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To Frederic de Narp, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America, an iconic piece at Cartier is about more than just the design.
This story first appeared in the May 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Of course an icon is beautiful and timeless, but it is also a piece with an important story and great deal of symbolism behind it,” he says.
This is why the three most recognizable jewelry icons at Cartier — the Trinity, Panther and Love — all bear significant meaning and have been coveted by generations of collectors, admirers and celebrities alike. Here, an inside look at why these three designs have become the icons they are today.
Probably the best-known of Cartier’s iconic designs, the Trinity first appeared in 1924 when the French jeweler designed an interlocking three-banded ring consisting of platinum (a symbol of friendship), rose gold (for love) and yellow gold (for fi delity). While the ring became popular soon after it hit the sales floor, it was the three-band Trinity bracelet, created that same year and purchased first by celebrated American interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, that really turned heads. Since then, the ring has seen a variety of influential wearers over the years, including Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Cocteau (who famously wore two Trinity rings on one finger), David Bowie and Madonna.
To celebrate its American centennial, Cartier has designed a new Trinity group that is now in store—the Trinity 100 Collection comprises three-ringed bracelets, earrings and rings accented with diamond stars. It also includes an oversize bracelet with pavé diamonds and chain necklaces. The new Trinity line debuted on the runway at Phillip Lim’s show in February. “We wanted to partner with a young, cutting-edge designer for the launch of this modern Trinity collection,” relates de Narp of the choice to show with Lim. “What has come of this is a great partnership.”
The Love collection was created in the heart of the Sixties, during the time of Vietnam War protests and catchphrases such as “Make love, not war.” It was this sentiment that sparked the creation of the Love bracelet in 1969, one of the few items created by Cartier in New York. The gold bracelet was designed so the wearer cannot put it on alone. Rather, it must be placed on the wrist and locked with a key by his or her significant other, who then is meant to hold the key.
“Besides the engagement ring, the Love bracelet is seen as the ultimate symbol of love and commitment,” de Narp explains. The modern day Love collection is still based on the original symbol of commitment, but today Cartier aligns itself with a series of charities and celebrities for the annual Love Day, which will take place on June 11 of this year. In 2008, Cartier partnered with eight musicians, including Janet Jackson, the members of Good Charlotte and Emmy Rossum. As in the past, with celebrities such as Salma Hayek and Djimon Hounsou, each is linked to a charity of his or her choice, and a portion of each Love Charity bracelet sale goes to that charity. The charity bracelets are made of silk cord with a gold fob, and the color corresponds to the particular cause. To date, the Love Charity bracelet has raised well over $3 million for various funds.
“It’s our hope that we can entice Americans to give back and become committed to a charity,” de Narp says. “That’s very much in the DNA of Cartier.”
The first signs of Cartier’s iconic Panther, a symbol of strong femininity, appeared on a watch in 1914. However, it wasn’t until the Forties when the feline captured the attention of one particular designer at the maison, Jeanne Toussaint. Nicknamed “The Panther” by her colleagues, Toussaint was hired by Cartier in 1933 and was widely known as a woman with exquisite taste, but also “as imaginative as she was demanding.”
Toussaint was obsessed with animals — particularly the panther — which has been considered the most feminine of the felines. She even took regular trips to the Vincennes zoo to study the graceful movements of the big cat, aiming to translate the creature into a jewelry collection. Toussaint was careful to catch the essence of the way the animal moved, studying the fluid muscle movements and then emulating them with the diamond-encrusted Panther earrings, brooches, necklaces, bracelets and eyewear of today. Toussaint’s design captured the attention of the Duchess of Windsor, who commissioned the house to create a one-of-a-kind Panther brooch in 1949. The brooch was made of platinum and white gold with single-cut diamonds and two pear-shaped yellow diamonds used for the eyes. The jeweled animal is seen cradling a single 152.35-carat sapphire cabochon, while other small sapphires serve as the spots on the body.
“There is true symbolism and a very interesting story behind the woman wearing the Panther,” de Narp says. “She has a strong personality, but is also quite feminine and elegant—much like the animal itself.”