PARIS — In 1913, Marie Bonaparte — one of Sigmund Freud’s ardent disciples and Napoleon’s great-niece — dazzled le tout Paris in a lavish lavaliere with two dangling diamond-studded pinecones designed by Louis Cartier.
Those jewels will shine anew — and perhaps find a new owner — as Cartier exhibits them for sale alongside 50 rare vintage creations at the Biennale des Antiquiaires antiques show here from Wednesday to Sept. 28.
“The pieces are truly exceptional,” says Pierre Rainero, director of strategy and patrimony at Cartier. “Once the pieces were brought back to Paris, we consulted our archives and restored them to the original state. Marie Bonaparte’s lavaliere had been made into earrings. We’ve restored it so it can be worn both ways.”
Cartier is bringing a group of its biggest clients to Paris for the display and it also will premier some 50 contemporary creations.
The sale of restored vintage jewelry is among Cartier’s lesser-publicized activities. But it has been beefed it up over the last few years as Rainero and his team trot around the globe in search of relics from Cartier’s past.
“We’ve been particularly busy,” says Rainero, noting there are about 1,200 pieces in Cartier’s collection, although many aren’t for sale. “Most of the pieces to be shown at the Biennale have been found in the last year.”
Obviously the loot has been particularly rich. Alongside Bonaparte’s bling will be a masterful platinum and diamond Indian-style necklace created in 1931 for the Polish diva Ganna Walska, which was later acquired by Doris Duke, and a rare necklace with diamonds and 118 Burmese rubies that belonged to the Maharajah Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar.
“Rubies of this quality are incredibly rare,” says Rainero. “To see more than a hundred this quality together is mind-boggling.”
Perhaps the most extraordinary collectable is the Star of the South diamond. Weighing in at 128.48 carats, it is one of the world’s mythical stones, discovered in Brazil in 1853.
“It’s more than the sheer beauty of the pieces that is interesting,” says Rainero. “You hold them in your hands and you can feel history running through your veins.”
— Robert Murphy