SINGAPORE — Cartier recently showed its High Jewellery collection Beautés du Monde (Beauties of the World) at the six-star Capella Singapore hotel, and it was a spectacular journey into the heart of this French maison, for whom there’s no limit to vision, imagination, creativity and artistry.
You don’t realize what “high jewelry” means until you’re staring at a necklace set with emeralds as huge as Everlasting Gobstoppers, or feel the weight of a 15-carat diamond nestled against your collarbone, surrounded by twinkling gems that mesmerize you with their brilliant light. Jaw dropped. Breath taken. So this is high jewelry.
Credit must go to the Cartier brothers Louis, Pierre and Jacques, sons of Alfred and the grandsons of founder Louis-François Cartier, who encouraged the trio in their aesthetic pursuits. They traveled the world and incorporated the beauty of the exotic places they saw into Cartier’s pieces, thereby revolutionizing the way the French made jewelry forever. Louis, in particular, was an art lover and collector, and imbued Persian, Arabian and Asian influences into Cartier, as evidenced in the brand’s emblematic, Indian-inspired Tutti Frutti collection.
To view Beautés du Monde we had to pass through a walkway under different arches, ending up in a room with windows of varying shapes — a nod to Cartier’s multicultural DNA.
The over-200-piece collection was divided into three rooms: one showing Cartier’s cultural inspirations, the second its fascination with wildlife, and the third how valuable raw materials and minerals are to the jeweler.
One of the showstoppers was definitely the iguana-inspired Iwana set with its V-shaped necklace bearing three hexagonal, cabochon-cut Colombian emeralds totaling 43.31 carats. Around it, smaller emeralds and diamonds are set to resemble iguana scales.
We learn that many times in Cartier creation, precious stones like these emeralds dictate the way the jewelry piece is designed, and not the other way around. A group of gemologists in Cartier’s headquarters does the buying and it’s a long, arduous process to find stones of equal size, clarity and quality.
Aside from the panther, Cartier has a whole “petting zoo” of animals to choose from. Birds like peacocks, parakeets and lovebirds figure prominently in the collection.
In high jewelry such labor and artistry — not to mention the rarity of the gems — mean that pieces like the Iwana are one of a kind. Wearable art, in other words. And since many make such impactful, memorable statements, Cartier has made its high jewelry pieces transformable and versatile, as in the all-diamond Nitescence set. The necklace, which sports a flawless, 15-carat D IF Type IIa cushion-shaped diamond, can be worn several ways: you can take the big diamond off and wear it as a ring, while the necklace becomes a collar or bracelet; the diamond and parts of the necklace can also be placed in a tiara (as the jeweler of kings and royalty, Cartier has many warrants to make tiaras for royal families from different countries). Even the lower parts of the earrings are detachable and can be worn as brooches.
Another stunner is the Rubellite set, illustrating that Cartier doesn’t just use traditional gems like rubies, emeralds and diamonds to create its high jewelry, but different kinds of precious stones like chalcedony, peridot and rubellite, which you don't often see in high jewelry making.
The way the stones are set is another point of difference. For example, the rubellite setting isn’t flat, static or one-dimensional but richly layered and moves with the wearer. Same with the watches that have a trembling setting so you can see micro-movements that make Cartier’s panther seem to come alive when you view it from different angles.
In the second room we saw Cartier’s huge menagerie of animals, but the king of Cartier’s jungle has been and always will be the panther, thanks to Jeanne Toussaint, the French fashion designer whom Louis Cartier appointed as director of fine jewelry in 1933.
By that point Toussaint had been traveling to Kenya to observe the wildlife for 20 years, and it was a bountiful source for her creativity when she joined Cartier. Panther spots first appeared on a Cartier watch in 1914, until the whole animal flexed its muscles on Cartier creations from the 1920s onwards.
Today the panther plays on a multitude of pieces, from watches (my favorites feature the jeweled panther against a black onyx dial) to necklaces, but each is unique. At Cartier, no two panthers are alike.
I tried on the Panthere Héroique, a white-gold necklace in which a diamond-and-onyx panther reclines on 28.34-carat emerald from Zambia. Dangling from the stone is a removable tassel of emerald and diamond beads, and it’s absolutely exquisite.
Aside from the panther, Cartier has a whole “petting zoo” of animals to choose from. Birds like peacocks (of which there were many wandering the Capella grounds), parakeets and lovebirds figure prominently in the collection. A diamond cockatoo perches on a watch face in a glorious, diamond-webbed cuff. Lovebirds look into each other’s jeweled eyes on a necklace dripping with emeralds. Beaks are rendered in black mother-of-pearl.
One of the latest collections, Les Indomptables (The Indomitable), takes inspiration not just from wild animals like the zebra, alligator, giraffe and tiger, but also jewelry designs from ancient civilizations, so the animals are presented as double-headed icons facing off on a bracelet or watch with their spots/stripes switched — very clever, playful and surprising.
In fact, Cartier says that is one of their primary aims: to surprise their clients and offer them exceptionally crafted pieces rich in savoir-faire.
In the Mineral room we see such pieces: “secret” watches where a large gemstone like a sapphire hides a watch dial beneath; a diamond ear cuff that should appeal to younger customers, and the all-diamond Reflection set that has the distinction of being selected by royalty: Kate Middleton actually bought and wore Cartier’s Reflection earrings during her wedding to Prince William.
For customers who want more creative control, Cartier offers a special-order service where clients can buy a particular stone they fancy, then have it set according to their preferences. The maison assists by providing sketches of possible designs then crafting it in a bespoke process that usually takes about eight months to a year.
After two years of sheltering in place thanks to the pandemic, Cartier pulled out all the stops to celebrate the Singapore launch of Beautés du Monde by holding a black-tie gala dinner at the Esplanade, turning the theater Cartier red with dramatic lighting and the stage into a dreamy tableau with long tables and floral centerpieces.
Cécile Naour, CEO of Cartier Southeast Asia and Oceania, thanked the 200 guests — composed of Cartier clients and regional media — for coming to celebrate “beauty in all its forms all around the world” and “Cartier as a magnificent maison.”
Cartier’s managing director for Singapore and Malaysia Anne Yitzhakov led the toast, along with three-Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco, who served a marvelous four-course dinner punctuated by a fashion show with models wearing Beautés du Monde, an aerialist and the surprise entertainment for the evening, beloved soul band Sister Sledge, who had guests dancing into the wee hours.
Cartier in the Philippines
After eight days in Singapore, Beautés du Monde will travel to Taiwan then China. For Philippine customers interested in the collection, Cartier can hold digital viewings. At the moment their jewelry is sold only at the Cartier boutique in Greenbelt 4, while points of sale in Solaire, Rustan’s Makati and Shangri-La Plaza offer Cartier watches, but plans are underway to open an exceptional new boutique in Greenbelt 3 next year, where Cartier will double its commercial space.
Then who knows? We might be able to see and try on such beauties of the world right here.
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In the Philippines Cartier is distributed by Stores Specialists, Inc. The Cartier boutique is located in Greenbelt 4, Makati.