- cf. Vogue, September, 15, 1940, p. 65.
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 1940s was largely dominated by World War II, and the pressures of wartime changed material culture and leisure pastimes. Women went to work in large numbers to fill positions vacated by soldiers, and their clothing changed from carefree flapper attire to a professional silhouette dominated by suit jackets with wide shoulders and nipped in waists. Going to the movies became a major pastime, and the advent of Film Noir, with dark themes and chiaroscuro lighting, reflected the serious attitudes of the era. The exaggerated visuals in film and fashion required bold oversized jewels.
In 1940, Vogue featured a picture of Princess Hohenlohe, an American who married a Polish diplomat. She was photographed by Horst in an atmospheric Film Noir manner with a serious expression and heavy shadows. The Princess wears bold gold and diamond jewelry, including a Cartier bracelet identical to the ones in this set, which complements the serious feel and adds subtle glamour. Twisted links of gold come together to make this jewel. The place where the links meet is subtly flattened and set with diamonds in platinum, adding a touch of chic luxury. Hidden clasps allow the necklace to be separated into various combinations of necklaces and up to four bracelets that can be stacked or worn individually.
Although Cartier is often associated with important gemstones, the company also created artistic pieces, such as this necklace, that were more about design than materials. This machine-style piece was created at a time when art and design were influenced by the ideal of the machine as a combination of ingenious gears, cams, and axles. All trace of romanticism or whimsy had disappeared, replaced with a sense of bold strength. Some of the most fashionable women of the 1940s wore oversized link bracelets, including Millicent Rogers, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and the Duchess of Windsor, reflecting a glamorous era of independence and industry. Cartier cleverly adjusted the design of the link bracelet to create a necklace, and it is exceedingly rare to find a set of two bracelets convertible to a necklace. This iconic twisted link jewel would be an important and chic addition to any collection.