From exquisite brooches to princely necklaces, royal debutantes to official portraits 一 Cartier has been omnipresent in the affluent lifestyle of the world’s most influential monarchs. The glittering mosaic of the relationship between the British Royal Family and Cartier was founded long ago on the cornerstones of trust and adoration. Accordingly, when the season’s newest Cartier collection arrives, we instinctively remember the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII)’s prophetic proclamation of the French Maison as ‘King of Jewelers and Jewelers of Kings’.
In fact, the seeds of the celebrated alliance were planted in 1902 when master jeweler Pierre Cartier opened the multistoried showroom at London’s Bond Street to delight the crème de la crème attending the coronation of King Edward VII, the husband of Queen Alexandra (who famously commissioned the Cartier Resile bib necklace). The British Royals are highly particular about their jewels. Cartier, a brand that respects innovation and absolute precision, became a fashionable choice among the attendees of the historic event.
A recent two-part webinar series, organized by Francesca Cartier Brickell, author of international bestseller The Cartiers and co-hosted by Caroline De Guitaut of the Royal Collection Trust, explored this history and showcased the extensive collection of royal jewels made by Cartier which continue to rule our fascination decades after their creation.
In these webinar episodes, the speakers explained how the Cartier London store has welcomed some memorable royal visits. Queen Mary’s grand arrival at the showroom led to Jacques Cartier being earnestly appreciated by the English press as he firmly believed in employing the local craftsmen. Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh personally visited the store to examine the creation of a commissioned gold-plated bracelet. Francesca Cartier Brickell also wrote a sentimental tribute to the late Prince Phillip referring to this event on her Instagram account. More than a century after its establishment, the landmark showroom continues to be a status symbol among the British high society and is now nurtured by managing director, Mr. Laurent Feniou.
The ring that altered the course of royal history was a Cartier piece. ‘Edward’ (as he was known in close circles) wasn't interested in copying the traditions and wanted a novel gem for his future wife. So, he chose an eloquent emerald instead of the conventional aesthetic of diamonds over platinum for the engagement ring of Wallis Simpson. Thus, King Edward VIII opted to abdicate the throne to be able to spend the rest of his life with his lady love. After moving to Paris, the couple kept their love for buying Cartier. The Panthère collection designed by Madame Jeanne Toussaint attracted their fascination. The iconic line of Panther bracelets and brooches worn by the American socialite remain in vogue till today.
The Halo Tiara worn by Duchess Kate Middleton, on the day of her wedding is a Cartier classic. In 1936, the Halo Tiara was purchased by King George VI for his wife. The legendary tiara was later inherited by young Queen Elizabeth II on her 18th birthday which apart from her granddaughter-in-law was borrowed by her sister Princess Margaret Rose and her daughter Princess Anne. In this way, a jewel that was purchased decades ago evolved into an everlasting tradition as a royal heirloom.
When King George VI and Princess Consort Elizabeth set out across the Atlantic, it was the first time that a ruling British royal was coming to the United States of America on an official visit. The elegant desk clock cum thermometer presented by then-President Franklin Roosevelt as a gift for the visiting King and Queen was produced by none other than Cartier.
The Cartier Williamson brooch which Queen Elizabeth II is often seen wearing in her most talked-about public engagements is perhaps Her Majesty’s most beloved jewel. Commenting on the piece, Cartier Brickell wrote:
I especially love the Williamson flower brooch as it was made under my grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, and it reminds me of him because, as well as being a jeweller, he was a keen gardener. It combines two of his great passions: nature and jewels!
The dazzling brooch is prominent in the pictures of the Queen Mother with former American President Barack Obama and in wedding photos of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles where the Queen is standing by the newlyweds on the quintessential balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Seven Cartier miniature clocks received a place of distinct visibility in Queen Mary’s dollhouse dubbed as one of the largest and most beautiful dollhouses in the world. One of them is a long case miniature oak clock with a plain arched top, exhibited in the precious marble hallway. The clock’s hourly chimes are still audible. The lacquer screen (meant to seal the entry of housekeepers into the dining room) too is a Cartier work of art.
When asked about her webinar series, Cartier Brickell commented:
It’s been such fun to share these stories with audiences all over the world. When the pandemic hit and the second leg of my international book tour was obviously cancelled, I decided to use the opportunity thrown up by Zoom to offer a series of free lectures to people in their own homes. It was a time when we all needed a bit of escapism, and diving into the history of different people, places and jewels seemed to really resonate with people.
Even today Cartier continues to be an unparalleled hallmark of royal taste.