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, TuttiFrutti 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 earliest known button, found at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley, was a small round decorative ornament made of shell around 5,000 years old for sartorial flourish. The typical buttonhole was invented in the mid-thirteenth century, as clothing became closer fitting and buttons were used to accentuate the figure. In 1250, buttons were prized as luxury objects and laws and guilds restricted their use. During this medieval period, buttons meant power and luxury. The Italian term for a place powerful leaders meet is still stanza dei bottoni, “room of the buttons.” In the seventeenth century, Louis XIV, famously loved fine jewelry, and had many sets of diamond buttons, including a coat with 123 diamond buttons, diamond-encrusted buttonholes, and diamond sprays extending from the buttonholes.
By the Art Deco period, the Industrial Revolution and mass production had made buttons less expensive and easier to obtain and they were common on most articles of clothing for every class. The great French jewelers, however, still fashioned elegant dress sets of luxurious materials for the men who purchased fantastic jewelry for their wives. While buttons and cufflinks provided a limited design surface, the jewelers created pieces with geometric clarity and bold colors to accent male evening attire. Besides a watch and perhaps a ring, a dress set was the only wearable jewelry for a man in the 1920s.
This dress set by Cartier is particularly beautiful. Composed of a rounded frosted moonstone set with a cabochon sapphire in a bezel of white metal, the buttons are meant to glisten in the low light of an evening event. Just as sartorially elegant as when they were created a century ago, this dress set would be a beautiful addition to any collection.