“An enchanting jewel of a book.”—Douglas Smith, author of Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy
The captivating story of the family behind the Cartier empire and the three brothers who turned their grandfather’s humble Parisian jewelry store into a global luxury icon—as told by a great-granddaughter with exclusive access to long-lost family archives
The Cartiers is the revealing tale of a jewelry dynasty—four generations, from revolutionary France to the 1970s. At its heart are the three Cartier brothers whose motto was “Never copy, only create” and who made their family firm internationally famous in the early days of the twentieth century, thanks to their unique and complementary talents: Louis, the visionary designer who created the first men’s wristwatch to help an aviator friend tell the time without taking his hands off the controls of his flying machine; Pierre, the master dealmaker who bought the New York headquarters on Fifth Avenue for a double-stranded natural pearl necklace; and Jacques, the globe-trotting gemstone expert whose travels to India gave Cartier access to the world’s best rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, inspiring the celebrated Tutti Frutti jewelry.
Francesca Cartier Brickell, whose great-grandfather was the youngest of the brothers, has traveled the world researching her family’s history, tracking down those connected with her ancestors and discovering long-lost pieces of the puzzle along the way. Now she reveals never-before-told dramas, romances, intrigues, betrayals, and more.
The Cartiers also offers a behind-the-scenes look at the firm’s most iconic jewelry—the notoriously cursed Hope Diamond, the Romanov emeralds, the classic panther pieces—and the long line of stars from the worlds of fashion, film, and royalty who wore them, from Indian maharajas and Russian grand duchesses to Wallis Simpson, Coco Chanel, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Published in the two-hundredth anniversary year of the birth of the dynasty’s founder, Louis-François Cartier, this book is a magnificent, definitive, epic social history shown through the deeply personal lens of one legendary family.
A French jewelry dynasty weathers war, financial collapse, and a trend toward casual fashions in this sparkling group biography. Brickell, great-great-great-granddaughter of Cartier's founder, draws on family letters and records to recount the family-owned Cartier's four-generation rise from a Paris jewelry shop to a global luxury brand that has outfitted movie stars, maharajas, princesses, and prostitutes. It's a saga of heroic social climbing as the Cartier commoners edged into the aristocratic circles they catered to beginning in the late 19th century, featuring unhappy arranged marriages for money and a snub that almost precipitated a duel between scion Louis Cartier and a Rothschild in the 1920s. There is also adventure and peril, including gem-hunting expeditions to India in 1911, two German military occupations, and the Bolsheviks' liquidation of Cartier's prized Romanov clientele, but subtler forces posed graver threats: high post WWII taxes that sapped heiresses' disposable incomes, and the erosion of couture standards that once compelled fashionable women to wear diamonds to the opera. Brickell adds well-informed commentary on Cartier's jewelry innovations, like the displacement of ponderous Victorian bling with lighter, elegant pieces in delicate platinum settings, and the pioneering of men's watch designs. The result is an engrossing study of jewelry history and of high society at its flashiest, studded with entertaining anecdotes. Photos.