work is black, gold, and sparkle, with deli­cate touches of intense color ‑‑ emerald, ruby, coral, jade.

Sixty bejew­eled Art Deco bracelets, neck­laces, vanity cases, and other exquis­itely crafted objects designed between 1915 and 1940 by Louis Cartier are on view at Boston’s Cartier store, on loan from the Cartier archives in Geneva.

Begin the Beguine” with a 1928 Panther Vanity Case, made from black lacquer trimmed with gold and deco­rated with a tiny diamond panther crouching between two emerald cypress trees. A 1922 Tassel Pendant is ablack onyx loop set with diamonds, clasping a coral pillar with a lovely long tassel ‑‑ a shim­mering skirt of tiny pearls. The 1926 Two‑Parakeet Brooch is a pair of tiny sparkling love­birds with onyx eyes on an emerald perch. It’s a trip to the moon on gossamer wings.

Night and Day”, time flows sweetly by in the fantastic clocks ‑‑ small free­standing time­pieces in elab­o­rate frames. A 1921 Mystery Clock has a rock crystal dial in a gold and turquoise rim, perched on a black and gold column. The hands of a 1929 Desk Clock are the head and tail of a diamond dragon, marking time on a mother of pearl sky with a moon­stone moon, all surrounded in a frame of gold and black enamel, with tiny diamond corners. King Farouk’s Coral and Onyx Mystery Clock has a rock crystal dial in an octag­onal gold, coral and black enamel frame, on an onyx base deco­rated with a flowery “F” composed of tiny diamonds.

Louis Cartier invented the modern wrist­watch, and there are some wonderful ones here ‑‑ thin and elegant, in simples lines of black and gold, or set with rivers of diamonds. A 1926 Bracelet Watch is adorned with diamonds and rubies engraved with autumn leaves. The Emerald Pendant Watch is encrusted with emer­alds, diamonds, and pearls, all dangling from a tiny pin.


by Rebecca Nemser for rebeccanemser.com

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