Here are ten surprising facts about Cartier, the iconic brand’s legacy and the long list of family members who grew Cartier from its humble workshop in Paris to the global empire it is today.
1. Alfred Cartier was the first jeweler to successfully use platinum in jewelry-making.
Throughout the 19th century, platinum was an incredibly expensive material and was most commonly used by royalty for cutlery and watch-chains. Platinum’s high melting point made it incredibly difficult to work with, so it was an impressive feat when, in 1847, Alfred Cartier began using the brilliant and strong metal in his jewelry. Cartier incorporated it into his “Garland Style” pieces and to amplify the brilliance of diamonds.
2. Louis Cartier was the first designer to popularize the wristwatch for men.
After listening to his longtime friend and Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont lament about the difficulty of using a pocket watch to record flight times, Louis Cartier set about designing a more practical wristwatch. In 1904, Cartier debuted his first men’s wristwatch, the appropriately named “Santos” watch. At the time, it was a bold foray for the designer as society’s elite considered the pocket watch to the gentleman’s timepiece and women wore wristwatches. However Santos-Dumont’s fame and aeronautic achievements quickly spurred the popularity of the comfortable and functional wristwatch among men.
3. King Edward VII of England dubbed Louis Cartier the “Jeweler of Kings and King of Jewelers.”
Cartier’s celebrity client list included an impressive number of royals and aristocrats. Princess Mathilde, the niece of Napoleon I, made her first purchase from Cartier in 1856 and Napoleon III’s wife Empress Eugenie became a client in 1859. In the following years, Cartier would be appointed the official purveyor to King Edward VII (1904), King Carlos I of Portugal (1905), King Chulalongkorn of Siam (1908), King Peter I of Serbia (1913), King Fouad I of Egypt (1929), and King Zog I of Albania (1939).
4. J.P Morgan bought the first Cartier Mystery Clock for $3,200.
In 1913, Maurice Couet designed the first “mystery clock” for Cartier. These puzzling clocks featured seemingly floating hour and minute hands. The hands are in fact mounted to a transparent rock crystal but give the illusion the clock is running without gears. Cartier lavishly decorated these mechanical wonders with diamonds and gemstones and would sculpt the clock into a work of art. Financier J.P. Morgan purchased the first Cartier mystery clock, designed by Couet and shaped like a temple, in 1929. When it was put up for auction in 1993, it fetched over $1.5 million.
5. Pierre Cartier purchased the Cartier New York flagship not with millions of dollars but with a pearl necklace.
In 1914, Pierre Cartier had a stroke of real estate luck when one of his double-strand pearl necklaces caught the eye of millionaire Morton Plant’s second bride-to-be. Plant and his betrothed were eager to move out of the “commercialized” neighborhood where they lived on the posh corner of 5th Avenue and 52nd Street. Cartier meanwhile was keen to move in to the bustling playground of society’s upper crust. Plant and Cartier bartered a trade: Plant’s six-story apartment building plus $100 in exchange for the pearl necklace.
6. The iconic Love Bracelet’s design was inspired by medieval chastity belts.
Also Cipullo designed the Cartier Love Bracelet in 1969 and was inspired by the rather barbaric practice of chastity belts. According to folklore, chastity belts were a sort of underwear contraption designed to prevent the wearer from having sex and worn by women during the Crusades to preserve their faithfulness to their husbands who left to fight. Modern research however posits these were not a common practice and likely used in the 16th century.
But curiously enough, Cipullo drew inspiration from chastity belts, focusing on the symbolism of devotion and fidelity. His Love Bracelet design features a solid cuff with screws and a lock mechanism so it remains secure around your lover’s wrist. The bracelet comes with a screwdriver which is meant to be kept by your significant other so only they can open it.
7. New York City hospitals keep Love screw drivers handy.
According to a recent Vogue article, the Love bracelet is so popular, NYC hospitals stock Love screw drivers in their wards so they can remove the bracelet from patients’ wrists during an emergency.
8. For their iconic Panthere design, Cartier developed a unique and painstaking setting to create the texture of the panther’s fur.
Appropriately named the “fur” setting, diamonds are set into a honeycomb lattice made of tiny, hair-thin wires of gold. Onyx and sapphire are included as the panther’s spots.
9. The highest auction price for a Cartier jewel was $30,335,698.
Cartier’s Sunrise Ruby, a 25.6 carat Burmese ruby, was put on the Sotheby’s auction block in May 2015, with the winning bid of $30,335,698. The gem is now the most expensive ruby, the most expensive colored gemstone and the most expensive non-diamond gemstone in the world.
10. In May 2016, Cartier was ranked as the 58th most valuable brand in the world by Forbes magazine.
The brand is valued at an estimated $10.1 billion and boasts sales of $6.1 billion with 286 worldwide locations.
Now that you are a veritable expert in the brand, test your Cartier knowledge with our fun quiz How Well Do You Know Cartier here.
Photo Credit: monochromewatches.com / jewelsdujour.com / fashiongum.com / thenational.ae / rogue.cartier.com