Rehoming Cartier?s iconic tigers
Posted by minibraceletstores on October 16th, 2014
A Cartier tiger brooch and bracelet that once belonged to the Duchess of Windsor are to be auctioned at Christie’s for an estimated £1.6 million
What makes a jewel collectable? It has to have at least three or four of the following qualities: rarity, unique design, fabulous craftsmanship and the suggestion of movement if it does not physically articulate. If a jewel has a combination of these qualities, the icing on the cake is a great provenance or signature from one of the big jewellery houses. Cartier’s tiger jewels tick not just some but all of these boxes, and it was incredibly exciting to view these recently before they winged their way to Christie’s Geneva.
Inspired by Jeanne Toussaint, who was Cartier’s artistic director for more than 50 years and responsible for some incredible creations that have become the 20th century’s most iconic jewels, Cartier’s life-like panther and tiger jewels first appeared after the Second World War.
The first 3D panther jewel was commissioned in 1948 by the Duke of Windsor, who went on to purchase these two tiger jewels for his wife the Duchess of Windsor – the onyx and diamond bracelet was bought in 1956, followed by the brooch three years later. The two pieces were sold in 1987 at the legendary Sotheby’s jewellery sale where Andrew Lloyd Webber paid $1.4 million (£878,000) for them as a gift to his then wife Sarah Brightman, to celebrate the huge success of his musical The Phantom of the Opera, in which she starred.
The making of these jewels is a lengthy and highly skilled procedure. As with all Cartier creations, each design is meticulously scrutinised to ensure that it carries Cartier’s attention to detail. The onyx strips – each one cut to a particular size and shape – may seem randomly placed but are in fact carefully planned according to the dimensions of the animal. The strips, their sizes and the spaces between them play a critical role in creating a feeling of perspective and a suggestion of movement.
These big cat jewels pass through many hands: from designer to sculptor, caster, mounter, polisher and stone setter. But it’s the stone setter who cements each cat’s character. A unique stone-setting technique, known only to Cartier master stone setters, gives each cat jewel an impression of fur, called “serti pelage”. Tiny grains of metal are pushed over the stones, then each grain is split to create an eyelash which forms the “fur”. Hours of painstaking hard work and thought ensure that the character and personality of the cat are not lost in the process.
With such exquisite attention to detail, not to mention the beautiful way the brooch and bracelet articulate, the tails and paws caressing your wrist or fingers, it’s no wonder that these jewels have stood the test of time. And as the present owned has stipulated that they are to be sold as one lot so that they can continue on their journey together, their upcoming sale means that they will continue to be appreciated, fought over and revered for generations to come.