Romancing the stone

Two years in the making. Fifty haute joaillerie pieces that are one of a kind. Each with a six-figure price tag. TRACY LEE reports on Cartier’s latest additions to its Magicien collection.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Two years in the making. Fifty haute joaillerie pieces that are one of a kind. Each with a six-figure price tag. TRACY LEE reports on Cartier’s latest additions to its Magicien collection.

Have you heard of the Hope Diamond, the famous 45.52-carat blue diamond which once belonged to France’s King Louis XIV? Or the Taj Mahal Emerald, a 141.13-carat hexagonal carved gemstone owned by four Mughal emperors in succession? What about the 198-carat cushion-shaped Romanov sapphire worn by Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, wife of Alexander III of Russia? Or the 55.95-carat La Peregrina pearl – one of the world’s largest symmetrical pear-shaped pearls – which has, in its history of 500-plus years, graced European queens as well as movie legend Elizabeth Taylor?

All these stunning, world-famous gems have passed through fabled French maison Cartier’s jewellery workshops. When you’ve created the most exquisite adornments from some of the best-known precious stones in history, and been referred to as “the jeweller of kings, and the king of jewellers”, you just don’t do things by halves. That’s why it took Cartier’s craftsmen two years to create 50 new, oneoff pieces of haute joaillerie to add to its Magicien collection, which was exhibited at Tokyo National Museum last October.

Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director of style and image, says each of the brand’s high-jewellery collections begins with… a round-the-world shopping spree. “The design team travels with the buying team across the world to visit trade fairs and meet merchants, keeping a lookout for new colours, new cuts and really special stones,” he says, adding that the designers head for their drawing boards only after the stones have been acquired.

“As a maison, we’re holders of a tradition and culture that has existed since 1847, and all of us, from the buyers to the designers to the craftsmen, need to work together in the same direction, respecting the culture of the maison yet pushing ourselves to go further, to invent.” According to Pierre, it’s a “constant challenge and a paradox.

For every product we create, we have to ask ourselves ‘Is this Cartier and does it enrich our tradition?’ versus ‘We need to achieve something new’”. Referring to Cartier’s strong association with Art Deco-style jewellery design, Pierre says: “Its key elements are the black, white and green of onyx, diamonds and emeralds, as well as the abstraction of shapes and the geometry and symmetry of lines.

“To reinterpret Art Deco in new ways to bring a new sense of aesthetics, we might keep to the black, white and green colour scheme, but move beyond geometry and symmetry to introduce a sense of organised chaos, of more organic, asymmetric shapes that express a new way of thinking about balance and harmony, while also referencing architecture and its evolution.”

A wonderful embodiment of this is the Magicien collection’s Cinetique bracelet in white gold, with diamonds, onyx and a 40.68-carat asymmetric rod-shaped emerald as its centrepiece. This crazy-cool cuff is one of my favourite pieces, bringing to mind kryptonite from the original Superman movie.

All in all, this assemblage of straight versus angled lines arranged across various planes, combined with colour blocking, is boldly eye-catching, audaciously decadent, unapologetically idiosyncratic, super modern, yet so timeless and versatile that I’d wear it to a Great Gatsby-themed costume party, a hi-so gala dinner, even clubbing – and it wouldn’t look out of place in any of those settings.

Cartier creative director Jacqueline Karachi describes it best: “The aspect and effect is very graphic, full of movement and optical illusions when viewed from different angles. Worn in motion, it really creates a strobe effect, so you are hypnotised, mesmerised.” “There are three things that will never change in the way Cartier approaches its jewellery,” says Pierre of the maison’s ethos of creating timeless designs.

“The way we look at jewellery – there has to be comfort for the wearer, fluidity in the piece and beauty from the beholder; the designs have to enhance the beauty of the stones and make them the centre of attraction; and Cartier is always about the art of playing with light.” At the same time, Pierre says, Cartier continually strives to achieve groundbreaking designs that reflect the evolution of society.

“It’s not just whimsical; we see the evolution of our designs as an expression of femininity at that moment in time. After all, jewellery is about pleasure, enjoyment and the appreciation of beautiful objects that enhance women’s beauty. And what women want now are versatile pieces that can be worn in different ways.”

My Reading Room
Oracle necklace

Platinum, with three modified rectangular round-cornered step-cut Colombian emeralds totalling 18.30 carats, one 0.79-carat rectangular step-cut F VVS2 diamond, one 0.70-carat rectangular step-cut D VS1 diamond, one 0.70-carat rectangular step-cut F VVS2 diamond, and six modified step-cut kite-shaped diamonds totalling 3.84 carats.

“At first glance, it looks like a classical piece of jewellery, but when you look closer, you notice that it’s a very unusual arrangement with undulations that are inspired by the shapes left on the seashore when the tides move out,” says Jacqueline.

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Magie Blanche necklace

Platinum, with one 20.09-carat light brown VS1 type 11a pear-shaped diamond, one 6.44-carat faceted diamond bead, one 5.25-carat light brown VVS2 pear-shaped rose-cut diamond, briolette-cut diamonds, brilliant-cut diamonds, and 52 round and button-shaped natural pearls totalling 98.08 grains.

“This design enhances the subtlety of the brown diamonds, cut in special shapes. The pearls are in pink, brown or orange shades, which are basically the tones found in skin. These pearls not only enhance the colour of the diamonds, they also have different effects against different skin tones. It is a complex yet delicate necklace that can be worn as three separate pieces, and the central diamond can be removed for a sleeker look,” says Jacqueline Karachi, creative director of Cartier.

My Reading Room
Quetzal bracelet

White gold, with two sugarloaf cabochon-cut rubellites totalling 41.12 carats, black lacquer and brilliant-cut diamonds.

“The design is based on a mythical feathered serpent from South American folklore that represents the link between earth and sky. It’s interesting to see the movement of the ‘snake’ and the ‘feathers’. Black lacquer outlines and gives a sense of depth and movement, and the small details give rhythm and life to the snake. It’s an abstract form of fauna,” says Jacqueline.