Saturday, December 7, 2013

Diamonds Are A Doll's Best Friend

The most dazzling ornaments aren’t found in any Paris department store, this year. Instead, you will need to head over to the newest exhibition to open at the Grand Palais: “Cartier: Style and History.” Conceived as a history of decorative arts, this show of breathless baubles tells not only the story of Cartier, but also retraces the evolution of tastes, aesthetics and diversity of cultures within the jewelry industry…as told through precious stones and metals.

Interiors of Grand palais drenched in virtual jewels and exotic places
The exhibit is set within the walls of the newly renovated Salon d’Honneur of the Grand Palais which just reopened. A backlit custom-built stand, fitted to accommodate the display cases and documents provides the central structure of the exhibition. Carefully placed spotlights keep each jewelry setting the focal point of attention within the sumptuous Art Nouveau interiors of the venue, draped in a light show of virtual jewels and exotic lands. These wall animations transform the architectural backdrop into a tableaux of mirages, in which glimpses of India, Egypt, and China  melt into a fantasy world of luxury reminiscent of the Café Society era.
Cartier, jeweler to the Royal classes

There was often a collaboration between jeweler and haute couture house:

The story of Cartier is told in eight episodes: The firm’s early days (1847-1905); The Modern Style (a trip through 1920’s, Art Deco); New Horizons (inspirations from exotic lands: Egypt, India, Persia); The Mystery clocks; Geometric Luxury; the Splendor of Stones; Stylistic Freedom (muses of the house); and the origins of the Panther (fetish and symbol of Cartier). Some 600 items of jewelry, watches, miniature objects and clocks, complimented by paintings, haute couture garments, fashion magazines, lithographic works and original conceptual illustrations provide a rare and precious glimpse into ornamentation of the super wealthy class from the Second Empire through the 1970’s. Among  the items on display: 28 diamond studded tiaras, crowns and garlands, 18 “mystery clocks” and 294 documents from Cartier’s own archives.  And while the clarity and brilliance of the diamonds is spellbinding, the strength of this exhibition lies in part, on the homage it pays to its famous clients who contributed to the evolution of Cartier’s style and aesthetics throughout the years.
Art Deco an important influence
Princess Grace and her Cartier jewels

Listed as frequent customers were the likes of Daisy Fellowes (heiress to the Singer Sewing machine fortune), Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, Marjorie Merriweather Post (sole heritor of the Post cereal company) and later, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Grace of Monaco and socialite Barbara Hutton who owned jewelry once belonging to Marie Antoinette and Empress Eugenie. A separate corner is dedicated to each iconic client complete with a sampling of jewelry ordered by them and photos.
Bib necklace of the Maharaja of Patiala

Some of the more spectacular pieces on display include a 478 carat cushion cut sapphire once owned by the Queen Marie of Romania. It is the largest cut sapphire in the world. Another attention-grabber: a restored version of the necklace commissioned by the Maharaja of Patiala in 1925, who deposited thousands of stones (including a 234.65 carat DeBeers diamond) to be set in a modern way. Cartier was obliged to respect traditional Indian forms while incorporating Art Deco designs. Though this bib necklace was later dismantled, its remnants found in a cheap jewelry store, Cartier restored the original sparkle using traditional methods and synthetic stones.

Dioramas of the Cartier store in 1859

Gems aside, items of doll-sized interest  include a miniscule diorama complete with miniatures and figurines showing a mock up of the interiors of the Place Vendome boutique and doll-sized objects. These precious little items were created simply for the whimsy of the clients intrigued with Lilliputian sized items, Cartier triumphed with small metallic knick-knacks that often featured translucent enamel over engine-turned decoration.
Bejeweled miniatures of camera and clock-- fit for a dolly queen

For anyone headed to Paris in the next two months, this exhibition provides fascinating look at Paris’ most illustrious high fashion jewelry house. Can’t make it but would like to see more? Head over to An iPhone app with HD images is also available at the Appstore.
Rubies and pearl necklace

Art Deco necklace with diamond inlay

Cartier: Le Style et L’Histoire. Grand Palais. December 4, 2013-February 16, 2014. Open Wednesdays through Mondays 10am -8pm. Closed Tuesdays.  (Christmas hours-Dec 21-Jan 4 open 9am-10pm). Entry : 11 Euros.

All images and text by Fashion Doll Stylist 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, wow, wow, those jewels are amazing. Thanks for sharing these pics.


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