From The Straits Times    |

Have you heard of the Hope Diamond, the world’s largest blue diamond (45.52 carats) that used to belong to France’s King Louis XIV? Or the Taj Mahal Emerald, a 141.13 carat hexagonal carved gemstone owned by four Mughal emperors in succession? What about the 198-carat cushion-shaped Romanov sapphire worn by Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, wife of Alexander the Third? Or the 55.95-carat La Peregrina pearl? One of the world’s largest symmetrical pear-shaped pearls, it has, in its 500-over year history, graced the likes of European queens … and Elizabeth Taylor.

Aside from being legendary stunners, what they also have in common is that they have, at one point or other, passed through fabled French maison Cartier’s jewellery workshops.

When you’ve created the world’s most exquisite adornments using some of the most famous precious stones in history, and been referred to as “the jeweller of kings, and the king of jewellers” (by actual royalty — King Edward VII of England, to be precise), you don’t just do things by half.

That’s why it took Cartier’s craftsmen two whole years to create 50 new, one-off pieces of haute joaillerie  (high jewellery sounds even fancier in French, n’est-ce pas?) to add to its Cartier Magicien collection. Launched in October 2016, each piece carries at least a six-figure price tag.


A two-week-long exhibition at the venerable Tokyo National Museum, restricted to 1,000 visitors, to showcase the new Magicien pieces, alongside more than 400 other existing high jewellery pieces from its Panthere and Tutti Frutti collections.

Two nights’ worth of gala dinners in the edgy Art Factory Jonanjima, nestled within an industrial estate in Tokyo’s port district, Odaiba.


The amazing French haute cuisine featuring seasonal Japanese produce. Guests enjoyed dishes such as “Eclipse: Urchin and Crab in their shivering gelee”; and “Enchantement: fragrant caramelized sablefish complemented by exotically aromatic mushrooms and a velvety autumn eggplant mousseline”, and “Merveille, a ‘surprising sphere’ made of sugar that was to be cracked open to reveal juicy crystal pomelo from Skiraki Orchard, combined with refreshing mint sorbet”.

A 250-strong guest list at each gala dinner — the first evening saw international journalists mingling with personalities such as film-maker and friend of Cartier Sofia Coppola; Italian-Brazilian socialite, model and Cartier ambassador Bianca Brandolini d’Adda; Dubai-based TV personality and documentary producer Diala Makki; Japanese model-actress Izumi Mori (granddaughter of one of Japan’s most venerated fashion designers Hanae Mori). The subsequent evening hosted VVIP customers (read: multi-millionaires and billionaires), jetted in from across the world.

The gorgeous geishas that heralded the start of the evening’s entertainment

 Both groups were treated to a magnificently multi-sensorial programme comprising French-style haute cuisine using top-end seasonal Japanese produce, performances by geishas, ballerinas and traditional Japanese musicians, and a bevy of elegant models parading all that jaw-dropping bling.

From display case to showcase: After the exhibition, the pieces were transported from Tokyo National Museum to edgy contemporary art space Art Factory Jonanjima in Odaiba…and onto a bevy of models who paraded them during the gala dinner

“It’s all about the art of giving life to the inanimate, of breathing magic into gemstones; using creativity to enhance their beauty, to make light, design and colour come alive while going beyond the apparent,” explains Jacqueline Karachi, Cartier’s creative director, of the Magicien collection.

Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director of style and image, says each of Cartier’s high jewellery collections begins with …  a round-the-world shopping spree.  “The design team travels with the buying team across the world to visit trade fairs and meet merchants, keeping a lookout for new colours, new cuts, and really special stones, “ he says, adding that the designers head to their drawing boards only after the stones have been acquired. “As a maison, we’re holders of a tradition and a culture that has already existed since 1847, and all of us, from the buyers to the designers to the craftsmen, need to work together in the same direction that respects the culture of the maison, yet always pushing ourselves to go further, to invent”.

According to Pierre it’s a “constant challenge and a paradox. For every product we create, we have to ask ourselves ‘Is this Cartier and does it enrich our tradition?’ versus ‘we need to achieve something new’.”

Using Cartier’s strong association with Art Deco-styled jewellery design as an example, Pierre says:  “Its key elements are the black, white and green of onyx, diamonds and emeralds, as well as the abstraction of shapes, and the geometry and symmetry of lines. In order to re-interpret Art Deco in new ways to bring a new sense of aesthetics, we might keep to the black, white and green colour scheme, but move beyond geometry and symmetry to introduce a sense of organized chaos, of more organic, asymmetric shapes that express a new way of thinking of balance and harmony — while often also referencing architecture and its evolution”.

A great embodiment of this would be the Magicien collection’s Cinetique bracelet in white gold, diamonds, and onyx, with a 40.68-carat asymmetric rod-shaped emerald as its centerpiece. (see it in the digital gallery)

The kaleidoscopically kinetic backdrops against which some of the Cartier high jewellery pieces such as the Cinetique Bracelet and the Rajtasthan necklace were displayed, at the Tokyo National Museum.

This crazy-cool cuff is one of my favourite pieces, and to my untrained eye, it calls to mind kryptonite from the original Superman movie, as well as green traffic lights … and zebra crossings. All in all, this assemblage of straight versus angled lines arranged across various planes, and combined with colour blocking, is boldly eye-catching, audaciously decadent, unapologetically idiosyncratic, super modern, and yet somehow so timeless and versatile that (assuming I could afford it), I’d wear it to a Great Gastby themed costume party, a hi-so gala dinner, or clubbing in a white tank and jeans, and it wouldn’t look out of place in any of those settings.

Jacqueline’s expert description perhaps expresses it better: “the aspect and effect is very graphic, full of movement and different optical illusions when viewed from different angles. Worn in motion, it really creates a strobe effect, and when you see it, you are hypnotized, mesmerised”.

“There are three things that will never change about how Cartier approaches its jewellery,” says Pierre of the maison’s ethos of creating timeless designs. “The way we look at jewellery — there has to be comfort for the wearer, fluidity in the piece, and beauty from the beholder; the designs have to enhance the beauty of the stones and make them the centre of attraction; and Cartier is always about the art of playing with light.”

At the same time, Cartier continually strives to achieve groundbreaking designs that reflect the evolution of society. “It’s not just whimsical; we link it to how women express their femininity at the moment; in other words, we see the evolution of our designs as an expression of femininity at that moment in time. After all, jewellery is about pleasure, enjoyment, and the appreciation of beautiful objects that enhance women’s beauty. And what women want now, are versatile pieces that can be worn in different ways.”