CARTIER AND AMERICA – Exclusive Exhibit at the Legion of Honor

Spectacular and glittering display of the world’s most beautiful jewelry now through April 18th

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Cartier and America covers the history of the House of Cartier from its first great successes as the “king of jewelers and jeweler to kings” during the Belle Époque through to the 1960s and 1970s, when Cartier supplied royalty and celebrities of the day with their jewels and luxury accessories. Derived mainly from the private Cartier Collection, the spectacular array of more than 200 objects includes jewelry of the Gilded Age and Art Deco periods, as well as freestanding works of art such as the famous Mystery Clocks. With an extensive variety of jewelry forms – ranging from traditional white diamond suites to the highly colored exotic creations of the 1920s and 1930s – Cartier made its mark with the ingenuity of its designs and its exquisite craftsmanship. Marking Cartier’s 100 years in the United States, the exhibition concentrates on pieces owned by Americans, including a pair of rock crystal and diamond bracelets worn by Gloria Swanson in the movie Sunset Boulevard, Daisy Fellowes’s famous “Tutti Frutti” necklace, and the exotic flamingo brooch made for the Duchess of Windsor. The exhibition, open until April 18th, 2010, is exclusive to the Legion of Honor.

Bracelets. Cartier Paris, 1930.
Sold to Gloria Swanson; worn in Sunset Boulevard, 1950
Exhibit photos by Seán Martinfield

Erich von Stroheim, Gloria Swanson and William Holden
Sunset Boulevard, 1950

Joe Gillis: I didn’t know you were planning a comeback.
Norma Desmond: I hate that word. It’s a return, a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen.

Private lenders in the United States and Europe have contributed significant pieces to the exhibition. For the first time, an American museum will feature the personal jewelry of Princess Grace of Monaco from the time of her wedding to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, in 1956. These, generously lent by H.S.H. Prince Albert II, include her engagement ring – a 10.47-carat emerald-cut diamond set with two baguette diamonds mounted in platinum – a grand diamond necklace, and more informal gold brooches in the form of birds. The Lindemann Collection of Palm Beach is sharing some of its incomparable clocks, and the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C., is lending jewelry made for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, a longtime Cartier patron. Post’s brooch, one of the most spectacular pieces of jewelry made in the 1920s, incorporates Indian carved emeralds, one of which dates from the Mughal era.

Pendant Brooch and Stomacher

Pendant Brooch (above left) – Cartier London, 1923; altered 1928, Cartier New York. Marjorie Merriweather Post was a regular customer at Cartier New York. Her brooch, one of the most spectacular jewels made in the 1920s, incorporates Indian carved emeralds, one of t=which dates from the Mughal era.
Stomacher Brooch (above right). Cartier Paris, 1907. This exceptionally elaborate type of jewelry was made in emulation of 18th Century examples intended to ornament the bodice.

Carp Clock with retrograde hand. Cartier Paris, 1925.

Carp Clock – Although it is not strictly a mystery clock, this piece – the third in the series of twelve figural clocks – has an hour hand that springs back when it reaches the VI at far right. The jade carps are Chinese, dating from the 18th Century.

Egyptian Striking Clock. Cartier Paris, 1927

Egyptian Striking Clock – Based on the gate of the Temple of Khons at Karnak, this 1927 clock – completed in Maurice Couëtʼs Paris workshop – is the most impressive of Cartierʼs Egyptian-style objects. In 1929, Cartier New York sold the clock to Florence Blumenthal. She was first wife of George Blumenthal, who headed the Wall Street investment bank Lazard and was a trustee (and later president) of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Exhibition curator Martin Chapman declares, “This is a great opportunity to see some of the finest pieces of jewelry, clocks, and works of art by the legendary firm of Cartier – made for Americans or made in America.” Bernard Fornas, president and C.E.O. of Cartier adds, “At Cartier we are very proud to share our long history with the museums and visitors of San Francisco. Through exchanges between our two continents, from one ocean to another, Cartier revives the memory of those great American clients who have enriched its destiny.”

Necklace and sketch. Cartier New York, 1950

Necklace – Made as special order for Marjorie Merriweather Post (then Mrs. Joseph E. Davies), this necklace features a combination of translucent amethysts and opaque tourquoises reminiscent of the Duchess of Windsor’s 1947 bib necklace.

Hindu Necklace. Cartier Paris, 1936; altered 1963

Hindu Necklace – Arguably the most famous Tutti Fruti piece made by Cartier, this necklace was created as a special order for the Hon. Mrs. Reginald Fellowes, daughter of the Duc Decazes and Isabelle Singer (heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune). Daisy Fellowes commissioned the necklace after she saw one that Cartier designed for an Indian maharajah in 1935. She supplied many of the gemstones herself.

Tiger Clip Brooch. Cartier Paris, 1957. Tiger Ear Clips. Cartier Paris, 1961

Tiger Clip Brooch and Ear Clips – Cartier augmented its famous panther jewelry with designs in the form of other big cats. The firm made this tiger brooch and pair of ear clips for Barbara Hutton. Set with yellow diamonds and onyx, the drooping forms resemble the ram’s skin suspended from the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The head, legs and tail of the brooch are articulated.

Barbara Hutton and Maria Felix

Snake Necklace, Cartier Paris 1968
Crocodile Necklace, Cartier Paris 1975

Legend has it that the Mexican movie star Maria Felix appeared at Cartier’s rue de la Paix store with a baby crocodile asa model for the necklace. The result was a dramatic, masterly creation that could be worn as two brooches or as a necklace. Each crocodile is made of articulated gold sections. One is set with 1,023 yellow diamonds and has emeralds for eyes. The other has 1,060 emeralds and ruby eyes. Another special order for Maria Felix, the snake necklace, set with 2,473 diamonds, marks the culmination of Cartier’s work in modeling animals for jewelry.



In the exhibition catalogue author and curator Martin Chapman (see photo descriptions) offers an in-depth exploration of how Cartier conquered America, tracing compelling connections with key patrons. The publication, titled Cartier and America, features numerous commissions for American “royalty,” Hollywood stars, and heiresses. American notables who famously collected Cartier include Marion Davies, Mrs. Cole Porter, Mary Pickford, Barbara Hutton, and Elizabeth Taylor. The catalogue presents images of significant objects complemented, whenever possible, with archival photographs showing the celebrities with their jewels. It is available in the Museum Store (hardcover $29.95). A self-guided audio tour produced by Discovery Audio is also available in the exhibition.

Brush Set. Cartier London. 1966

Made of gold with the initials “SG” applied in lapis lazuli, this dressing set was supplied to actor Stewart Granger.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:


Telephone: 415-846-2475




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