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January 15, 2006

Cartier is reclaiming its elitist position as the "king of jewelers and jeweler of kings."

Cartier Jewelry & Watches

Established in France in 1847, today Cartier is part of Richemont, the Switzerland-based luxury group and owner of numerous globally established brands. Beside Cartier, Richemont manages Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, A. Lange & Sohne, Panerai, Vacheron Constantin, Dunhill, Lancel, Montblanc, Montegrappa, Purday, Chloe, Hackett, Old England and Shanghai Tang.

Cartier may be credited with numerous innovations that have had an enduring influence. The firm made a large number of jewels that could be worn in more than one way, such as necklaces that could be dismantled to make bracelets. In making jewelry in the Egyptian revival style it was the first to incorporate scarabs and fragments of ancient faience. The firm also pioneered the use of platinum, which was more durable than gold and showed off diamonds to greater advantage. During the art deco period Cartier fashioned dazzling pieces using onyx, ivory, agate, coral, rock crystal, and jade in combination with precious stones, which stemmed from their designers' enduring fascination with India, the Far East, and Russia.

Cartier is on a high, as the jeweler that was one of the first brands to democratize luxury is now reclaiming its elitist position as the "king of jewelers and jeweler of kings."

Cartier's historic store on Rue de la Paix has reopened in January 2006 on two levels behind its black marble façade.

The expanded store has doubled in size, but far from opening up as a vast temple, is banking on intimacy. A line-up of small rooms for special clients has original light oak wood paneling carved with garlands and hung with certificates from England's Edward VII, (in 1905) through the king of Siam and Russian czars. Even the grand new staircase, echoing the modernist Art Deco style that Louis Cartier defined as early as 1899, leads up to tiny, book-lined boudoirs for one-to-one service.

Should you be as wealthy as the Indian maharajahs who helped to create Cartier's fame, you might be ushered into a room where Indian portraits line the walls and offered a tray of 13 exceptional pieces, made today by Cartier's 18-strong design team. Those pieces include a fresh version of the colorful "Tutti Frutti" necklace and a platinum "Chimère" bracelet, set with emeralds and sapphires, in which the mythical beast wraps round the wrist in a miracle of craftsmanship that required 2,000 hours of work.

The adjacent room is dedicated to Jeanne Toussaint, the elegant woman behind Cartier's signature panther designs. On the wall are working drawings and photographs showing society figures such as Daisy Fellowes or the Duchess of Windsor in their bold finery.

Sprinkled throughout the store are more accessible jewelry, scarves and graceful handbags. The heritage director, Pierre Rainero, points out discreet photographs of clients as the Belle Epoque Russians morphed into New World American client from the 1920s to 1960s.

Now customers are multinational. The stairwell beneath the atrium filled up with guests from Japan and China, where Cartier was a pioneer and already has 14 boutiques, competing with Indians and bejeweled Russians. In honor of those jewelry high rollers, the party tent was decorated like a St. Petersburg palace, with a Russian orchestra and a menu of caviar and beef stroganoff, and with vodka flowing as fast as Champagne.

The major development in the global jewelry market over the last decade has been branded lines from fashion houses such as Gucci or Dior, as well as the purchase of historic jewelers by luxury groups. Cartier is part of the Richemont Group, the second largest luxury conglomerate, after LVMH. Working autonomously, but with synergies to the parent company, especially for time pieces, Cartier is now the No. 1 for jewelry sales and No. 2, after Rolex, for watches in the world - although no precise figures are broken out. StumbleUpon reddit Facebook Google Plus Tweet This Seed This on Newsvine

Edited & Posted by the Editor | 6:17 AM | Link to this Post

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