With the Hyokeikan Gallery at the Tokyo National Museum as setting, leafy Ueno Park blanketed in the charming hues of early autumn, a bewitching tale of mystery, creativity, imagination and jewellery-making savoir-faire unfolded in October last year when Cartier Magicien brought together more than 500 high jewellery pieces and objets d’art.
Some 102 of these pieces were new creations – two years in the making – the rest of the collection made up from other one-of-kind and vintage items.
Since the dawn of time, precious metals and gemstones have been coveted for their magical powers – far exceeding their intrinsic value.
Divided into three creative themes – “The Magic of Light”, “The Magic of Design” and “The Magic of the Real” – Cartier Magicien draws on mankind’s ancient fascination with all things precious through extraordinary pieces that each tell their own story.
Jacqueline Karachi-Langane, creative director for Cartier Prestige, which encompasses fine jewellery, exceptional objects and fine jewellery watches, heads up a creative team of 12 designers.
“The design team represent many different nationalities, and that certainly reflects in this collection,” she says. “The studio is very rich in cultural inspiration.
Each designer has a different way of seeing things, but at the same time they also enrich one another. All of the world is our inspiration because, after all, we design for customers around the world.”
The common denominator, she quickly points out, is Cartier’s unmistakable design language: timeless, but contemporary, creativity.
“We are of course very proud of our roots at Cartier, but always have to evolve to continue the story. We never copy the past.”
As is always the case with high jewellery, it all starts with the sourcing of the gemstones – selected for their rarity.
“The personality of the stone is what makes it unique,” Jacqueline explains. “First of all, the colour is very important – and in the case of diamonds, white is also a colour. Then it’s about the shape, as the design follows around the shape of the stone. Some stones are selected for their purity, while for others it might be some kind of detail that makes them unique. It’s about the beauty of perfection, but also the beauty of imperfection.”
With over 500 high jewellery pieces and other beautiful objects on display, the exhibition is a celebration of Cartier’s ability to work its magic with precious metals and these extraordinary, rare gemstones.
Indeed, almost magically, many of the pieces are transformable and come alive in fluid movement – testament to the sublime craftsmanship Cartier is so renowned for.
Prestige was fortunate to do a photo shoot prior to the opening of the exhibition with Actu-Lum heiress Namthip “Benz” Cholsaipan wearing many of these exceptional pieces, and the Rajasthan set Benz is wearing on this month’s cover is also a standout of exhibition – showcasing magnificent gemstones carved in organic forms and engraved with floral motifs.
Part of “The Magic of the Real” and designed in Cartier’s signature Tutti Frutti style, the necklace is composed of a 136.97-ct cushion-shaped Colombian emerald, a 22.61-ct pear-shaped ruby, a 16.4-ct carved Burmese sapphire and 343.68 carats worth of melon-cut emerald beads. The statement piece can be worn in three distinct ways, while the carved emerald can also be removed and worn as a brooch.
“If you look at Tutti Frutti creations from the past to where we are now, you can always see that it is Cartier – it is a very traditional design,” Jacqueline says. “But the use of colour and stones is different. It has evolved. The stones are still being carved in Jaipur because that’s where the expertise for that particular cut is, but nowadays we like more vibrant colours, more volume and assert greater control over the quality of the stones. But you will always see the tree of life.”
This part of the collection – “The Magic of the Real” – is also the domain of Cartier’s iconic Panthere, creeping up conspicuously against clusters of diamonds with its gleaming emerald eyes and distinct onyx spots, or perched majestically atop a large gemstone with its paws possessively clamped over it. This is also a world where exotic blooms grow in abundance.
Light, a jewel’s greatest conspirator, is celebrated in “The Magic of Light” through a series of diamond-encrusted jewellery pieces.
Thanks to the use of magnificent diamond cuts and craftsmanship, Cartier successfully manipulated the principles of reflection, refraction and dispersion (the holy trinity in attaining brilliance) to its advantage.
Here, the Luminance necklace is perhaps most representative of this accomplishment. Composed of different-sized triangular-cut diamonds with triangular facets, each diamond is artfully placed atop two angled triangular disks – giving the necklace a three-dimensional silhouette.
In “The Magic of Design”, Cartier reveals its technical prowess in a show of clever mechanics and precision engineering – a platform to demonstrate the maison’s expertise in creating transformable jewellery.
A real showstopper here is the Incantation necklace with its 22.82-ct cushion-shaped sapphire from Ceylon. Comprising a supple chain of diamond-pavéd geometrical motifs, the sapphire pendant can be removed and also worn on a ring.
Cartier pushed the limits of creativity even further by devising an ingenious and intricate system that magically transforms the necklace structure at a mere touch.
“As a jeweller, while preserving craftsmanship skills, we are also very open to technology that drives innovation. Complicated pieces like the Incantation necklace would not have been possible without the use of computers,” Jacqueline explains. “Techniques are evolving so quickly that there is no limit to the imagination anymore.