Cartier Renderings

The life of any piece of jewelry begins with an idea. Before metal can be cast or stones can be set, a designer must sit down and create an image of what the final product will look like.

It’s not often we get the chance to come face to face with this phase of vintage jewelry production, which is why Gray & Davis is delighted to display, for a limited time, some Cartier hand sketches dating from 1930 to 1950. Created by house designer Edouard Blondeau, these beautiful gouache images of necklaces, rings, bracelets, broaches, and earrings are works of art in themselves.

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Then, as now, Cartier was one of the most famous and admired jewelry houses in the world, its work regularly worn by royalty and celebrities. The artisans it employed would have been at the top of their professions, as these illustrations certainly affirm. The designs are elegant and luxurious, full of ornate metalwork and precious stones. In many cases, they cleverly take inspiration from the natural world.

Even more than the content of these illustrations, however, it’s their form that makes them so rare. While plenty of designers still sketch out their ideas, a detailed rendering is just as likely to come from a computer program. And even when done by hand, contemporary sketches just don’t measure up to the intricacy and skill displayed here. The bright color, dimensionality, and impressionistic details of these drawings provide a sense of a finished piece’s substance and luster. Looking at them, it seems like the depicted jewelry leaps off the page.   

 Platinum and diamond earring, c. 1935

Platinum and diamond earring, c. 1935

 Turquoise, colored stone, and diamond necklace, c. 1945

Turquoise, colored stone, and diamond necklace, c. 1945

 Gold and colored stone cuff bracelet, c. 1950

Gold and colored stone cuff bracelet, c. 1950

This is all the more special because it’s entirely possible that these images do represent the final form of these designs—all we know is that they were never incorporated into the official Cartier line. This leaves two possibilities. Each sketch may have been presented as a potential piece for a Cartier collection, and never put into production. Or, alternately, it may have been designed as a custom piece for a client, who may or may not have had it created. Records don’t indicate one way or the other.

 Detail of watermark

Detail of watermark

We do know that these pieces were created in Cartier’s home city of Paris. These sketches, like all made at the house, bear a company watermark; the order of the cities listed therein changed according to where a sketch was made, with the origin as the first location listed.

Gray & Davis invites you to come visit these sketches in our West Village store—you may even be inspired to take one or two home yourself! And, the next time you look at a piece of jewelry, think about the process it took to get here—and, particularly if it’s an older piece, the additional beauty it might have generated on the way.

A Victorian Gate Bracelet

Gate bracelets--link bracelets with a heart-shaped padlock closure--were a popular gift around the turn of the twentieth century. 

 English gate bracelet in 9k yellow gold, c. 1900. Currently available at Gray & Davis. 

English gate bracelet in 9k yellow gold, c. 1900. Currently available at Gray & Davis. 

Traditionally, a gentleman would place the bracelet on the wrist of his paramour and lock the clasp with a matching key, thus ensuring that he was the only one able to open the "gate" to his lady love's heart. 

The clasp on our gate bracelet functions quite well without it's key, so whoever wears it is able to to open and close their heart's gate according to their own free will. 

From the Gray & Davis Archives

Below are a few of the fabulous jewels of Gray & Davis past. We’re glad these pieces went to good homes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce!

From top to bottom:

- Hand Engraved Art Nouveau locket with sapphire cabochons

- French navette bracelet in gold and platinum set with moonstones and rose cut diamonds

- A fabulous pair of Victorian gold earrings

- Hinged snake bangle with enamel and gemstone head

- Edwardian cocktail ring with two large natural pearls and old mine cut diamonds set in platinum

VICTORIAN BRACELET PAIRS

During the Victorian Era, bracelets were often sold in pairs. Today, it's rare to find two matching bracelets that are still together, so we are quite pleased to have three lovely sets in our cases for the holidays:

Back in the day ladies would have worn one bracelet on each wrist, but we think they look pretty nifty all stacked up together:

 Three sets of nineteenth-century bangles in 14k yellow gold, all available at Gray & Davis.

Three sets of nineteenth-century bangles in 14k yellow gold, all available at Gray & Davis.


A Monday Menagerie

We have quite a collection of animal-themed jewels at the moment.

A lovely lizard:

 Brooch, 18k gold, coral, diamond & ruby. 19th century, French. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Brooch, 18k gold, coral, diamond & ruby. 19th century, French. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

An Outstanding Owl:

 Brooch. 9k gold, Bohemian garnet. 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Brooch. 9k gold, Bohemian garnet. 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Some slithering snakes surrounding a scarab:

 Ring. 14k yellow gold, boulder opal carved as scarab. Art Nouveau c.1900. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Ring. 14k yellow gold, boulder opal carved as scarab. Art Nouveau c.1900. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

A ghostly goat:

 Intaglio seal ring. 14k gold, carnelian, early 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Intaglio seal ring. 14k gold, carnelian, early 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Two loving lions:

 Bangle. 18k yellow gold, 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Bangle. 18k yellow gold, 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

A foxy fox:

 Brooch. 14k yellow, ruby. Currently available at Gray & Davis. 

Brooch. 14k yellow, ruby. Currently available at Gray & Davis. 

And some busy beetles:

 Earrings. 14k yellow gold, Brazilian tortoise beetles. Mid-19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Earrings. 14k yellow gold, Brazilian tortoise beetles. Mid-19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.