All posts in Cartier

Three-Stone Engagement Rings

Look Right Here! at this Antique 1930s Three-Stone Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Look Right Here! at this Antique 1930s Three-Stone Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

This exquisite three-stone antique engagement ring was fashioned in the 1930s out of solid platinum. Intricate geometric engravings adorn the sides and shoulders, while the gallery features an exquisite scrolled openwork design. Three large Old Euro cut diamonds rest snugly beside each other in an ornate mounting, surrounded by artfully placed transitional-cut diamonds.

This antique ring is a remarkable example of the three-stone style. Also known as a trilogy ring, this arrangement of three diamonds is commonly thought to represent a couple’s past, present, and future. A deeper significance may be attributable to the style. As one source claims, a trilogy engagement ring declares: You are my past, my present, and my future {cited}.

The traditional arrangement sets three diamonds side by side, sometimes with the central diamond being slightly larger than its neighboring stones. However, many antique rings of this variety feature a combination of gemstones, most often a ruby, sapphire, and diamond, all of equal size. All of these scintillating beauties included an ornate settings with filigree flourishes, openwork designs, and intricate engravings along the band.

In recent years, three-stone engagement rings have enjoyed modest popularity, with a select number of celebrities choosing the vintage style. These unique rings seem to appeal most to women who appreciate a healthy relationship with history, women who aren’t afraid to bring their own interpretation to classic vintage style.

Madonna and Nicole Kidman, two such women, have both owned three-stone engagement rings. Madonna was among the first celebrities to wear the style, a Neil Neil Lane original she received at the onset of the millennium from ex-husband Guy Ritchie. With five carats of diamonds, her Edwardian style ring featured three large stones claw-set in relief against an intricate milgrain and diamond band encrusted with tiny white diamonds.

Six years later, Keith Urban chose a Cartier three-stone engagement ring for his lady love, Nicole Kidman. Her diamonds are larger and slightly chunkier, set fairly close together. She wears her engagement ring with a diamond and platinum eternity band, also rumored to have been crafted by Cartier. A stunning combination, indeed!

If you’re a woman in love with vintage elegance who exudes her own unique style, this authentic antique trilogy ring may be the perfect ring for you. Make an appointment to try it on, and bring your sweetheart along!

Is This Stunning Vintage Cartier Ring One and the Same As Mary-Kate Olsen’s Engagement Ring?

Vintage Cartier Ring. Copyright 2014 Sotheby's.

Vintage Cartier Ring. Copyright 2014 Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s Important Jewels sales occur several times a year, drawing from among the world’s most elite collectors. The most recent of these high-end sales took place on February 6, 2014, in New York City. Leading the sale was an exquisite pair of platinum and diamond pendant ear-clips by David Webb, which sold for $118,750.

Curators of the sale set out to present a sampling of the evolution of 20th century jewelry, which included offerings from the 1920s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, with an emphasis on signed pieces from renowned European and American jewelers. Among these precious offerings, Sotheby’s sold the pictured vintage diamond and sapphire ring, estimating a sales price of $40,000-60,000.

Crafted as a stylized flower made entirely of 18k gold, this gorgeous jewel was made in 1953 by Cartier. At the center rests a 4-carat Old Euro Cut diamond surrounded by 16 calibre-cut sapphires. The petals are etched in gold and set with approximately 1.50 carats of single-cut diamonds. This is just the kind of piece one would expect to see on the finger of the Duchess of Windsor in the 1950s.

Today, a similar ring graces Mary-Kate Olsen’s left ring finger. Several reporters speculate that this is the very ring that Ms. Olsen wears to symbolize her commitment to marry her lover, Olivier Sarkozy. The timing certainly works out. Sotheby’s sold this Cartier beauty on February 6, 2014, for $81,500, and Ms. Olsen was seen wearing her bold engagement ring for the first time on March 3, 2014, during Fashion Week in New York.

However, Sotheby’s is not about to confirm or deny such a fantastic story. Therefore, it is extreme speculation to pair these two important jewelry events together.

How cool would that be, though? To have Mary-Kate Olsen sporting a bonafide vintage engagement ring from 1950s Cartier purchased as an estate piece?

How Movies Have Shaped Engagement Ring Trends for 2014

Get the Art Deco Look! with this Art Deco Diamond and Platinum Engagement Ring. Photo © 2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Look Right Here! at this Art Deco Diamond and Platinum Engagement Ring. Photo © 2014 EraGem Jewelry.

In 2013, several films have had a huge impact on engagement ring trends. Since movies influence trends in the months before and after their release, these movies will continue to impact the industry for many moons to come.

One example is last year’s release of The Great Gatsby. Previews for this movie began influencing jewelry trends early on in 2013. The film emphasized Tiffany jewels, diamonds and platinum, and the glitz and glam of the Roaring Twenties.

It is no wonder, then, that those in the market for engagement rings are turning to the decadent styles of the Art Deco period. This trend has increased demand for the pairing of diamonds and platinum, with an emphasis on geometric settings.

Harvey Weinstein highlighted the 1950s/1960s with his productions of Madonna’s W.E., based on the love story between the former king of England and his American dilettante Wallis Simpson, as well as My Week With Marilyn, about Marilyn Monroe.

Wedding jewelry trends following the retro 1950s include cushion-cut emeralds paired with diamonds, in the style of classic Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Tiffany.

Engagement rings inspired by these 1950s films include cocktail-style rings with lots of diamonds or diamonds paired with emerald or ruby accents. For a simpler, more classic look, 1950s enthusiasts are choosing a square-set or square-cut diamond flanked by baguette diamond shoulder accents.

The 1960s have also garnered much attention in the last few years, most recently with the release of the Diana Vreeland biography, The Eye Has to Travel, and the casting of Lindsey Lohan in the TV movie, Liz & Dick.

These films and others like them have introduced an emphasis on elegant sautoirs, strings of pearls, and turquoise or garnet necklaces and even brooches. Sixties-inspired engagement rings have sleeker lines, with princess cut or round brilliant stones set in halo settings or in five-stone or three-stone rings.

Given the continuing popularity of these films, we will likely see more Deco- and Retro-inspired films in 2014. This guarantees that these trends are here to stay, at least for the five years.

If you’re in the market for retro-inspired rings, we invite you to browse our beautiful selection of authentic retro engagement rings.

Christie’s Geneva Presents “Magnificent Jewels” on November 12, 2013

Photo © 2013 EraGem

Photo © 2013 EraGem

Nothing will prepare you for the scrumptious decadence found on the pages of Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels catalog. Cover to cover, exquisite jewels created by top designers, such as JAR, Bulgari, Cartier, and VC&A, grace the pages. Exclusive pieces from the collection of Mrs. Vera Espirito Santo, including several sautoirs by Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, lay nestled among distinguished Art Deco pieces previously owned by “A Lady” and the gorgeous antique jewels which once adorned members of the Royal Family of Savoy.

Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires decorate nearly every page, and they are merely the savory appetizers offered during the afternoon session of the Geneva sale, which takes place at 2:00pm November 12, 2013. As evening falls, a lavish array of riches from HRH The Duchess of Genova, from HRH Princess Faiza of Egypt, from Simón Inturri Patiño, and from the beautiful Madame Helène Rochas will be served in high style.

From HRH The Duchess of Genova, Christie’s features Royal Pearls: A pair of antique baroque natural pearl earrings, each with a diamond-set cap, suspended from a diamond line and double hoop top {Lot 203}; an antique natural pearl and diamond bar brooch “designed as a line of old-cut diamond collets with natural drop-shaped pearl terminals” {Lot 204}; and a double-strand necklace comprised of 8 cultured pearls, 7 freshwater natural pearls, and 120 natural saltwater pearls {Lot 205}.

From the incomparable collection of a private collector, Christie’s offers an emerald and diamond necklace which once graced the neck of HRH Princess Faiza of Egypt. Made by Van Cleef & Arpels, this stunning jewel survived the dismantling of the Egyptian Crown Jewels which followed the exile of the Egyptian royal family. Purchased in 1947, this necklace is both “imposing” and “graceful,” set with gorgeous emerald cabochon drops suspended from “diamond motives” that exude the geometric essence of Art Deco {cited}. The pendant clasp features an elaborate geometric pattern set entirely in diamonds, with a single drop-shaped emerald terminal.

If that’s not enough glamour for you, next comes three superior pieces once owned by Bolivian tycoon Simón Itturi Patiño. Sr. Patiño made his fortune in the Andes Mountains when with his wife “he discovered one of the greatest tin deposits ever known” {cited}. He invested his fortunes in tin deposits in Malaysia and Canada and opened a bank in Bolivia. By the late 1930s, his foundries processed more than 60% of the world’s tin {cited}.

So successful was his enterprise, that Sr. Patiño became one of the 5 wealthiest men in the world. Besides reinvesting his fortunes in his business interests, the King of Tin amassed a collection of “fabulous gemstones and jewels” in the ’30s and ’40s, “one of the greatest periods of jewellery design” {cited}.

The first of the Patiño jewels was designed by Cartier in honor of a rare gem, ‘The Andean cross,’ which the Maison had acquired from Queen Eugenia of Spain. To form the necklace, Cartier chose 15 of the best Colombian emeralds to create an exquisite diamond and emerald necklace from which the cross could hang. In January 1938, Sr. Patiño fell under the spell of this beautiful necklace and purchased it for his wife. A few years later, the family approved an alteration. The necklace was shortened by two emeralds in order to facilitate the design of a pair of matching diamond and emerald earrings. These will also be offered for sale in Geneva.

In addition to the magnificent necklace and earrings, Christie’s offers a diamond ring by Chaumet set with a cushion-shaped diamond of approximately 32.65 carats. At one time, this exceptional diamond was incorporated into a “spectacular diamond rivière necklace owned by Mrs Albina Patiño” {cited}.

Though it is hard to determine a true headliner for the Geneva sale, it is a safe assumption that the 18 lots from The Property of Madame Helène Rochas may just steal the show. A jeweled evening bag and Cartier vanity case lie in state among a pair of gemstone earrings and a mother-of-pearl bracelet by Marina B. Next, we feast our eyes on several luxurious jewels studded with pearls, diamonds, and sapphires, followed by a mystery-set ruby and diamond ‘Magnolia’ brooch and a pair of ruby and diamond earrings made by Van Cleef & Arpels.

The final lots from Madame Rochas’s estate include an aquamarine, pink topaz and diamond bangle by Verdura, as well as five delicious pieces made by René Boivin: A trio of flexible bombé bands “with honeycomb-shaped scales set with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds”; an articulated yellow gold ‘Fish’ pendant with moonstone eyes and a head scaled in peridot and citrines; a pair of ‘Algues’ ear clips, one set with a white cultured pearl and the other with a grey cultured pearl, both surmounted by diamond-set leaves; a tapered platinum ‘Tranche’ bangle “with an oval-shaped pavé-set diamond panel; and a crouching ‘Tiger’ shoulder brooch set with pavé-set yellow and orange diamond stripes, emerald eyes, and black enamel detail on its head.

Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale will be among the most glamorous and important sales of this fall’s jewelry auction season. For more information on the upcoming sale, we invite you to visit Christie’s website.

‘La Panthère’: Cartier’s Enduring Panther Motif

Wallis Simpson's Panthère Clip-Brooch by Cartier. Photo credit: Gemological Insurance Appraisers.

Wallis Simpson’s Panthère Clip-Brooch by Cartier. Photo credit: Gemological Insurance Appraisers.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

The story of Cartier’s La Panthère encompasses not only the reign of this alluring and luxurious cat as an enduring symbol of the Maison for nearly 100 years, but also the influence of the mysterious and indomitable women who inspired and engineered these bold and magnificent jewels, now collectively referred to as the ‘Big Cats’.

The sleek black panther, a symbol of elegant femininity, bold courage, and the allure of danger, actually emerged on the European art scene several years prior to her debut in high jewelry. According to Hans Nadelhoffer, right at the turn of the 20th century the medieval Lady with a Unicorn was being replaced by the “bold image of the Lady with a Panther“ {Nadelhoffer, p. 229}.

Unlike her virginal counterpart, the sleekly-clad, sinuously curved lady with her big black cats came to represent the darker side of feminine wiles. By 1919, with Fernand Knopff’s La Caresse, the stage was set for La Panthère to make her entrance onto the high jewelry scene.

Onyx, Diamonds, Emeralds

Riding on the heels of the heightened eroticism surrounding the lithe and sensuous beauties of the Art Nouveau movement, as well as the supremely powerful Art Deco women, La Panthère stalked onto the jewelry scene, subtly at first, with the bold involvement of Mme. Jeanne Toussaint at Cartier Paris.

Mme. Toussaint became the first woman to head the design team at a prestigious jewelry firm. Her way was assertive and independent, her imagination was rich and bold, and her eye was keen and discerning.

Her fascination with the big black cats of Africa is reported to have begun (culminated at the least) on the arm of her ‘discreet’ friend, Louis Cartier, who was took her to Africa on a business trip. Upon catching her first glimpse of the magnificent black cats, she is reported to have exclaimed, “Onyx, Diamonds, Emeralds–A brooch!” {3}

All Things Panther

It is unclear in the literature precisely when, or even if, this fated exclamation dripped from Mme. Toussaint’s lips, but it is obvious that a fantastic encounter with at least one of these rarefied beasts left an indelible impression upon her.

By the early 1900s, Mme. Toussaint’s fascination was bordering on the obsessive with all things panther. She decorated her apartments with their luxurious furs, she wore their spotted skins as coats {cited: jewelryloupe}, and she favored personal accessories decorated in their likeness.

She is reported to have been the first to own one of Cartier’s Pantera vanity cases, made around 1917 {Nadelhoffer, p. 229}. The vanity is a wonder in miniature, featuring a life-like diamond panther with onyx or sapphire spots slinking along a ruby and diamond road between two jeweled cypress trees against an all-black background.

One could easily assume that it was her otherworldly crush on the fantastic creatures which led her friend/lover, Louis Cartier, to nickname her La Panthère, it would make just as much sense to assume it was this nickname and his recognition of her very panther-like characteristics which inspired her to develop such an iconic association with these beautiful creatures.

Regardless, by the writing of this account, the two have become synonymous, and La Panthère would, with her astounding obsession, effectively launch one of high jewelry’s boldest and most luxurious motifs.

On Display at Cartier

The documented history of Cartier’s ‘Big Cats’ begins in 1914, when, looking to capitalize on the emerging trend of black panthers as representative of the emerging powerful female, M. Cartier commissioned the fashionable and flamboyant French illustrator, George Barbier to design a display card with his own rendition of A Lady with a Panther.

In his very Art Deco depiction, a tall, barefoot woman stands between two red columns, wearing a fashionable Poiret dress. Her image evokes Egyptian hieroglyphics, with her erect and symmetrical pose, her high beehive hairdo, and her painted face.

Her arms are held in almost ritualistic pose, and through her fingers drapes an elegantly long strand of pearls. Behind her feet, in feline crouching repose, lies a svelte black panther. Its ears are back, its slanted eyes appear blue to match its high-brow blue collar. Again, the cat lends an Egyptian flair to the overall image.

Coaxing the Panther to Life

This advertisement held wide appeal for Cartier’s elite clientele at the time, among them famed actress Sarah Bernhardt, who is reported to have greeted guests while casually holding two panthers on leashes, a quintessential Art Deco pose. With the panther making such a sensation in high society, it was just a matter of time before La Panthère herself would coax the panther to life in Cartier jewels.

Sometime between 1910 and 1918, Jeanne Toussaint was appointed creative director of the silver department at Cartier Paris. The first of the ‘Big Cat’ jewels were inspired by the panther’s coat–panther-spotted wrist- and brooch-watches. These progressed to vanity cases released in the early 1920s, which were the first Cartier pieces to feature the cat in all her glory.

In 1927, Louis Cartier “borrowed” from his brother at Cartier London, the creative genius, Peter Lemarchand. Having spent hours observing them at the Vincennes Zoo in Paris, Monsieur Lemarchand drew countless naturalistic sketches of the lithe  felines, bringing them to life on the page. With these sketches in hand, Mme. Toussaint came to believe that her onyx, diamond, and emerald panthers would soon become a reality.

Indeed, that very year the first of many Cartier brooches featuring “a reclining panther in onyx and diamonds on platinum” {20}. For more than 20 years, the embers of the Big Cat jewels would smolder quietly in the Cartier vaults. According to Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s current head of design, style, and heritage, explained that Cartier’s most daring jewels were reserved in stock for just the right adventurous soul to claim them or spark off of them to inspire a stunning commission {2}.

The Spark Finally Ignites

In 1933, Louis Cartier had grown increasingly aware of Jeanne Toussaint’s extravagant taste, her dynamic influence, and her visionary intelligence. In a move that must have appeared absolutely radical for the time, perhaps even foolhardy to some narrow-minded naysayers, Monsieur Cartier promoted his mistress from to the position of Director of Haute Joaillerie, a position she would hold for 35 years.

As the sun set on the 1940s, that spark finally ignited into flame when another adventurous, clever, and inimitable woman came on the Cartier scene. Though it is unclear just how the scene played out, it is well known that in 1948, Wallis Simpson, the famed Duchess of Windsor, opened a Cartier box to discover the first golden cat brooch made in concert between Jeanne Toussaint, Peter Lemarchand, and the celebrated Cartier goldsmiths and gem-setters.

Some historians relate that the brooch was chosen from the stock of jewels languishing in Cartier’s vaults, while others report that the Duchess commissioned the stunning jewel herself. This writer favors the account that places the Duke of Windsor beside La Panthère in her first-floor office in the Rue de la Paix. Laid out on the table in front of them were Peter Lemarchand’s drawings, the stock panther brooches, and several obscenely large gemstones.

A Trend is Established

Whatever the case may be, after one to two years of revisions, modifications, approvals, and painstaking handwork, the Duchess of Windsor was gloriously surprised to find inside her Cartier box the ferocious gold-and-black enamel panther rising up from its perch atop a gargantuan cabochon emerald, weighing in at 116.74 carats.

The next year, the Windsors ordered another panther clip brooch. This one features a platinum, white gold, and diamond panther with blue sapphire cabochon spots, fiercely guarding a 152.35-carat Kashmir cabochon star sapphire. It’s marquise-shaped yellow diamond eyes glow fiercely as it protects its prize.

In 1950, the trend was further established when Mrs. Daisy Fellowes (1890-1962), the Paris editor of America’s Harper’s Bazaar, followed suit and ordered an exquisite diamond, emerald, and sapphire panther brooch clip. The wounded animal hangs suspended from a diamond baguette, it’s limp body articulated to capture the muscled form of its depleted body. The true genius of this vintage brooch lies in its likeness to the ram which once hung suspended from the Wittelsbach Blue diamond on the Order of the Golden Fleece.

A Trend Endures

In 1952, the trend endures with the Duchess of Windsor adding to her collection the articulated panther bracelet which remains the pièce de résistance of the Cartier Big Cats. The panther bracelet “is set with calibre-cut black onyx and diamonds and is so finely articulated that it wraps around the wrist like fabric” {2}. This bracelet holds the world record for most expensive bracelet ever sold at auction.

In 1954, the Duchess placed a special order with Cartier for a Tiger Lorgnette (opera glasses). The handle features a regally marching tiger made of gold and black Champlevé enamel two navette-shaped emerald eyes {4}.

In 1957, Barbara Woolworth Hutton, billionaire heiress to the Woolworth fortune, likely inspired by the Duchess’s Tiger Lorgnette, commissioned Cartier to create a golden tiger brooch with matching earrings. Reminiscent of Mrs. Fellowes’ and Wallis Simpson’s tiger jewels, the brooch and matching earrings depict a limp tiger flecked in diamonds with emerald eyes {cited: DesignGuy} and black onyx stripes {cited: fsommers}. Of her choice in cats, Ms. Hutton is reported to have remarked that the tiger is the “only animal that possess[es] no fine feelings” {cited: Tretiack}.

The following year, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan commissioned a stunning suite of Cartier panther jewels for his then wife, Princess Nina Aga Khan. According to the folks at Worthpoint, Cartier fashioned for the princess “a blouse pin, an articulated panther brooch, a ring, an open bracelet with panther heads, and a gold fluted bracelet with panther heads that can be worn as earrings while it becomes the handle of one of Cartier’s convertible evening bags! Paved with brilliant-cut diamonds and spotted with sapphires, these pieces are among the most spectacular naturalist creations ever made in three dimensions.”

A Continuing Revival

From this point on, while the panther occasionally appears to have lurked between the pages of history, never would the illustrious cat become extinct in the annals of Cartier.

The 1960s saw a revival of the motif, with famed Mexican actress, Maria Felix adding a golden bracelet featuring the head and front paws of two panthers meeting in a ferocious battle. In 1983, Cartier launched the Panthère watch which quickly became “one of the most successful examples of watchmaking creativity in the 1980s” {20}. In the late 1980s, Cartier introduced panthers slinking through “jewelled bamboo and eucalyptus foliage” {20}, crouching tiger necklaces, and jeweled perfume bottle featuring two carved white or black panthers stalking up the sides of the bottle.

In 1987, Cartier repurchased two of the original commissions they made for the Duchess of Windsor, the Tiger Lorgnette (c. 1954) and the panther guarding the Kashmir sapphire (c. 1949). These two stunning Big Cats now belong to the esteemed Cartier Collection.

In the 1990s, Cartier begins promoting signature collections. The panther reappears, this time sleek in yellow gold and black lacquer {20}. The millennium panthers debut in retrospect to their original Art Deco form: platinum, diamonds, and onyx. As the years marched on, the panther took on a modern edge “in yellow gold and diamonds, with sharp corners, a streamlined profile and gaping jaw” {20}. The snow leopard returns in diamonds and onyx, with innovative techniques lending the animal’s coat realistic texture {20}.

In 2012, Cartier released L’Odyssee de Cartier, the journey of the fabled panther through exotic lands. The jeweled snow leopard sheds its jeweled skin and comes to life, ready to embark on a grand adventure through the exotic lands of Cartier’s greatest inspirations. Beginning in Russia, the big cat races across the snow toward the mighty mountains, on its way to China.

Meeting with danger, the cat presses onward into a menagerie replete with living jewels. Continuing on, it crests the back of an elephant, finding itself in India, where it catches a ride aboard another unexpected and historic vessel. Alighting in Paris, it makes its way into a magnificent mansion, where it finds a beautiful woman dressed in an exquisite red Yiqing Yinwith gown, dripping with Cartier ice. And all of this takes place inside the signature red Cartier box.

In January of 2013, Cartier revealed the latest version of the panther, a granulated version of a panther’s head in 22k yellow gold as the face of a 42mm Rotonde de Cartier watch case. The Panthere Divine watch emerged in January, as well; a lone diamond and onyx leopard turns back to gaze at the watch hands on a platinum Cartier watch face. Sleek yellow and white golden cats also emerged, some playful, others fierce, many of which feature tsavorite garnet eyes in ethereal green.

In 2014, Cartier will celebrate 100 years of the panther’s glorious reign over their Parisian atelier. There is no doubt in this writer’s mind that even now the great house is preparing for La Panthère‘s centennial celebration. Hopefully, they will include an exhibition of the greatest of their Big Cats. Perhaps they will even successfully coax the new owner of Wallis Simpson’s articulated panther bracelet to lend it to them for the show.

Bibliography

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25. Wikipedia. “Daisy Fellowes.” Accessed August 10, 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daisy_Fellowes.

Wallis Simpson’s Cartier Panther Bracelet

Wallis Simpson's Onyx & Diamond Panther Bracelet by Cartier. Source: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth.

Wallis Simpson’s Onyx & Diamond Panther Bracelet by Cartier. Source: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth.

The Wallis Simpson panther bracelet, with its single-cut diamonds and calibré-cut onyx, was the third and most inspiring in a series of Big Cat jewels made for the Duchess by Cartier. With its diamond-encrusted ears turned back and its menacing green emerald eyes staring boldly into you, baring its sharp platinum teeth, this life-like panther appears to be stalking anyone who comes near.

Wallis Simpson’s panther bracelet, arguably the most famous bracelet in the world, represents a trifecta in jewelry history. In the first corner we have one of fashion’s most famous style icons, Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Though denied the right to become Queen of England, Ms. Simpson, alongside her dashing husband, the former King Edward VIII, rose to become Queen of Style.

Through boldly designed jewels and a dedication to incomparable clothing, Wallis Simpson became one of the world’s best dressed women, setting style trends that endure today, over 70 years after she took center stage. Two times at auction, her jewels have commanded record-breaking prices.

Indeed, it was the sale of the Duchess’s jewels through Sotheby’s in 1987 which changed the face of auctions, rendering them solid contenders in the world’s market for jewelry and launching a new trend in art jewelry. Furthermore, it was this exquisite bracelet, commissioned and co-designed by the Duchess in 1952, which in 2010 smashed the record for highest bracelet ever sold at auction.

In the second corner of our main event, we have another woman whose astute design analysis has forever linked her name to panthers, Cartier, and the Duchess of Windsor: Jeanne Troussaint.

According to Gilles Auguste and Michel Gustatz, Mme. Troussaint was “a true original,” a woman who “embodied a type of feminine elegance which was very assertive and independent” {cited: Luxury Talent Management, p. 35}. Her reputation earned her the nickname La Panthère, and her conceptual genius and keen eye for detail established one of the most enduring motifs for Cartier, the Panther.

In the third corner, we have the world-renowned Maison de Cartier. Beginning in 1914, under the direction of La Panthère, the panther began its rise to its prominent position as one of the most recognizable trademarks of the esteemed jewelry house. Beginning in 1914, with a wristwatch featuring onyx-and-diamond flecking suggestive of panther skin, the Maison went on to incorporate the panther into more and more designs until the motif culminated in the three-dimensional Big Cat jewels, which were first made for the Duchess of Windsor.

In a tête-à-tête with Peter Lemarchand and his intricate drawings of the big cats at the Zoo de Vincennes in Paris, Mme. Troussaint brought to life the Duchess’s desire for a lifelike, stalking panther to adorn her wrist. This bold cat, crafted entirely of articulated platinum paved in single-cut diamonds and calibré-cut onyx, swiftly became one of Ms. Simpson’s absolute favorites.

In repose it lies flat with one paw stretched out, appearing to languish in its velvet-lined box. However, upon the wrist of its wearer, the panther curls around the wrist “seductively” {cited}, assuming a menacing stalking pose.

In all, the Duchess owned three of these revolutionary Cartier cats, and together this trio started a trend that has been reinterpreted throughout ensuing decades, right up to the present contemporary era.

In 1987, Mohammed Al Fayed purchased this breathtaking Cartier panther bracelet for over $1.4 million during Sotheby’s Exceptional Jewels and Precious Objects Formerly in the Collection of the Duchess of Windsor sale, along with at least 19 more of Wallis Simpson’s personal jewels. It was this sale that changed the face of jewelry auctions forever, with total sales reaching $71.7 million, more than 10 times the market-value estimates set forth in the sale catalog.

Twenty-six years later, this iconic bracelet came under Sotheby’s hammer once again, at which time four telephone bidders drove the price higher and higher until one of them, who to date remains anonymous, outshone the rest with a staggering bid of just over $7 million.

In a surprising twist of fate, the $12.5 million realized from this jewel and the 19 others sold that day, which once belonged to a woman of style scorned by the British Royal family, have been earmarked for a children’s charity in honor of Mr. Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, who perished in a tragic accident alongside his mistress, another woman of style scorned by the British Royal family. {cited}

Wallis Simpson’s Cartier Flamingo Brooch May Be One of the Most Famous Jewels of the 20th Centuries

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, wears her Cartier Flamingo Brooch. Photo credit: Today.

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, wears her Cartier Flamingo Brooch. Photo credit: Today.

This delightful Cartier brooch has become one of the most famous jewels owned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Standing on one retractable leg, the bird evokes a somewhat whimsical air. His plump little head and long neck are paved entirely in diamonds, as are his legs and squat body.

One sapphire eye pierces through the diamonds, and a yellow citrine cabochon and blue sapphire form his arching beak. His dazzling tail feathers glitter with the sparkling green of emeralds, the bright red of rubies, and the stately blue of sapphires. The overall appearance is one of bold whimsy.

This jeweled bird was conceived in the mind of the Duke of Windsor, who made a surprising trip to France in 1940, just before the country fell to the Nazis. The Duke’s mission to France was far from political, but deeply personal.

The Duke took one of his wife’s necklaces and four of her bracelets with him to France for a meeting with Jeanne Touissant, Cartier’s esteemed jewelry director. The two had collaborated many times before, and he knew she was the woman for the job of creating a brooch that would absolutely thrill his wife.

After documenting the Duke’s express wishes, Mdm. Touissant took their drawings, along with the stones she had culled from the necklace and bracelets, and conferred with her design partner, Peter Lemarchand. Together, they created this remarkable brooch, which the Duke gave to his wife on her birthday that same year.

The brooch was recorded in photographs of the couple’s visit to Madrid in late June 1940, where they spent a holiday in celebration of their mutual birthdays, which fall only four days apart. The above photograph shows the Duchess in her holiday attire, wearing the brooch. Here is another shot from that same day.

She also wore the brooch on their way to the Bahamas in August 1940, and again in October 1941, on a trip to the US. These are the only documented sources I’ve found so far; however, it is reported to have been one of her favorite jewels.

Over 40 years later, following Wallis Simpson’s death, the flamingo brooch landed on the auction block at Sotheby’s for what some believe was the auction of the century. The sale of 300 of the Duchess’s personal items and jewelry in 1987 raised $45.7 million, which was donated to France’s Pasteur Institute at the Duchess’s bequest.

According to David Bennett, Sotheby’s Chairman of International Jewelry in Europe and the Middle East, the flamingo brooch “quickly became the key jewel of the [1987] sale…[and] since the sale has become emblematic of the greatest of 20th century jewels. It’s realistic and at the same time abstract” {cited}.

In 2010, an anonymous seller contracted with Sotheby’s to sell 20 of the Duchess’s jewels in a sale that again shattered estimates and made headlines. Highlighted as one of the most sought after pieces, the Cartier Flamingo Brooch went home with an anonymous bidder for $2.52 million dollars, demonstrating a near 35% increase in value from the 1987 sale.

The Public Appearances of Wallis Simpson’s Cartier Cross Bracelet

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, poses for her wedding, June 3, 1937. Photo Cecil Beaton Studio Archives at Sotheby's.

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, poses for her wedding, June 3, 1937. Photo Cecil Beaton Studio Archives at Sotheby’s.

Custom made by Cartier, this celebrated cross bracelet has been around the world, its fame keeping pace with the notoriety of its owner, Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.

Made between 1934 and 1944, the nine Latin crosses clipped to the bracelet represent a milestone event in the lives of one of the twentieth century’s most famous lovers, Mrs. Simpson and Prince Edward, the one-time King of England,  who chose the woman he loved over the throne of an empire.

The bracelet made its first public appearance in the summer of 1936, aboard the cruise ship Nahlin, which carried King Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson, and a small company of the King’s intimate friends on a journey through the Adriatic Sea.

Gracing the wrist of one of America’s most famous socialites, the crosses on the bracelet, which bore curious resemblance to three crosses which dangled from a chain around the King’s neck, raised international eyebrows and set gossiping tongues wagging as to the true nature of Mrs. Simpson’s relationship to King Edward VIII.

“We…were greeted by the young King radiant in health, wearing…two [sic] crucifixes on a chain around his neck…” wrote Lady Diana Cooper. According to Sotheby’s, Lady Cooper, who was on board the cruise ship that summer, recalled noticing the necklace and the bracelet worn by the man and woman whose bold decisions in just a few short months would rock a nation and set this bracelet on its famous journey through time.

Each of the nine crosses on the bracelet, as well as the three crosses worn by the King, carry inscriptions that reveal a love story between a married woman and a man groomed to rule a nation. There is no doubt that Mrs. Wallis Simpson wore this bracelet on many occasions. However, its next documented appearance would be on June 3, 1937, the day the two lovers said their vows in a very private ceremony at the Chateau de Cande in the Loire Valley.

During the tumultuous year that followed the summer cruise of 1936 and preceded the couple’s union in 1937, the American courts had granted a divorce between Bessie Wallis Simpson and Ernest Simpson. That same year, England lost her King.

On December 11, 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated his throne in a moving speech and was exiled to Paris with the former Mrs. Simpson. Their wedding, according to the Duchess, “was a supremely happy moment,” and the whole affair was captured on film by Cecil Beaton. In the above photo, taken on that sunny day in June, Wallis wears Mainbocher–a crepe dress in soft gray-blue (known forever after as “Wallis Blue”), a large flower brooch, diminutive earrings, and two bracelets, one of which is the famed Cartier cross brooch.

A new cross was added on this day, inscribed “Our Marriage Cross Wallis 3.VI.37 David*.” This would be the seventh cross added to the bracelet since 1934. Their union was deeply frowned upon by the Royal Family, and upon reportedly receiving a $500,000 marriage settlement and an annual stipend of $100,000 each from the Crown, the couple was exiled to Paris, where they swiftly made a new life for themselves.

In the ensuing years, the cross bracelet was completed, with the final cross added in 1944, a get well present to Wallis from her husband. Many pictures taken of the Duchess during the 1930s and beyond feature a glimpse of the elegant bracelet. At some point, she seems to have stopped wearing it so frequently, but it remained in her possession until the day of her death in 1986.

One year later, the bracelet embarked upon a new leg of its journey. According to The Telegraph, in a landmark auction of the Duchess’s estate at Sotheby’s in 1987, millionaire Wafiq Said purchased the bracelet and at least 19 other pieces of jewelry given to Wallis by her husband.

In December 2010, the bracelet once more found its way to the auction block at Sotheby’s, where it was purchased for a sum of 600,000 pounds. A reference is made by the Jewellery Editor that Cartier entrusted the bracelet to their Parisian workshops for restoration. Whether Cartier purchased the jewel at auction is up for debate. However, they did purchase another of the 20 jewels offered in that sale, the Duchess’s favorite flamingo brooch, which they made for her in 1940.

A replica of the bracelet was made by Cartier for the 2011 release of Madonna’s W.E. Throughout the film, the character of Wallis Simpson, played by Amanda Riseborough, discovers several of the gem-encrusted crosses in unexpected places, such as her teacup. Sadly, the bracelet was lost in the Mediterranean Sea during filming. Though this seems a great loss, Cartier already planned to destroy the bracelet, along with the other replicas they made for the film, in order to preserve the value of the originals.

Where do you suppose the Duchess’s Cartier Cross Bracelet will make its next appearance?

*King Edward VIII was called David by his family and closest friends.

Mona Strader Bismarck’s Signature Necklace: The Bismarck Sapphire

The Bismarck Sapphire Necklace. Photo by Dane Penland. Photo credit: Famous Diamonds.

The Bismarck Sapphire Necklace. Photo by Dane Penland. Photo credit: Famous Diamonds.

In 1926, Harrison Williams purchased Vanadisthe largest private yacht in the world. After refitting it to serve his adventurous purposes, he renamed the ship Warrior, and set sail that July with his brand new wife, the wealthy divorcee, Mona Strader Schlesinger Bush.

At every port of call during their round-the-world honeymoon excursion, the Midwestern utilities tycoon purchased lavish gifts for his new bride. It is believed that Mona’s now-famous Burmese* sapphire was the most illustrious of these gifts.

According to the National Museum of Natural History, the 98.57-carat, cornflower blue, cushion-cut sapphire was later cut and mounted by Cartier as the central stone in this magnificent Art Deco necklace.

In total, 312 natural white diamonds provide the setting for this blue sapphire, with its perfect clarity and excellent transparency. The pristine sapphire is surrounded by a ring of round brilliant-cut and baguette-cut diamonds. The neck chain features a series of one baguette-cut diamond connected to two round brilliants.

During the ensuing 27 years of their marriage, the necklace set sail for many voyages on the Warrior, as Mona enjoyed the high life of a socialite wife in America. The tides turned, however, when Mr. Williams passed in 1953.

Mona, consummately wealthy by this time, decidedly abandoned Bayville Estate, which she had shared with her husband, and married her “secretary”, Count Albrecht ‘Eddy’ von Bismarck. The couple moved to Paris, where Mona quickly became one of history’s most celebrated fashion icons.

Her beauty was unparalleled, her portraits regularly captured by the most celebrated artists and photographers of the mid-century. She would appear in Vogue no less than 50 times, Cole Porter sang of her in “Ridin’ High”, and Salvador Dali memorialized her on canvas. She was the first American named Best Dressed in the World by the upper echelon of Paris fashion, including Chanel, Lelong, and Lanving, and the world was her oyster.

Though her South Sea pearls appear to be her signature piece in many of these photographs, novelist Edward C. Young relates that it was actually the blue sapphire necklace which secured the starring role in her iconic style. He calls the jewel her “trademark gem,” and describes the grand entrances she would make when wearing the necklace.

“Mona’s hair went prematurely gray, and she made the most of it….tinting it slightly amethyst, to go with her massive sapphire, blue Balenciaga…[and] color-coordinated dog (Micky)….The footmen wore blue uniforms when they deposited her at a social gathering in her blue Rolls Royce,” he writes. He goes on to describe her obsession with matching colors and declares, “Mona knew how to make an entrance.” {cited}

Indeed, she appears to have been an expert on making exits, as well. In 1967, for reasons only speculated by this author, Mona donated the necklace to the Smithsonian Institute. It resides now in the Gem Gallery at the National Museum of Natural History. In her honor, the Institute named the necklace “The Bismarck Sapphire”.

Perhaps she knew her gig was up. Balenciaga, her favorite couturier closed their doors, and though she would marry one more time in 1971, her heyday was indeed over.

Her last husband, 14 years her junior, died in a sports car accident in 1979. His secret habit of siphoning funds  for his children came to light, and the tragedy of a life lived for money and power completed its circle.

Sad? Yes. Unusual? No. It is these tragic stories that often endow such beautiful pieces of jewelry with incalculable value. For in them resides the memories of the high-life, with its meteoric highs and its wretched, lonely lows.

*Most of the anecdotal internet reports indicate the stone was from Sri Lanka, but the official report from the National Museum of Natural History declares the stone to be of Burmese origin.

“Grace of Monaco” Promises to Dazzle with Real-Life Drama, Nicole Kidman, and Cartier Jewels

Nicole Kidman Wears Cartier as "Grace of Monaco" in TWC's Upcoming Film.

Nicole Kidman Wears Cartier as “Grace of Monaco” in TWC’s Upcoming Film.

Real-Life Drama

The year is 1962, and General Charles de Gaulle is incensed by the audacity of Monaco’s Prince Rainier III, who has fired an important diplomat, refused open trade of stocks for Monte Carlo’s only radio station, and welcomed over 100 new businesses into Monaco’s economic structure, many of them French. Money that once filled French purses now flows into Monaco, in direct violation of a treaty signed between the two countries in 1918.

Unspoken threats have been made that de Gaulle will arrest the flow of electricity, water, and gas into Monaco. French customs officials hassle tourists visiting Monaco, deterring the country’s primary source of revenue. The citizens of this beautiful country are frightened, rumors of military invasion and nuclear destruction abound, and Prince Rainier’s options are quickly running out.

One woman, Grace of Monaco, the icon of perfection for most Americans and the icon of stability for the Monagasques (citizens of Monaco), has the influence, the diplomacy, and the know-how to turn the tides on this deadly feud, while at the same time delivering Monaco from Old World traditions into the 20th century.

In his new film, Grace of Monaco, director Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose) has declared his intention to showcase Princess Grace’s central role in this real-life drama. However, whether his film will really shed light on these dramatic historic events remains to be seen. The Daily Mail, reporting on their sneak preview of the script this past January, makes it sound as though the film may focus more on the Princess’s personal pain and less on her political role in these dramatic events.

I do hope that her political advocacy and her own personal empowerment aren’t lost in the same old soap opera of a glamorous woman fading under the powerful right hand of her chosen husband. According to biographer James Spada, Princess Grace’s actions prove that she held influence over not only the powers in France and Monaco, but also across Europe and America. Her presence in Monaco played a huge role in saving the country from France’s strong arm, but also secured the right of suffrage for the women of Monaco. History has proven that regardless of whatever duress she suffered in her marriage, Princess Grace was no wilting violet.

Nicole Kidman

No matter which way the director plays it, this writer believes audiences will be dazzled by the upcoming film. Nicole Kidman has been cast in the leading role as Princess Grace. No doubt Ms. Kidman plans to bring the perfect blend of sophistication and timeless elegance to her depiction of the iconic Princess.

Though Ms. Kidman’s presence doesn’t ensure that Grace’s strength and power will be demonstrated on screen, there’s a good chance her affection for the Princess will infuse her characterization with the full complexity of Grace’s character and strength.

“I got to know Grace really well, researched her, and fell in love with her,” Ms. Kidman is reported to have said. {cited}

Cartier Jewels

To help Ms. Kidman deliver a power-packed performance, the makers of the film secured permission from the royal family of Monaco to create replicas of Grace’s favorite jewels. The House of Cartier, who has supplied jewels to the royal family of Monaco since 1920, have reproduced to exact specifications these priceless pieces.

Nicole Kidman will have the thrill of wearing what Maria Doulton describes as 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 that the Princess would wear throughout her life.” {cited}

Cartier has also recreated a three-strand diamond necklace comprised of alternating round and baguette-cut diamonds, an 18k gold chicken brooch made from a baroque pearl with diamond and gemstone accents, a diamond-encrusted poodle brooch, and of course the Princess’s glamorous 10.47-carat emerald-cut diamond and platinum engagement ring.

These dazzling jewels will be showcased throughout the film, which is set to open in limited venues in the US on December 27, 2013 {IMDB}.