The House of Cartier should be in Australia

The House of Cartier should be in Australia


The House of Cartier offered an education for all in 2018: a once in a lifetime chance to learn about sociology and precious jewellery at a modest price.

Earlier this year Canberra had the distinct pleasure and great honour of hosting the House of Cartier exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). While many buildings in Canberra are of post-modern style architecture, some buildings such as the National Film and Sound Archive and the Manuka Pool buildings are distinctly Art Deco which well suited the Cartier Exhibition theme.

CartierOn 23 June, the then NGA Director, Gerard Vaughan, said, “Art deco is the centre piece of the Cartier exhibition”. He was talking at the ‘Art of the Tiara’ talk at the NGA one winter’s Sunday about the main theme of the exhibition. The Gallery Director, Mr Vaughan, stressed that Canberra was the perfect location for this mega Southern Hemisphere tour.

To my mind, the House of Cartier exhibition was one of the most interesting exhibitions in Australia this year which could be accessed by any member of the public in person for only $27. This must be the cheapest form of personal development that I know of.

The exhibition was superb; if you attended then you know what I’m talking about. If you knew the exhibition was on but did not attend, then you wasted a precious resource only available in the Southern Hemisphere once in a life time.

I am so glad that I visited the exhibition three times. It provided a must needed boost to creativity in the midst of a cold Canberra winter. It felt like I was walking through parts of Buckingham Palace again.  The Gallery had a range of Cartier exhibition special events to enjoy including a Champagne breakfast and a Mother’s Day High Tea.

Can jewellery like the beautiful decorative arts which Cartier designs be considered art? No, not just art, it is high art.Cartier

The House of Cartier’s use of new designs and working with platinum added competition to their rivals activities. For example, jewellery designers of Cartier followed the style of the Roman diadem of Napoleon. During Napoleon’s time, his court used olive branch leaves with berries for decorations.

The use of natural berries and foliage was popular in ancient Egypt, China, Japan and India. This love of nature is echoed in Cartier’s Tutti Frutti range of jewellery.

‎In 1847, in Paris, French jeweller Louis-Francois Cartier began to manufacture novelty fashion items and jewellery. These decorative art pieces exhibited good looks, innovation and design. Onyx, pearls, diamond and enamel are still used for funeral jewellery for State funerals and periods of mourning as is the custom in many northern Hemisphere cultures. Cartier began to meet the needs for high fashion worn by the European nobility.

The garland style of tiaras had begun during the reign of Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, (1643- 1715). In 1884, the Royal Warrants began and Cartier was popular with Queen Alexandra of Denmark (1863-1901) and King Edward V11 as a Court Jeweller. No other jewellery company has been able to rival Cartier since then. Cartier is now the court jeweller for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (see

According to the  NSW Art Gallery website:
“The House of Cartier’s eminence among the jewellery houses of Europe was established when Queen Victoria’s son Edward V11, ordered twenty-seven diamond tiaras for his coronation in 1902. Cartier’s original designs, which embraced the 18th century ‘garland’ style, Indian, Egyptian and Chinese motifs, the panther, and mythological creatures, became particularly prominent in the 1920s and are much sought after today.” See further information at the NSW Art Gallery website:

There are a series of unique tiaras which only Cartier could have designed given the time, access to jewels and technology. A range of photographs of the tiaras are shown at the webpage:

For example, the Cartier Essex tiara was designed and purchased in 1902 with 156 carats. It was last worn by Clemente Churchill at the Queen Elizabeth 11’s coronation. It is now housed within Cartier.

In 1905, Cartier first used platinum in a tiara which became known as the ‘Townshend Tiara’. The headpiece was worn by Mary Scott Townshend. The platinum in the tiara was added to the diamonds for shimmer and sparkle.

Between the two World Wars, the House of Cartier had no equals. During this time, many Americans replaced members of the European aristocracy as Cartier’s main clients. The number of courts in Europe was diminishing and many members of noble families became extinct. The House of Cartier needed to know how to flatter those with high status and rank. Many Hollywood actress could say nothing against Cartier’s approach to marketing of its superb diamond collection:

“A big girl needs diamonds.” Elizabeth Taylor.

“I just love finding new places to wear diamonds.” Marilyn Monroe.

The Cartier Halo tiara designed in 1936, for example, had three bands of diamond and was bound by platinum. The Queen Mother only worn it once. It became an 18th birthday present to the Queen and was loaned to Princess Margaret for many State occasions. The tiara was then offered to Kate Middleton for her wedding when she became the Duchess of Cambridge. A blog of this tiara is listed at:

The tiara is considered to be an art form which is established and ongoing. To many wearers, the tiara is the supreme form of jewellery. To update to this Century, the House of Cartier has had to adapt and innovate.  For example, to add a modern touch to expensive jewellery, bandeaus are worn on the forehead instead of as a tiara on the head.

Sometimes small jewels are used in necklaces and chokers for additional luxury as the modern style of dressing becomes less cluttered, relaxed and more streamlined.

Text copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2018.
Photos various including Fiona Rothchilds 2018.
Uploaded 28 October 2018

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