A Trio of Gem-Set Turtle Brooches by Cartier, Paris, circa 1967
A trio of turtle brooches, the first composed of a turquoise cabochon shell, fins, and head with diamond and sapphire accents; the second with a mother-of-pearl shell, fluted coral and diamond fins and head, supporting a baby turtle of faceted coral and emerald; the third with a lapis lazuli shell, turquoise fins, and diamond and sapphire head, supporting a baby with turquoise cabochon shell and diamond fins; mounted in 18-karat yellow gold and platinum, with French assay marks, in boxes
- Each signed Cartier Paris and numbered
- Each measuring approximately: 2 ¼ x 1 ½ x ¾ inches
L'Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode, no. 549, December 1967
Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier. His three grandsons, Louis, Pierre, and Jacques, built the house into a famous international jewelry empire serving royalty, Hollywood stars, and socialites. Cartier has created some of the most important jewelry and objects of art of the twentieth century with many iconic designs such as mystery clocks, Tutti Frutti jewelry and the Panthère line. In 1983, The Cartier Collection was established with the objective of acquiring important pieces that trace the firm's artistic evolution. Today, Cartier has 200 stores in 125 countries.
The turtle has long been a symbol of tenacity, perseverance, and wisdom due to their long lifespan, slow movement, and the distances they travel. They have an important role in mythology, taking part in the creation mythology of numerous cultures. The World Turtle is often depicted in stories and art as carrying the world on its back. The earliest depictions or the Nile turtle appear in the 4th millennium BCE, before the Egyptian dynasties. One of Aesop’s famous fables, credited to a Greek storyteller from 600 BCE, features “The Tortoise and the Hare,” (a tortoise is strictly a land turtle).
With such cultural importance, the turtle has been featured in art for millennia. By the 1960s, when Cartier began making turtle brooches, the form was both whimsical and familiar. Jeanne Toussaint, the director of luxury jewelry at Cartier, had worked at the company since 1913. She was a design genius, helping the company to create iconic pieces such as the panthère and chimera. She cleverly returned to the design roots of the company, reviving earlier forms in her bold and colorful way. She undoubtedly considered the wonderful and important clocks made by Cartier in the Art Deco periof that featured floating turtles.
In the 1960s, Cartier created wonderful flora and fauna jewels in bright colors. An advertisement from French fashion magazine L’Officiel in 1967 features the turquoise turtle brooch alongside birds, flowers, and bright cocktail jewels. This unusual trio of turtle brooches, from a single collector, unites the mythology of the turtle with precious materials and the whimsical, refined style of Jeanne Toussaint. They would be a wonderful addition to any collection.