BELLE EPOQUE DIAMOND BOW BROOCH BY CARTIER, PARIS, CIRCA 1904
An openwork millegrain ribbon bow brooch with floral and foliate motifs, set with old European-cut and rose-cut diamonds, centering a knot defined by an old European-cut diamond within a wreath, the edges of the ribbon embellished with an articulated fringe of collet-set diamond drops; mounted in platinum
- 908 old European and rose-cut diamonds, total weighing approximately 43.05 carats
- Width: 4 1/2 inches
- Cartier Certificate of Authenticity no. GE2003-417, dated November 4, 2003, stating that the bow brooch is “Cartier Paris, circa 1904.”
- cf. Cologni, Franco, and Eric Nussbaum. Platinum by Cartier: Triumphs of the Jewelers’ Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995, pp. 82, 86.
- cf. Eisler, Eve. Cartier: The Power of Style. Paris: Flammarion, 2010, p. 44.
Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier. His three grandsons, Louis, Pierre, and Jacques, built the house into a famous international jewelry empire serving royalty, Hollywood stars, and socialites. Cartier has created some of the most important jewelry and objects of art of the twentieth century with many iconic designs such as mystery clocks, Tutti Frutti jewelry and the Panthère line. In 1983, The Cartier Collection was established with the objective of acquiring important pieces that trace the firm’s artistic evolution. Today, Cartier has 200 stores in 125 countries.
Popular at the turn of the century, the bow is one of the forms most associated with the gently flowing, ribbon-like elements of the Garland style. Named for its elegantly graceful lines, the Garland style was a derivative of the Louis XVI style that had been revitalized by Empress Eugénie when she had the French crown jewels remade in the likeness of Marie Antoinette’s jewelry. Franco Cologni and Eric Nussbaum in their book, Platinum by Cartier: Triumphs of the Jewelers’ Art, described Cartier’s Garland style as “. . . a light, purified style. Its design was clear, its lines distinct, taut, without flourishes. Its curves were always elegant, soft, never tortuous. Empty spaces set off filled ones, allowing the stones room to breathe and lending volume to their sparkle.”
In 1899, when Cartier moved its boutique to the rue de la Paix (Paris’ most prestigious street) amid the shops of the haute couture, their jewels followed the dictates of the neighboring couturiers that were designing fashions that fit the body snugly. The new silhouette demanded jewels that draped around the neck or were suspended from the shoulders. This Cartier brooch, a lace bow created in diamonds and platinum, is such an example. It was originally part of a double bow corsage ornament that would have adorned the upper part of a dress. The composition suggests movement through undulating ribbons of foliate motif. The brooch moves and trembles when worn, as collet-set diamonds dangle from the edges of the loops and the ribbon ends, while the loops and one hanging ribbon are hinged.
The new style demanded a new metal to enhance both the overall design and the all-white look of diamonds. Cartier was among the first to introduce platinum for both the front and reverse of a piece of jewelry. The hardness and strength of this metal meant that less of it was needed, with the result that settings became almost invisible, allowing for lace-like jewels. Minimal mountings enhanced the brilliance of the diamonds. This bow brooch is a tour de force of design, emblematic of a bygone era when grace and elegance reigned supreme.