Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cartier and America

After a LONG week of pretty much non-stop RAIN, I just had to venture outside of the apartment and so I went up to the Legion of Honor to see their special exhibit entitled "Cartier and America." It was so unbelievable the amount of jewels they had in one exhibition. The exhibit began in December 2009 marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of Cartier's New York store. The exhibit had a room containing the sketches and designs of the jewelry- each having to be approved by the customer (if it was a couture piece) and Cartier. They had a short film illustrating the complicated process of making fine jewelry. I never realized the huge amount of craftsmanship that each piece has. First, a wax replica of the piece is made and then a metal cast of it. The metal cast is then carved to hold the stones and then each stone is put into place. I never realized just what a steady hand you need to have inlay the stones. After all the stones are set, it is then polished. And the pieces from this workshop are so seamless and beautiful. Of course, no photography is allowed in the exhibit so I have taken photos of a few of the postcards I bought which DEFINITELY do not these artistic creations justice- you need to see them with the light reflecting off the different facets and literally sparkling.

Cartier is generally associated with the intricate diamond and platinum settings (although he did experiment with both white and yellow gold as trends demanded). I think that these bracelets exemplify this style. Yeah, I could definitely wear these (some of the pieces I couldn't see myself wearing since they are so gaudy and extreme)

I wish that they had a postcard of one of my favorite pieces- this diamond jaguar bracelet that was completely bendable, yet appeared so fluid (at least on the surface). Just pretend that the jaguar from this photo is fully extended

Cartier was also a genius at making pieces multi-functional. For example, there was this bandeau tiara that could be separated into a bracelet and a necklace. I also liked his pieces that incorporated diamonds with other stones like this brooch with gorgeous emeralds. They had one necklace that had a 143 carat emerald! That is ginormous!

Cartier went through a couple of "phases" that I appreciate from an art/fashion standpoint but I was not a big fan of them. The main one was the "Tutti Fruiti" style (I'm not making it up- it was featured on the exhibit plaques) where it combined pink, blue, purple, and green stones. He also did some Egyptian style pieces after King Tut's tomb discovery as well as some Chinese jade work. The pieces were definitely beautiful but I just prefer his own characteristic style.

They also had Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco's over 10 carat diamond wedding ring as well as several other of her more extravagant pieces. They also had the ruby jewelry of Elizabeth Taylor who received Cartier from several of her husbands. I found out that she gave the huge 45 carat stone from Richard Burton to raise money for hospitals in a developing country.

My favorite unexpected discovery was Cartier's "Mystery Clocks". I had never heard them associated with him but he created many- at least a dozen were on exhibit. They call it a "mystery clock" due to the hands appearing to be suspended within the quartz. It turns out that each hand is placed in a unique cut in the quarts- but it didn't give anymore detail than that.

It was an incredible exhibit- I wish that they would have included the appraised value for the works just to kind of bring it back to the "real world."

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