Jewelry In Focus

Cartier’s Iconic Art Deco Color Combinations

Cartier Colors

The early 20th century was a highly creative period for Cartier, perhaps their most artistic and original years to date. Between the rise of Art Deco design and confluence of exotic cultures, Cartier Paris, London and New York produced a number of extraordinary jewels of innovative designs and inventive techniques, many unique to Cartier alone.

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Cartier (Jewels) 1923 Paris, Londres, New York, Shop, Store
Photo courtesy of HPrints

Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Indian influences can be seen in Cartier’s jeweled works produced prior to and throughout the Art Deco era. The finest examples of Cartier’s design prowess was showcased at the Paris Exhibition of 1925, a fair of an unprecedented scale and influence from which the term ‘Art Deco’ was to have originated.

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Cartier (Jewels) 1925 n°4 Brooch, Earrings, Jewels Art Deco Style, Gazette du Bon Ton, Pochoir
Photo courtesy of HP Prints

Not only were Cartier’s design influences notable at the Exhibition, but their color combinations were as well, considered to be new, daring and even dangerous:

“Most original is the combination of carved coral, of the old-fashioned type, with large uncut emeralds, diamonds and onyx. This daring color harmony is another Cartier invention, which is gradually growing in popularity. It, however, requires very careful handling, the combination being rather dangers.” (Baron de Meyer in ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, New York, March 1926)

Drawing for Ganna Walska's Chimera bracelet by Cartier, 1928

Drawing for Ganna Walska’s Chimera bracelet by Cartier, 1928

Other color combinations featured during the exhibition were blue and green; multigem jewelry; emeralds, onyx and diamonds; onyx and diamonds; and coral with black lacquer or onyx.

Blue and Green

The origins of combining blue and green, in the form of enamel, are thought to be Chinese, appearing in a number of early 20th cetury Chinese-style pieces by Cartier. In addition to enamel, combining blue and green was most often achieved with the use of jade, lapis lazuli and turquoise. Jade with lapis, sapphires or topaz were also common pairings; while an alternative combination of lapis lazuli and turquoise utilized by Cartier derived from ancient Egypt and was among the Maison’s most striking and original color schemes.

EGYPTIAN-STYLE LAPIS LAZULI, TURQUOISE, DIAMOND, BLACK ONYX AND ENAMEL BRACELET, CARTIER, PARIS, 1929, MADE BY SPECIAL ORDER FOR MRS. COLE PORTER

Egyptian-style Lapis Lazuli, Turquoise, Diamond, Black Onyx and Enamel Bracelet, Cartier, Paris, 1929, made by special order for Mrs. Cole Porter
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Cartier Cigarette case, 1930 Gold, platinum, lapis lazuli, turquoise, sapphire, diamonds

Cartier Cigarette case, 1930 Gold, platinum, lapis lazuli, turquoise, sapphire, diamonds

Platinum, turquoise, lapis lazuli and diamond brooch, Cartier

Platinum, turquoise, lapis lazuli and diamond brooch, Cartier
The carved turquoise vase holding a bouquet of flowers carved lapis lazuli, turquoise accents with cabochon, set with old European and single-cut diamonds weighing .35 carat approximately, signed Cartier, indistinctly numbered 3233, circa 1930.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

An Art Deco Suite of Lapis Lazuli, Enamel and Diamond Jewelry, by Cartier

An Art Deco Suite of Lapis Lazuli, Enamel and Diamond Jewelry, by Cartier
Comprising a pendant necklace, the mottled green enamel pendant, enhanced by rose-cut diamond and black enamel trim, suspending a cluster of vari-sized lapis lazuli drops, from a fine link neckchain accented by an old European and baguette-cut diamond; and a pair of ear pendants en suite, mounted in platinum, circa 1925, necklace 18 ins., with French assay marks
Signed Cartier Paris Londres New York (2)
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Multigem Jewelry

As mentioned earlier, among the more daring color combinations exhibited by Cartier in 1925 was coral with emeralds, often large cabochon emeralds or emerald beads, with onyx and diamonds.

An Art Deco Diamond, Emerald, Coral and Onyx 'Pendeloque' Pendant Brooch, by Cartier

An Art Deco Diamond, Emerald, Coral and Onyx ‘Pendeloque’ Pendant Brooch, by Cartier
Designed as a pavé-set diamond T-shaped “agrafe” plaque, with onyx detail and a carved oval cabochon emerald on either side, suspending a detachable “pendeloque,” designed as a series of interlocking old European and single-cut diamond links, decorated with onyx and emerald detail, and two calibré-cut onyx links interspaced with a cylindrical-shaped coral, studded with onyx cabochons and decorated with onyx and diamond-set rondelle terminals, suspending a larger cabochon emerald drop of later replacement, with coral, onyx and diamond-set caps, mounted in platinum, 1922, with French assay marks and maker’s mark, in a Cartier red leather case
By Cartier, Paris, nos. 0313, 0329, and 043
With certificate of authenticity no. GE2010-57 from Cartier Joailliers
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Cartier Coral and Emerald Dragon-Head Bracelet

Coral and Emerald Dragon-Head Bracelet, Cartier, Paris, 1928
Designed by Charles Jacqueau, enamelled gold, carved coral heads set with sapphire horns and diamond eyes and teeth, holding two melon-cut emerald beads of 48.43 carats with onyx tips. Coral also for fluting round outside and in center of hoop, with green and blue relief enamel foliate pattern on both sides.
Sold to Ganna Walska in 1929

An onyx, coral, diamond and emerald penannular brooch, by Cartier, circa 1925

An onyx, coral, diamond and emerald penannular brooch, by Cartier, circa 1925
The open-ended polished onyx hoop, terminating in two carved coral chimerae, each embellished with single-cut diamond collar and mane and grasping an emerald bead within its mouth, to a cylindrical pin-head composed of a carved, ridged coral and onyx hoop bordered by single-cut diamonds and surmounted by an emerald bead, the pin guard designed as an inverse drop-shaped onyx section set between single-cut diamond roundels and with cabochon coral finial, signed Cartier Paris, French assay marks, partially indistinct maker’s mark, length 8.8cm.
Photo courtesy of Bonhams

However, the most popular, and most recognizable, color combination of precious gemstones utilized by Cartier is that of emeralds, rubies and sapphires in the form of carved leaves and berries. Though we now refer to these jewels as ‘tutti frutti’, the term was not used to describe these pieces by Cartier at the time and were simply referred to as ‘pierres de couleur’ (colored stones) or ‘multigem’ jewelry. The stones were carved in India for Cartier and used in Cartier’s Indian-inspired pieces, even though carved stones were not traditionally used in Indian jewelry.

A "Tutti Frutti" double-clip brooch made by Cartier in 1935, part of a 100th anniversary exhibit of Cartier jewelry. It belonged to Mrs. Cole Porter. Photo: Christopher Smith/Christopher Smith

A “Tutti Frutti” double-clip brooch made by Cartier in 1935, part of a 100th anniversary exhibit of Cartier jewelry. It belonged to Mrs. Cole Porter.
Photo: Christopher Smith/Christopher Smith

Hindu Necklace, Cartier Paris, Commissioned in 1936, Altered in 1963

HINDU NECKLACE
CARTIER PARIS, COMMISSIONED IN 1936,
ALTERED IN 1963
Platinum, white gold, marquise-, baguette- and round old-cut diamonds, thirteen briolette-cut sapphires weighing 146.9 carats in total, two leaf-shaped carved sapphires (50.80 and 42.45 carats), engraved sapphires, sapphire beads, one sapphire cabochon, square carved emeralds, fluted and smooth emerald beads, emerald cabochons, leaf-shaped carved rubies, smooth and engraved ruby beads, ruby cabochons.
This necklace made in the Indian style was originally fastened with a black cord at the back of the neck.
Commissioned by Mrs. Daisy Fellowes.
Heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune, Daisy Fellowes was often named “the world’s most elegant woman” by magazines of the 1920s and ’30s. This figure of Parisian society boasted two qualities without which elegance tends to be overlooked: taste and audacity. These qualities earned her a firm reputation as a leader of fashion.

AN ART DECO DIAMOND AND MULTI-GEM "TUTTI FRUTTI" BRACELET, BY CARTIER  The carved emerald, ruby and sapphire leaves with pavé-set diamond branches and cabochon berries, enhanced by collet-set diamonds, mounted in platinum, circa 1930, 7 ins. Signed Cartier Photo c/o Christie's

An Art Deco Diamond and Multi-Gem ‘Tutti Frutti’ Bracelet, by Cartier
The carved emerald, ruby and sapphire leaves with pavé-set diamond branches and cabochon berries, enhanced by collet-set diamonds, mounted in platinum, circa 1930, 7 ins. Signed Cartier
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

Emeralds, Onyx and Diamonds

Carved leaves wasn’t the only motif carved into gemstones in Cartier’s jewelry, carved Indian emeralds were the most widely used Indian stones incorporated into Cartier’s jewelry designs. Carved, faceted and cabochon emerald stones and beads were exclusively paired with diamonds or onyx or black enamel, another one of Cartier’s stunning color combinations.

Cartier Indian Inspired Carved Emerald, Onyx and Diamond Bangle Circa 1925

Cartier Indian Inspired Carved Emerald, Onyx and Diamond Bangle Circa 1925

A Pair of Elegant Art Deco Emerald, Diamond and Onyx Ear Pendants, by Cartier

A Pair of Elegant Art Deco Emerald, Diamond and Onyx Ear Pendants, by Cartier
Each suspending a carved emerald bead and a black enamel tassel, from graduated old European-cut diamond links separated by onyx rondelles, flanked by two smaller diamond and onyx tassels, joined by a diamond geometric link with black enamel detail, to the cabochon emerald surmount, mounted in platinum, circa 1930, with French assay marks and maker’s marks, in an original Cartier red leather case
Signed Cartier, Paris, no. 6430 B
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

An art deco emerald bead, onyx and diamond necklace, Cartier, circa 1925.

An art deco emerald bead, onyx and diamond necklace, Cartier, circa 1925.
Designed as thirty-two graduated fluted emerald beads, measuring approximately 17.0 x 15.4 to 9.9 x 8.1mm., each with onyx and single-cut diamond rondell spacers, completed by an elongated clasp of pavé-set rose-cut diamonds; signed Cartier, number indistinct, with signed red leather folder; mounted in platinum; length: 19 1/2in. (some small diamonds deficient).
Photo courtesy of Bonhams

Onyx, Emerald and Diamond Bracelet, Cartier, 1920s

Onyx, Emerald and Diamond Bracelet, Cartier, 1920s
Designed as a series of onyx links and flat-back cylinders decorated with pavé-set diamonds and cabochon onyx, alternating with emerald beads, mounted in platinum, length approximately 197mm, signed Cartier Paris, French assay and indistinct maker’s marks, case.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Gold, Emerald, Ruby, Diamond and Enamel Brooch, Cartier, London, circa 1924

Gold, Emerald, Ruby, Diamond and Enamel Brooch, Cartier, London, circa 1924
Set in the center with a large cabochon emerald measuring approximately 25.3 by 23.6 mm., framed by black enamel accented by small cabochon emeralds, sugarloaf cabochon emeralds and old European-cut and single-cut diamonds, flanked by engraved pear-shaped emeralds set in the center with table-cut diamonds, outlined by black enamel studded with cabochon rubies, unsigned, original brooch suspended a pearl and onyx tassel.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

 

Onyx and Diamonds

Combining onyx and diamonds was not new for Cartier during the 1920s, early sketches of mourning jewelry made of onyx and diamonds can be seen in Louis Cartier’s notebooks from 1906-7. Between 1910 and 1920, Cartier produced a number of black and white watches and jewels incorporating the ‘panther-skin’ motif, consisting of pavé-set diamonds studded with onyx chips, cabochons or tiny pyramids. By the 1925 Paris Exhibition, the black onyx and white diamond combination became another signature color scheme not only for Cartier, but for many fine jewelers during the Art Deco era. The practice continued well into the 1930s up until the Second World War.

An Exquisite Art Deco Diamond and Onyx Pendant Brooch, by Cartier

An Exquisite Art Deco Diamond and Onyx Pendant Brooch, by Cartier
Of foliate design, centering upon an old European-cut diamond and calibré-cut onyx vase, bezel-set with three old mine-cut diamonds, with an onyx and old European-cut diamond drop, extending pierced old European and old mine-cut diamond flowers and leaves, with calibré-cut onyx detail, each terminal suspending an articulated tassel composed of graduated old European-cut diamond tulip-shaped links, spaced by collet-set diamonds and accented by drop-shaped onyx, mounted in platinum, circa 1910, in a Cartier red leather case
Signed Cartier, New York
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Diamond and Onyx Pendant Watch, Cartier Paris, 1915

Diamond and Onyx Pendant Watch, Cartier Paris, 1915
This is the earliest surviving piece to incorporate Cartier’s celebrated ‘peau de panthère’ or ‘panther-skin’ decoration, achieve by setting pieces of onyx cut in different shapes to resemble spots into a ground of pavé-set diamonds.

Onyx and Diamond Brooch, Cartier, circa 1915

Onyx and Diamond Brooch, Cartier, circa 1915
The plaque with calibré-cut and buff-topped onyx in a palmette design, highlighted with circular- and single-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum, signed Cartier London, Paris, New York and numbered, case.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

A Pair of Diamond and Onyx Clip Brooches, by Cartier, circa 1919

A Pair of Diamond and Onyx Clip Brooches, by Cartier, circa 1919
Each designed as an old mine, old European and rose-cut diamond horseshoe-shaped plaque, set with a series of five larger old European-cut diamonds, decorated with calibré-cut onyx lily-of-the-valley motifs, mounted in platinum, 1919, in the original Cartier red leather fitted case
By Cartier, Paris
With certificate of authenticity NYC2012-3 dated 25 January 2012 from Cartier Joailliers
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Art Deco Diamond and Black Onyx Brooch by Cartier, Paris, 1923.

Art Deco Diamond and Black Onyx Brooch by Cartier, Paris, 1923.

Often, onyx and black enamel could be seen paired with rock crystal, creating a more subdued black and white contrast. The 1920s and 1930s saw rock crystal carved into rings or rectangles, polished or matte, adorned with onyx or black enamel geometric flourishes.

Fine Onyx, Enamel, Rock Crystal and Diamond Belt Brooch, Cartier, 1924

Fine Onyx, Enamel, Rock Crystal and Diamond Belt Brooch, Cartier, 1924
The polished rock crystal rectangle flanked with ogee arch motifs set with circular- and single-cut diamonds, onyx and black enamel, signed Cartier and numbered, French assay and maker’s marks, case.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Rock Crystal, Diamond and Onyx Pendant-Brooch, Cartier, circa 1925, and Diamond Sautoir

Rock Crystal, Diamond and Onyx Pendant-Brooch, Cartier, circa 1925, and Diamond Sautoir
The pendant set with old European-cut and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately 10.30 carats, mounted in platinum, signed Cartier, numbered 3571, one diamond missing; the sautoir set with old European-cut and round diamonds weighing approximately 14.75 carats, mounted in platinum, length 30 inches, can become detached and worn as four bracelets, unsigned.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Attractive Rock Crystal, Onyx, Enamel, Seed Pearl and Diamond Bracelet, Cartier, circa 1925

Attractive Rock Crystal, Onyx, Enamel, Seed Pearl and Diamond Bracelet, Cartier, circa 1925
Set to the centre with three rock crystal annular links, spaced by seed pearls and circular-cut diamond clusters flanked by black enamel, continuing to two rows of onyx beads, length approximately 190mm, signed Cartier and numbered, French assay and indistinct maker’s marks.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

 

Coral with Black Lacquer or Onyx

The use of coral at Cartier could also be seen alongside black lacquer or onyx with a sprinkling of diamonds, another elegant contrast during the Art Deco period. While the striking contrast between onyx and diamond jewelry was deemed more suitable for evening attire, the more subtle and elegant contrast of onyx or black lacquer with coral was found appropriate for daytime wear.

A Pair of Art Deco Coral, Diamond and Onyx Ear Pendants, by Cartier

A Pair of Art Deco Coral, Diamond and Onyx Ear Pendants, by Cartier
Of tassel design, the onyx cupola cap with French-cut diamond detail suspending three coral pipkin drops interspersed with black enamel and circular-cut diamond collet fringes, to the step-cut diamond batton and onyx bead line surmount, circa 1925, 6.5cm long
Signed Paris, New York and Paris, Londres, no. 4855
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

A fine art deco onyx, coral, enamel and diamond penannular brooch, by Cartier, circa 1925

A fine art deco onyx, coral, enamel and diamond penannular brooch, by Cartier, circa 1925
The open ended ridged coral hoop with enamel and single-cut diamond detail, terminating in a carved onyx bead each inlaid with a brilliant-cut diamond, to a cylindrical pin head set with single-cut diamonds in a cross formation with enamel detail, the later cone-shaped pin guard decorated with black enamel, signed Cartier and numbered, length 6.2cm.
Photo courtesy of Bonhams

An Art Deco Diamond, Coral, Pearl and Onyx Bracelet, by Cartier

An Art Deco Diamond, Coral, Pearl and Onyx Bracelet, by Cartier
Designed as an old European and single-cut diamond band, set with a series of coral and pearl plaques of geometric design, accented by black onyx, centering upon an old European-cut diamond, within a circular-cut diamond surround, mounted in platinum, circa 1925, 7¼ ins.
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Robin Katz
    February 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Great comprehensive article!! A pleasure to read.

  • Reply
    D
    February 19, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    One of my favorite postings! Thank you.

  • Reply
    Mary Max
    February 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I think you should now be dubbed, “Professor Bos!”

  • Reply
    Liz Law
    February 25, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Great article.
    Thank you.

  • Reply
    Cool Color Combo for Handmade JewelriesHandmade-Jewelry-Club
    May 1, 2014 at 5:01 am

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  • Reply
    megabijoux
    November 27, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Great blog, and amazing jewelries good job 🙂
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