You might be surprised to learn Cartier has only been presenting High Jewelry Collections during Couture week in Paris for around 21-years. Don’t get me wrong the esteemed French jeweler has been making custom one-of-a-kind creations with the greatest designs, stones and craftsmanship from the start. “I have seen letters from Louis Cartier to Jeanne Toussaint thanking her for the collection,” explains Cartier’s Style and Heritage Director, Pierre Rainero. “It was not, however, a traveling collection.” The comparatively new international format started in 1997 for the 150th anniversary of the firm. “In the beginning it was not every year, but now we put the pressure on ourselves to deliver a collection every year,” say Pierre.
During the Fall 2018 Couture week, Cartier debuted 240 pieces in the astounding Coloratura collection that looked forward and back for inspiration. The iconic symbols of the House were present in a magnificent Tutti Frutti bib necklace and a glorious Panther ring among other pieces. Part of the newness in the necklace was that it could be transformed and worn eight—yes, eight—different ways. The Panther was a different breed of Cartier cat. The creature crept across the hand on a fully articulated multiple finger ring.
One demi suite, that was perhaps the most emblematic of the entire Coloratura collection, is illustrated here. The red, blue and green of the rubellite, chrysoberyl and blue tourmaline are a spicy update on the classic Cartier Tutti-Frutti combo of rubies, emeralds and sapphires. The stones reference colors of the Holi festival in India that celebrates the arrival of spring. Each represents a different emotion in the event. Red is love. Blue symbolizes optimism. Green expresses harmony.
“In the twenties we were inspired by Indian jewelry,” says Pierre. “Now we look at other aspects of Indian culture. The Holi celebration is about joy and that is what this collection is about.”
Once the gems were chosen and the design was rendered for the demi-suite of a bracelet, a ring and earrings, the manufacturing had to be figured out. “We wanted to show the color of the gems and no technique, but the jewels are full of technique,” explains Jacqueline Karachi, Director of Cartier Haute Joaillerie, Cartier International.
After a lot of trial and error, they settled on the age-old craft of threading gems which involves drilling each stone and stringing them together. It was, however, executed in a complex new manner to create a structure that would hold the gems and make a voluminous pattern. The manufacturing involved threading the green stones in a vertical direction. The gems are pushed into a rounded form by a horizontal structure underneath.
“The most difficult part was to imagine how it was going to be made,” explains Jacqueline. “The challenge was that the beads are translucent and we didn’t want the structure to be seen. It was a game of hide and seek.”
The completed Holi gems suite is at once creative and a representation of manufacturing expertise, the very definition of High Jewelry. “Cartier has a huge field of expression, yet it is our job to push the limits and propose new ideas linked to the past, but not seen in jewelry before,” says Pierre. The thrill of the new at this level of High Jewelry is something that makes me count the days until Cartier shows High Jewelry again next season.