100 years ago, a very special cat was born. A big cat. Or rather a big cat on a small scale.
In 1914, Cartier – which was already the official purveyor to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, King Chulalongkorn of Thailand, King Carlos I of Portugal, and King Peter I of Serbia – used diamond and onyx paving around the bezel of a ladies watch to create a panther spot motif, which would soon become one of the storied house’s most famous visual fingerprints (pictured).
Inspired by nature, its black and white abstract onyx and diamonds inaugurated the use of flecking in jewellery and pioneered the contrasts of the future Art Déco style. That same year, Louis Cartier ordered a “Lady with panther” from French illustrator and painter George Barbier. The watercolour, initially used as an exhibition invitation, was then used by the Maison for its advertising.
Later, that cat would appear in a brooch commissioned for the Duchess of Windsor in 1944 (pictured), and in the first “tiger” bracelet for the same high profile trend-setting client.
The visionary mind behind the Panthère creations was Cartier’s director of jewellery, Jeanne Toussaint. With her bird-like profile, infallibly good taste and streak of quintessentially French fantasy, she reigned over the jewellery world from the time she was named Director of Jewellery at Cartier in 1933. A free and whimsical creative spirit, her aura, beauty and independent character earned her the nickname of “The Panther”. This big cat shaped the destiny of the woman who, a few years later, would be at the origin of Cartier’s most spectacular Panthère collections.
Over the years, Cartier’s Panthères have adorned royalty, heiresses and Hollywood stars and, in celebration of the cat’s century anniversary, the brand is releasing a very special new collection of 56 pieces celebrating this totem of Cartier style.
Whether it’s a golden cat with tsavorite eyes that stalks up the hand of its wearer, a stunning pearl and platinum necklace that supports a cat in repose on a platform, or a dramatic Panthère-head ring rendered in geometric gold lines – this is a collection that magnificently demonstrates the appeal of the cat, from fabulously OTT, to modern and graphic.
The collection is available from October.
Cartier, 143-144 Sloane St, London SW1X 9AY.