Three years ago I took a class at the L’École School of Jewelry Arts in Paris entitled Fascinating Diamonds: History and Legends. During her lecture, the professor, Inezita Gay showed a slide of a charm necklace. Included were several jeweled horseshoes hanging upside down and medallions of the number 13.
Apparently, Ms. Gay explained, in the early 1900s women flaunted superstition.
They laughed at the idea of bad luck. Openly defying lucky symbols, sayings and customs. One such woman was Evalyn Walsh McLean, who bought the Hope Diamond from Pierre Cartier in 1911; attracted to it even more so because of the bad luck stories surrounding the 45 carat stone.
And legend has it that Pierre Cartier supposedly borrowed several of those stories from a bestselling novel of the era, The Moonstone by Wilke Collins.
As a novelist, I never know when or where an idea will emerge. But when it does, something special happens. The atmosphere in the room seems to change. Words sound louder than they actually are.
Upon returned from my Paris trip, I started doing research, reading everything I could about Pierre Cartier, the Hope Diamond, and the Gilded Age in New York City. Slowly the idea for Cartier’s Hope came to me.
My novel takes place in the last few months of 1910 before the Hope was sold to McLean. It is the story about a female reporter trying to break through the newspaper girl-ghetto of the time. Women journalists were regulated to the family and style pages. But like Nelly Bly, Vera wants more. When she hears that Pierre Cartier has borrowed from Collins’s novel to give the Hope a more intriguing bad luck history, Vera decides to write an exposé.
One of the best parts of my research was studying Cartier jewelry from the 1880s through the 1930s. I spent months looking at pieces both in person and photographs. To say I became a Cartier devotee is putting it mildly.
I always buy an amulet when I start a new novel. An object that belongs to the main character that grounds me in the historical time and place I’m writing about. So naturally, what I wanted for this book was a piece of Cartier circa 1910.
I found dozens that I fell in love with. Not one I could afford. So, I bought a vintage fountain pen — not Cartier — but an inexpensive Briggs that my journalist might have owned. And I vowed that if the book got early positive trade reviews I would buy something Cartier to celebrate.
And so, it came to pass that I did get pre-publication raves and the book has been chosen for the booksellers’ prestigious Indie Next List. Which meant I could begin looking for my very own Cartier.
Lust is a mild word to describe what I have fallen in love with during my quest.
At Simon Teakle I found an astounding Art Deco bracelet with over 33 carats of diamonds. Two pavé set panels are each set with larger rectangular and lozenge shaped diamonds and pavé set diamond buckle intersections with trapezoid cut diamond detail, mounted in platinum
Can you imagine a better bauble to wear to a book party?
I also found a 1925 carved emerald and diamond bracelet from FD Gallery. Designed as 12 fluted emerald beads, weighing approximately 57.00 carats total, each spaced by three diamond rondelle links, weighing 13.50 carats total, mounted in platinum, to the rose-cut diamond clasp.
I found a stunning 1915 necklace, also from the FD Gallery. Would that look better for the book signing? Designed as a vase of flowers, set with a pear shaped amethyst and cabochon turquoise – accented with round amethyst and diamonds, on a cord with onyx and diamond rondelle terminals, total diamonds weighing approximately 1.00-1.50 carats.
And what about the gold vintage sputnik earrings, created by Cartier to commemorate the launch of the space program from DKF Estate Jewelry. Maybe buying them would ensure my book sales soar.
Or, or, or…
My first problem was nothing I picked out was within my price range.
My second problem was that each piece was estate.
Normally, I prefer estate. To imagine the people who once wore the piece and invent stories about them fascinates me.
But Vera Garland is a character out my own imagination. I didn’t want something that had belonged to anyone else to celebrate the book.
So, I went to the Cartier Mansion on Fifth Avenue where all the pieces were new and unencumbered by other people’s histories. There I tried on a piece I’d flirted with for years — an iconic Love Bracelet. I always thought these should be given to you as a gift by your partner but Zorana, my totally charming sales associate handed me a flute of champagne and told me it was even better to celebrate yourself — loving your own achievements.
And so, of all the lusted-after pieces I’ve looked at, I bought a Love Bracelet. In rose gold, of course.
M.J. Rose (www.mjrose.com) is a New York Times bestselling author, her most recent novel, Cartier’s Hope, (January 2020) has been called “A bold, satisfying tapestry. Smart, fierce, lovely, and intricate,” Kirkus (Starred Review)