The Panthère de Cartier jewelry motif is synonymous with the luxury brand. These elegant renditions have charmed nobility and fashion arbiters since their very first production in 1914.
Despite changing fashions, the eponymous line continues to be adored by tastemakers and nostalgics alike. Cartier’s rings, necklaces and bracelets have been worn by Chloë Sevigny, Jay-Z, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga and Timothée Chalamet. Today, the Panthère remains a fixture on and off the red carpet because of its striking design and storied history.
“La Panthère,” the Original Muse
Named after Jeanne Toussaint, a Belgian-born French jeweler and fashion designer fondly referred to as “La panthère” by Louis Cartier, the design has become a signifier of the wearer’s cool cachet.
Toussaint served as director of fine jewelry for the house in the early twentieth century and became a veritable It Girl of her time, socializing with Coco Chanel, the illustrator George Barbier and other members of French society. Inspired by Toussaint, the house released its first ladies watch embellished with panther spots in diamond and onyx, designed by Charles Jacqueau. It has become an ongoing source of inspiration for the brand.
Toussaint revamped the French brand’s image, imbuing a sense of power, grace and boldness into their unfaltering designs by prominently featuring her artistic inspiration: the panther. The big cat was quite popular in Parisienne home décor and fashion during the period, so the move was an astute business decision.
Throughout the decades, the panther (along with Cartier LOVE) remains one of the most successful and widely recognizable emblems. It’s easy to see why this line remains so beloved as it embodies the house’s spirit effortlessly. Moreover, wearing a Cartier panther signals one’s exalted rank and tenacity to observers. Perhaps this is why the Duchess of Windsor commissioned earrings and the first fully representative panther brooch in 1948, made of yellow gold, emeralds and black enamel.
In the years that followed, other high-ranking individuals followed suit, including Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, Mexican actress María Félix and socialite Barbara Hutton.
When Cartier eventually added an elegant timepiece without fussy embellishments to the Panthère collection, the watch gained a cult following. Adored by men and women, the now-classic watch has captivated world leaders, celebrities and fashionable wearers since its 1983 debut. Discontinued by the brand in 2004, the model was rereleased to much fanfare in 2017. It’s been spotted glinting on the arms of today’s luminaries, including actress Zendaya, model Bella Hadid, First Lady Michelle Obama and boxer Ramla Ali.
The Panthère Turns 100 and Unveils a Hyper-Stylized Design
The Panthère collection has continued to evolve with new artistic variations of the panther cast in luxe metals and adorned with gemstones. Later styles appear in abstract and figurative versions, including limited-edition pieces exclusively crafted for its centenary celebration in 2014.
The panther’s head is designed with precision and attention to detail, resulting in a true-to-life depiction. Cartier’s design ethos, “not to imitate but to pay homage, to breathe life into the animal and bestow it with personality,” ultimately sets the brand apart from competitors. Capturing the essence of the animal rather than its likeness gives designers the artistic license to improvise, creating highly collectible fine jewelry.
Cartier’s design ethos, “not to imitate but to pay homage, to breathe life into the animal and bestow it with personality,” ultimately sets the brand apart from competitors.
Panthère de Cartier transcends design circles. While other jewelry brands have tried to imitate the success of the maison’s emblem, few can replicate it. Needless to say, these distinct pieces appeal to enthusiasts, aficionados and those who don’t regularly collect.
Updating the cat design while retaining classic elements of the piece has kept Panthère jewelry wearable and makes the collection appealing to a broad audience. Perhaps this inability to define La Panthère’s impenetrable mystique and avant-garde sensibility explains why we continue to be drawn to it today.
The Panthère collection is constantly evolving, with new and creative versions of the panther made from luxurious materials and adorned with gemstones.