F rom their Mughal origins to Tutti Frutti and beyond, these four distinctive lots embody the creative lineage of jewels over the formative years of the 20th century, and clearly illustrate how carved stones continue to inspire generations of jewellers around the world, often resulting in their most imaginative and colourful creations.
On the front of an elegant, glossy black vanity case, formerly in the collection of the Countess of Sutherland (lot 138), a ruby flower with emerald and sapphire leaves springs from a coral pot. The use of this giardinetto motif in brightly coloured carved precious stones is instantly recognisable as Cartier, whose seminal ‘Tutti Frutti’ designs hold pride of place as one of the best-loved styles of the mid 1920’s.
The carved sapphires, emeralds and rubies that defined these much-admired jewels were initially acquired by Jacques Cartier over a series of trips to India, starting in 1911, where he was awarded commissions from figures such as the Maharajas of Patiala and Kapurthala to remount their jewellery collections in the contemporary Parisian style. The carved stones that Cartier found in these jewels soon worked their way into his firm’s own designs, aimed at a western audience, and under the direction of their lead designer Charles Jacqueau, they were interpreted and arranged as leaves and fruit, often incorporated into bracelets of meandering vines and clustered into giardinetto brooches.
The style captured the imagination of some of the greatest collectors of the time, from Daisy Fellowes to Marjorie Merriweather-Post, and have made an undeniable impact on jewellery design ever since.
In America, where Cartier’s New York branch were also flourishing, a beautiful ruby and diamond brooch attributed to Paul Flato (lot 155) from an important private collection demonstrates the influence of ‘Tutti Frutti’ upon other designers. A jeweller of extraordinary charisma and creativity, Flato is sometimes referred to as the original ‘jeweller to the stars’ – among the first named jewellers to lend his pieces to Hollywood movie productions, and counting icons as Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich among his glamorous clientele.
Dated circa 1938, this ingenious brooch incorporates carved rubies into an abstract flower, the reverse brilliantly engineered to give it articulation, movement and life - a technique Flato adapted from the spring-mounted tremblant jewels of the mid- 19th century. With characteristic humour and irreverence, Flato eschewed any of the more flowery terms available for these articulated designs, and simply referred to them as ‘wiggly’ jewels.
The tactility and the exuberance of these carved stones would also attract the attention of the next generation of American jewellers, such as Seaman Schepps, who freely combined carved, facetted and cabochon stones in wild and beautiful colour combinations in his ‘fruit salad’ jewels throughout the 1940’s and 50’s. An example of his work from the same collection can be found in lot 151 - an emerald, sapphire and diamond ring, showcasing Schepps’ bold aesthetic and his talent for playful juxtapositions of colour, texture and transparency.
Towards the middle of the 20th century, Cartier had also gradually moved away from the Mughal inspiration behind the ‘Tutti Frutti’ jewels and the geometric abstraction of Art Deco, and increasingly towards more figurative designs. Fuelling this shift in aesthetic was Cartier’s designer, Peter Lemarchand, and their creative director, Jeanne Toussaint.
Throughout the 1940’s they created a menagerie of jewelled creatures, including the famed ‘big cat’ jewels, as well as songbirds, chimeras and parrots. Fascinated by animals, Lemarchand is said to have spent hours at the zoo in Vincennes, which informed his lavish and endearing creations. A welcome antidote to the harsh realities of the era, his birds in particular held a deeper meaning - freed from their cages and soaring in the sky, full of colour and movement, they symbolised the liberation of France from its oppression by German forces during the war.
The same carved motif on the sapphires that had Cartier had mostly employed as leaves and fruits in the ‘Tutti Frutti’ jewels of the mid 1920’s was reimagined by Lemarchand as feathers by the late 1940’s. Among the jewels of another private collection in our December sale is lot 83 - a superb carved ruby and diamond brooch by Cartier. Dating from the late 1950’s, the carved rubies are used to represent the vivid plumage of a soaring bird - a self-referential fusion of designs across the pre- and post-war eras, playfully repurposing this earlier motif and applying it to a symbol of post-war freedom and optimism.