When Tony Curtis gives Marilyn Monroe a Cartier diamond bracelet in director Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, the red box in which the glamorous gift is contained gives the scene an air of added aura and chic.
This story first appeared in the May 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Cartier’s red leather box, the container for its fabulous jewels, has become so recognizable that it alone is enough to quicken a woman’s heartbeat with anticipation.
In fact, the red vessel is so important to the jewelry house that the box, adorned with a gold lace border and padded with black velvet or white silk, depending on the jewels it holds, adds significantly to the value attributed to a Cartier piece at auction.
The box, often made to measure for the specific treasure it holds, records the history of passing time by acquiring a subtle patina—proof beautiful pieces are able to grow old gracefully.
The box goes back to at least the turn of the century, when it was sometimes green or a less-vibrant shade of red. In 1926, Cartier jewelry in its famous red box appeared on the Broadway stage in Anita Loos’ play Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. However, just like the Cartier logo, the first incarnation of which dates back to Louis Cartier writing his signature with one C inside of another, the red box didn’t find its final modern incarnation until the Seventies.
Both now communicate the character of Cartier as effectively as the most sumptuous gem.