TORNO, Italy — For Cyrille Vigneron, president and chief executive officer of Cartier, Lake Como, with its placid waters and surrounding hills, as well as its Millennial history, is “theatrical” and an excellent stage for the presentation of the house’s new high jewelry collection, called “Sixth Sense.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic, he believes “our senses are reawakening and this gorgeous yet intimate setting perfectly reflects the concept of rebirth we feel. And the Renaissance is intricately linked to Italy,” said Vigneron, speaking on Wednesday at the striking luxury Hotel Il Sereno in Torno, outside Como, designed by Patricia Urquiola, who was also asked by Cartier to conceive the installation for the presentation.
“There are several beautiful villas of aristocratic families here, including Luchino Visconti’s [Villa Erba in nearby Cernobbio], but we wanted a location that would not be linked to a specific period,” explained Vigneron. This is consistent with the idea of the timelessness of the Cartier jewels, he added. “High jewelry is the opposite of fashion, it’s for eternity.”
The location also illustrates the theme of the collection. Using trompe-l’oeil, graphic patterns and optical illusions, “jewels come to life upon contact with the skin. By challenging our perceptions, this collection leads us into a world of sensory stimulation, as each sense comes alive, including the sixth sense, which touches the heart,” Vigneron said.
Cartier is presenting the collection to clients for two weeks and it comprises a total of 250 pieces, including 80 new designs and stunning vintage items under the Cartier Tradition moniker — among the oldest, one was dated 1904.
Vigneron mused about jewels based on “abstraction from natural elements and figurative elements drawn from abstract ideas.”
This Pixelage necklace is reminiscent of the signature Cartier panther, through a stylized play on the spots of the coat of the feline, which has been part of the brand’s artistic fauna since 1914. Polished onyxes evoke the fur of the panther, while white, yellow and orange diamonds represent the thickness of the pelt, with its golden reflections highlighted by three striking golden topazes for a total of 27.34 carats. The vertical geometry of the collar preserves its flexibility.
The Alaxoa necklace expresses the craft of the Cartier artisans. After selecting the emeralds, according to their color and diameter, they carefully consider the harmony, symmetry and correct placement in the composition, before assembling the gems using the threading technique, which consists of threading the stones on a wire to form strands and fringes. Finally, the strands are linked together by tiny metal bridges, maintaining a fan shape while allowing the fringes to remain mobile.
While contemporary, the jewels are consistent with Cartier’s heritage. For example, at the center of the Parhelia ring sits a 21.51-carat blue sapphire cabochon, surrounded by diamonds and emeralds. Created at the very beginning of the 20th century, this combination of sapphires and emeralds, named the “peacock motif” by Louis Cartier, is part of the house’s staple color palette. The ring spans over three fingers, with slightly mobile tips.
In the Meride necklace, diamonds, black onyx and rock crystals are set in a checkerboard mosaic en relief, creating an optical illusion, as each element is mounted at a different level. In addition, the back of the jewel reveals the exact reverse of the front — another Cartier signature.
In the Phaan ring, a 4.01 carat rose-cut diamond is inserted below a 8.20 carat ruby through a tiered construction, intensifying the color of the red shade of the latter. Triangular diamonds, juxtaposed with tiny ruby spheres, surround the central stone.
The executive was pleased to report a “very strong interest” in the collection, already “overbooked.” While Asian clients could not travel to Como due to the pandemic-related restrictions, he said he was expecting clients from Europe, Russia, the U.S. and the Middle East. China is becoming a larger and larger customer base for the brand, he noted. Last year, Cartier had to cancel its high jewelry event in Paris at the Grand Palais because of the health emergency, but the collection traveled to Shanghai, Taipei, Tokyo and other cities in Asia, and was “very well received.” The company also held a small event in St. Petersburg in February.
While not disclosing financial details, Vigneron said high jewelry is “a very important part” of Cartier’s business.
Vigneron emphasized the emotional power of high jewelry, which offers “the most exclusive and yet most inclusive emotions. The world is evolving and everything is digital but there are increasing requests for live experiences in physical spaces.” For this reason, Cartier travels globally to stage exhibitions. Vigneron said that in 2019, Cartier’s “Beyond Boundaries” exhibit drew 600,000 visitors in two months. In mid-October, the house will stage a Cartier Collection exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and another at the Dallas Museum in 2022.
He praised Urquiola’s set to present the “Sixth Sense” collection, “blurring the senses, evoking the water of the lake, the changing colors of nature and never overwhelming the jewelry.”
Urquiola enthused about the “constant dialogue” with Vigneron and Cartier to design the most fitting stage for the jewels, which is always fundamental for the best results, she said.
She first worked to translate the concept of sixth sense into architecture. “Among all senses, it is the most instinctive and the most interiorized. And today we need to use this sense more and more.”
The hotel lies on the shore of the lake and she proceeded to prepare a set that would be strongly linked to its iridescent waters. Light and glass are strong elements, allowing the jewels to be connected to the outside natural landscape in their new and innovative displays, which allow the viewer to freely see the pieces from every angle.
Main elements of the set range from: polarized light at the entrance; the softest carpets in pale colors, which convey the idea of protection — “we would never want a jewel to fall on a hard floor,” Urquiola said; curtain-less windows opening up on the lake, but also specially treated glass panels that look as if drops of water are running down their perimeter, and plants juxtaposed with geometric wooden screens.
Cartier, which counts less than 300 boutiques, is renovating its units around the world and Milan’s Via Montenapoleone flagship will reopen in October. The Paris flagship will be redesigned and completed in the fall of 2022. Stores in Moscow and Beverly Hills will also be renovated and reopen in 2022.