Posts tagged jewellery by cartier
The Tiara That Survived the Shipwreck
The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

With so many beautiful antique pieces of jewellery to have been broken up for their stones, this one has been luckier than most.  The tiara was made in 1909 for Lady Allan, wife of the Canadian banker Sir Hugh Allan.  It is a strikingly modern piece for its time and clearly Cartier was departing from the famous Garland Style that marked jewellery at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Lady Allan included it in her luggage on her voyage on the Lusitania when the fateful ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915 during World War I.

The Lusitania

The Lusitania

Lady Allan survived the disaster, but with severe injuries.  Her ladies' maid managed to save it by putting it in her bag when they were rescued- they were lucky to survive, as of the 1989 passengers on board 1198 died on the ship. It sank in only 18 minutes.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

Having survived not only the Lusitania, but sadly her four children too, on her death Lady Allan bequeathed the tiara to Elspeth Patterson Dawes, her first cousin once removed.  Mrs. Dawes' granddaughter auctioned the tiara at Sotheby's last November, where it sold for $799,000.

The Marjorie Merriweather Post Brooch
The Marjorie Merriweather Post Emerald Cartier Brooch

The Marjorie Merriweather Post Emerald Cartier Brooch

All major jewellery collectors are defined by one piece they own, a piece that becomes inextricably linked in the public’s imagination with its owner: with the Duchess of Windsor, it was her multi-coloured flamingo brooch; it is hard to picture Elizabeth Taylor without her famous emerald necklace- Marjorie Merriweather Post was defined by her Cartier emerald brooch.

Born in 1887, the four times married Mrs. Post was one of the great heiresses of her age.  She was the only child of C.W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company and at the tender age of 27 inherited a fortune estimated then at $250 million dollars.  She was a great spender (in 1971 her clothing expenses amounted to around $250000 a year) and became a great collector and connoisseur.  Her soft spot was beautifully crafted pieces and objects of vertu.  She filled Hillwood, her principal residence, with china, Sevres porcelain, tapestries and Faberge.

It was inevitable that someone with such a fine eye for exquisite detail could fail to be enchanted by magnificent jewellery.  Mrs. Post bought it prodigiously throughout her life and often remodelled existing pieces to suit changing tastes, a testament to her open mindedness to new design concepts. 

Mrs. Post’s Cartier emerald brooch was not a special order, but it was a unique piece.  It was created in 1928, the interwar period considered to be a time when the firm was at the height of its creative powers.  The jewel is a triumph of Cartier’s art, an elegant marriage of Art Deco and the Indian style they were espousing due to the spectacular success they had re-setting stones for Maharajahs.  Cartier’s love affair with India started in 1911, when the firm was commissioned to make dazzling pieces to be worn at the Delhi Durbar.  Since then, they had been accumulating important carved Indian stones which they incorporated into spectacular unique pieces. 

First and foremost in Cartier’s mind, jewellery had to be wearable and they had always avoided extreme movements such as Art Nouveau and Modernism.  The brooch is very much Art Deco, but the lines are softened and not symmetrically harsh.  It is also articulated and lends fluidity to what could have been a rather cumbersome piece.  The geometric pentagonal central emerald, a 17th century carved Mughal stone, brings a perfect touch of exoticism to the jewel.  Exoticism played a key role in Cartier’s style during the 1920s and 30s, with influences varying from India, China and Japan.

The brooch is also a masterclass in stone setting.  The use of platinum in jewellery had been pioneered by Cartier at the beginning of the 20th century as it allowed stone setting in minimal metal- there is barely any metal visible in the calibre cut stones suspending the smaller fluted hanging emeralds.  The brooch is beautifully finished off with a hallmark of Art Deco jewellery, black onyx detailing.

Marjorie Merriweather Post left Hillwood House and its contents to the Smythsonian Institute in 1968, retaining the right to live there for the rest of her life.  However, the $10 million endowment she left did not produce sufficient income for its upkeep, so in 1976 it reverted to the Post Foundation.  On her death in 1973, she also bequeathed to the Smythsonian her fabulous collection of jewels, which apart from the Cartier brooch included Marie Antoinette’s diamond earrings and the diamond necklace Napoleon presented to his second wife, Marie Louise, to celebrate the birth of their son.

A portrait of Marjorie Merriweather Post wearing the Cartier brooch, amongst other jewels.  The brooch Is such a piece that the painter has clearly made it the focus of his attention, rather than the sitters.

The S.B. Joel Diamond Corsage

There is an impressive Cartier jewel which deserves a mention: the Solomon Barnato Joel Diamond Corsage.

It is rare to see such an important Belle Epoque jewel still intact- most like this were broken up in the 1920s and 30s in order to re-set the stones and I assumed this is what had happened to this one.  This corsage piece was last seen when it was sold at Christie’s Geneva in 1991 for 3,850,000 Swiss francs and it re-emerged at last year’s Masterpiece Fair in London, where it was reportedly sold for $20 million.

The S.B. Joel Diamond Corsage, which was sold at Masterpiece London last year for a reported $20 million.

The S.B. Joel Diamond Corsage, which was sold at Masterpiece London last year for a reported $20 million.

 It was made by Cartier in 1912 and its swags of lily of the valley are simple and highly stylised, the flowery Garland Style already giving way to something simpler.  Designed to be worn on the bodice, it must have been a gloriously ostentatious piece even in the excessive age of the Belle Epoque.  As it is a particularly strong metal, platinum is used for very fine setting work and this is very much in evidence in this brooch, where the stones seem to almost float in space.  The total carat weight of the main stones (the four central stones in the pendant element of the brooch) is 67.65 carats.

The stones were the property of Londoner Solomon Barnato Joel, who with his uncle Barney Barnato made his fortune in the South African diamond mining rush of the late 19th century.  Having made his money, he returned to Europe not only to enjoy it but also to give large amounts away in various philanthropic gestures.  He lived life to the full and these were the best diamonds in his personal possession, which he asked Cartier to set in 1912 for the woman he loved.