Cartier is part of a family of brands that are almost inaccessible but which everyone knows. It has influenced fashion and revolutionised the worlds of luxury, particularly those of fine jewellery and watchmaking. A perfect blend of French elegance and Swiss knowledge, Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, It initially marketed pocket watches, brooches and ladies' castellans in the lounges of its historic boutique, located on rue de la Paix.

Portrait of Louis-François Cartier Portrait of Louis-François Cartier

Louis-François Cartier’s two sons, Alfred and Louis, took over management of the brand and were followed by Alfred’s three children, whose team spirit would lead them to divide the planet into three, to better conquer it. At the beginning of the 20th century, their jewellery, brought back from the Far East, Russia or the Anglo-Saxon colonies, was already turning the heads of great personalities, such as those of King Edward VII of England and the Maharajah of Patiala, India. It must be said that the brand had at the time first-class salespeople and a keen business sense that enabled it to supply up to 24 European courts at the same time.

In the 1930s, Cartier reached the height of elegance, thanks in part to Jeanne Toussaint, its artistic director who was nicknamed ‘the panther’ and who made the wild animal the emblem of the Franco-Swiss brand.

Elizabeth Taylor in Cartier jewellery. Photo: The Guardian Elizabeth Taylor in Cartier jewellery. Photo: The Guardian

After the Second World War, the house became an integral part of Hollywood glamour. For instance, the actress Elizabeth Taylor who was passionate about jewellery and became one of its most famous ambassadors, and Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite actress, who, became engaged to Prince Rainier III with a Cartier diamond on her finger. At the same time, the company continued its diversification, in particular by developing the concept of the wristwatch for men. A brilliant idea that will give birth to the Santos and Tank models, two major successes of the brand launched at the beginning of the 20th century and are still available in stores in 2019.

Grace Kelly's Cartier Engagement Ring Grace Kelly's Cartier Engagement Ring

In the 1970s, Cartier made its mark on fashion history with the appearance of the Must, a line of products that were more affordable (small leather goods, accessories, bags, pens, perfumes, etc.) and propelled the brand into smaller boutiques and helped it win over a new clientele. The intuition, though risky on paper, finally proved successful, to the point that those in the same profession started to do the same.

For the brand, the end of the 20th century was also marked by the need to reclaim its history and its most beautiful pieces from all over the world, such as the famous bracelets made for the American actress Gloria Swanson. The operation proved costly but also rich in positive consequences, since the largest museums (the British Museum, the Metropolitan, the Grand Palais, to name a few) have since opened their doors to it, with spectacular exhibitions, particularly at the end of the 1990s when Cartier celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Cartier 1 Cartier 1

Today, with 300 boutiques in 50 countries and a presence at nearly 15,000 points of sale, Cartier remains a world reference in fine jewellery and is now maintaining its course within the Swiss Richmond group, of which it remains the flagship.

Its greatest success at the beginning of the 21st century is due to its designers who, because of their prodigious vitality, are constantly renewing their collections by integrating the emergence of a new geography of luxury, in which Asia, but especially China, now plays a major role.

Anne Hathaway as Daphne Kluger wearing Cartier’s famous Toussaint necklace in ‘Oceans 8’ (2018) Anne Hathaway as Daphne Kluger wearing Cartier’s famous Toussaint necklace in ‘Oceans 8’ (2018)

For this new clientele, there is no limit, which is why it is not uncommon to see Cartier jewellery – which sometimes requires up to 2,000 hours of work per piece – exceeding £44,000 on sale. In addition, Cartier still offers first prices at £350 and a whole range of middle range to luxurious products, in order to cover the entire spectrum and reach all audiences.

Cartier Love Bangles Cartier Love Bangles

Success can also be felt in the enthusiasm generated among bidders. In recent years, the phenomenon has even tended to take on dizzying proportions. In Paris in 2016, a ‘mysterious’ clock in onyx and white enamelled gold, dating from 1921, was purchased for more than £1.3 million. This is a record for this type of object, alongside that made a year earlier in Geneva, with an extremely rare Burmese ruby, mounted on a Cartier ring and auctioned for £23.9 million by Sotheby's. This is proof that the brand’s jewellery remains eternal, despite the political turbulence and currency crises that are shaking our world.

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