The Art of Cartier
From Apprentice to Rue de la Paix
In 1847 Louis-François Cartier (1819-1904) was employed by the jeweller Adolphe Picard, at 29 Rue Montorgueil in Paris. When in 1847 Maître Picard moved, he left his business in the young man’s hands. Six years later, Louis-François Cartier set up under his own name close to the Palais Royal. The refinement of Cartier’s jewellery of ancient and classical inspiration soon came to the attention of an elegant clientele.
Princess Mathilde, cousin of Emperor Napoleon III, became acquainted with Cartier: the company’s ledgers record that she purchased over two hundred items. In 1859 the Empress herself, Eugénie de Montijo, ordered a silver tea service. That same year Cartier moved to 9 Boulevard des Italiens, an area very much en vogue. Alfred (1841-1925), Louis-François' son, took over the company in 1874.
Meanwhile, the discovery in the late 1860s of South Africa’s diamond deposits had enormous impact on the world of jewellery: substantial quantities of fine quality stones suddenly became available. Jewellery from that period was made with characteristic gold-backed silver mounts and inspired by the Louis XVI style, also known as the Garland style, which reached its peak in 1890 and would remain in fashion until the First World War. In the meantime, to solve the problem of silver oxidation, Cartier turned to platinum, whose malleability, white colour and strength meant Cartier could sculpt ethereal mounts resembling diamond lace and garlands [fig. 1].
fig. 1. Lily stomacher brooch
- Cartier París, pedido especial, 1906
Alfred had three sons: Louis (1875-1942), Pierre (1878-1964), y Jacques (1884-1942). En 1898, Louis joined his father in the family business followed by his brothers a few years later. He demonstrated an eye for beauty and a head for business and convinced his father to move to the city’s most elegant thoroughfare, 13 Rue de la Paix, in 1899 which is still Cartier’s landmark building today.