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.

Swingtime!

by Rebecca Nemser for rebeccanemser.com

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