The Tutti Frutti jewels by Cartier are arguably one of the most coveted designs among jewelry collectors. For several decades, the finest examples of the style – most notably in bracelet form – have consistently fetched increasingly high prices at auction, the latest headline making-specimen being Evelyn Lauder’s Tutti Frutti bracelet that sold for $2.1 million at Sotheby’s in 2014 – setting a new record price at auction for Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet. While the bracelets remain in hot demand to this day, it is a necklace that stands as the crowning glory of the Tutti Frutti style.
Cartier’s foray into Indian-inspired jewelry began with another important necklace, one commissioned by Queen Alexandra in 1901. Upon receiving three Indian gowns from Mary Curzon, wife of the Viceroy of India, the Queen asked Cartier Paris to create a necklace that harmonized with the style of her new dresses using Indian jewels given as gifts in the Royal Collection. Since the 18th century, the English Royal Collection had accumulated on of the greatest collections of Indian jewelry in Europe. The resulting piece was a light and elegant Indian-style necklace of 71 pearls, 12 cabochon rubies, 94 cabochon emeralds and two square emeralds described as ‘talismans’.
This first commission sparked a new creative direction for Cartier, as well as a long and fruitful relationship with India. In 1911, Jacques Cartier made his first trip to the country where he met with prominent Indian rulers, most of whom tasked Cartier with the resetting of their family treasures into fashionable Parisian jewelry. The direct exposure to traditional Indian jewelry, such has the colorful red and green Jaipur enamels in floral motifs and the varying types of carved stones, would have a profound effect on Cartier’s designers, particularly Charles Jacqueau. This new stylistic influence coupled with Cartier’s search for rare Indian stones would ultimately translate into some of the most important Art Deco jewels ever created.
Throughout the 1920s in Europe, Indian-inspired jewelry took the Western world by storm as the leading jewelers of the period cast their nets of influence farther east. The exotic wave of inspiration initially took root with the Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which first performed in Paris in 1909. The colorful costumes and set designs by Leon Bakst opened a dynamic dialogue between Oriental motifs and the arts in Europe, particularly fashion and jewelry design. As the Art Deco period expanded into uncharted ethnic aesthetics, India and its cultural riches were ripe for creative picking.
Cartier culled many ideas from India while conducting business there, a large portion of which incorporated the country’s most precious natural materials – its gemstones. Among the rare stones first acquired by Cartier in India were the naturalistically cut and engraved gemstones that resembled leaves, blossoms and berries. These uniquely shaped stones transformed into the signature Tutti Frutti bracelets and brooches produced by Cartier in the 1920s and 30s. The most striking of all these, however, is Daisy Fellowes’s Collier Hindou.
The daughter of the 3rd Duc Descazes and Duke of Glücksbjerg and Isabelle Blanche Singer, Daisy Fellowes was the granddaughter of the sewing-machine magnate Isaac Merritt Singer. She was famous for her malicious remarks as well as her impeccable sense of style, counted as one of the 20 ‘Best Dressed Women of the World’ by Parisian designers during the 1930s. Considered one of the great jewelry collectors of the 20th century, Fellowes amassed an incomparable collection of highly unique pieces – many of which have become crowning achievements in design for Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, to name just two jewelry houses she patronized.
The original design of the Collier Hindou was similar to one first commissioned from Cartier in 1935 by the Maharajah of Patna. Of bib design, the necklace incorporated the Maharajah’s old-cut diamonds, carved rubies and emeralds as waving diamond stems sprouting ruby and emerald leaves that grew larger toward the base. In traditional Indian style, the necklace was fastened with strings of beads.
Fellowes’s necklace was completed in May 1936 using stones from three earlier pieces – a necklace and two mismatched bracelets – purchased from Cartier by Fellowes. Tallying the number of stones in the original necklace offers a tangible understanding of the amount of effort required in not only designing the piece but the work required to construct such an intricate design. A total of 785 gems, including 594 diamonds, were supplied by Fellowes’s recycled pieces and Cartier added to that a total of 238 diamonds and 8 rubies. The flowering bib of jeweled vegetation was breezily secured by Indian-style silk cords, allowing the necklace to be worn tight around the neck like a collar or looser and lower.
Whereas the Maharajah of Patna’s necklace combined the traditional red, white and green of Indian jewelry, Fellowes’s necklace added to the mix impressive blue sapphires with great emphasis. A series of 13 elliptical faceted sapphires, considered an unlucky stone in Indian tradition, anchor the outer rim of the necklace.
It is said that the only time Fellowes wore the necklace was when she dressed as La Reine d’Afrique for the Beistegui costume ball in Venice in 1951, 15 years after the piece was made. When the heiress died in 1962, the Collier Hindou, as it was dubbed in Cartier’s archives, passed to her eldest daughter, Emmeline de Casteja. Barely a year had passed before Casteja decided to make a few changes to her mother’s magnificent necklace. The most drastic alteration was the removal of the Indian-style silk cords, replaced by a sweeping continuation of the stemmed leaf-and-berry motif to match the rest of the necklace. The grand foliate cluster, with two carved sapphires of 50.80 and 42.45 carats, at the necklace’s center was dramatically modified, moving the thumb-sized stones to terminate each end of the necklace at its clasp and stripping much of the remaining stones along with them.
Casteja passed away in 1986, presumably passing the necklace on to its next owner within the family. In 1991, the necklace surfaced at auction at Sotheby’s in Geneva, reportedly consigned by Fellowes’s great-grandson, Amaury de a Moussaye. As Lot 390 in the impressively stacked sale, the necklace – along with a pair of carved emerald and diamond ear pendants – was a superlative highlight. It was preceded by the iconic Cartier tiger jewels of Barbara Hutton and followed by the 69.68-carat Excelsior I diamond. The necklace and earring set soared well above its estimate of $650,000 to $950,000, with the hammer finally falling at the tune of $2,655,172, then a record price for an Art Deco jewel. The winning bidder was, of course, Cartier, who purchased the important piece for its private collection.
Today, the Collier Hindou is a major highlight of the many exhibitions Cartier has held since the necklace’s sale more than two decades ago. It represents the pinnacle of the Tutti Frutti style, a lavish display of the house’s most emblematic motif and a lasting symbol of the firm’s ingenuity in design, exploratory spirit and exemplary craftsmanship. Cartier’s coveted Tutti Frutti jewels will undoubtedly continue to command jaw-dropping prices at auction for many years to come.