Lot 594
  • 594

Unique and highly important conch pearl, enamel and diamond bracelet, Cartier, late 1920s

750,000 - 1,300,000 CHF
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  • Conch pearl, enamel, platinum, diamond
Designed as a highly articulated band of vines burgeoning with conch pearl 'fruits', the band set with cushion-shaped, circular-, single-cut, and rose diamonds, embellished with black enamel, length approximately 186mm, signed Cartier, Made in France, French assay and maker's marks, a few small black enamelled beads deficient, later case stamped Cartier Paris.


Formerly in the personal collection of Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.


Cf: David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti, Celebrating Jewellery: Exceptional Jewels of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2012, page 159 for an illustration of this bracelet.

Cf: Judy Rudoe, Cartier 1900-1939, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997, page228 for bracelets of the same style made in 1925 and 1929.


Potential bidders who intend to export this lot are advised that permits may be required for import in certain countries. If you are interested in this lot, please contact the Jewellery Department before bidding. Stamped with French assay marks for platinum. Signed CARTIER, MADE IN FRANCE on clasp. Conch pearls ranging from light to intense pink body colour with typical flame like structure, few blemishes and growth marks, one chipped at the drill hole. Diamonds estimated to weigh a total of approximately 12.00 - 15.00 carats, on average of G-I colour and VS-SI clarity, as gauged and graded in mounting. Black enamel with a few areas of loss, some scratches, few beads with retouching. Clasp secure, safety catch to the side. Signs of normal wear to the metal, scratches consistent with use. In good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Please note that colour, clarity and weight of gemstones are statements of opinion only and not statements of fact by Sotheby's. We do not guarantee, and are not responsible for any certificate from a gemological laboratory that may accompany the property. We do not guarantee that watches are in working order. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue, in particular to the Notice regarding the treatment and condition of gemstones and to the Notice regarding import of Burmese jadeite and rubies into the US.

Catalogue Note

“We know of no other significant Cartier jewel that employed the charming baby pink conch pearl in conjunction with black enamel and diamonds. The fruiting vine central motif is shared with other highly chromatic ‘tutti frutti’ bracelets designed in the company’s workshops at this date. Although the design is totally balanced and harmonious, the principal gems, all of different sizes and slightly different shades of colour are placed asymmetrically giving the jewel a sense of tension which is highly unusual. ” Excerpt from the recently released book ‘Celebrating Jewellery: Exceptional Jewels of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’, by David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2012, page 159.

Victoria Eugenie was born on October 24th, 1887, at Balmoral Castle, in Scotland. Her grandmother was Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, the youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. To her family and the British general public, she was simply known as Ena.

It was in 1905, at Buckingham Palace, that Ena would make the acquaintance of her future husband, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, at a dinner hosted by her uncle, Kind Edward VII. While it was widely known that the King of Spain sought a suitable bride, most believed the strongest candidate to be Princess Patricia of Connaught, daughter of Kind Edward’s brother, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. Despite Princess Patricia’s best efforts, the King was suddenly struck by Ena’s beauty and her ‘almost white hair’. A year of courtship would ensue followed by instruction at Versailles on the Catholic faith, a must for the future Queen of Spain.

On May 31st, 1906, Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Eugenie married King Alfonso at the Royal Monastery of San Geronimo in Madrid. Together, they would have seven children, five sons and two daughters. Ena devoted herself to various charitable causes and was actively involved in the reorganization of the Spanish Red Cross. In honour of this work, the city of Barcelona erected a statue of her in a nurse’s uniform, in 1929.

On the 14th of April 1931, the Spanish royal family went into voluntary exile, first to France and later to Italy, hoping to avert a civil war between the Republicans and the Nationalist. Sadly, the King and Queen’s marriage was not always joyous, put to light by the four illegitimate children fathered by Alfonso. Following their separation, Ena purchased a chateau in Vieille Fontaine, near Lausanne, Switzerland. She would reside there until her death on April 15th, 1969, at the age of 81.

Although Cartier had started experimenting with the use of a chromatic palette of carved gemstones in jewels as early as 1915, Cartier’s now famous ‘Tutti Frutti’ jewels were introduced at the Paris exhibition of 1925. These early examples often incorporated gemstones provided by the commissioning client. The use of conch pearls in a bracelet of this period by Cartier is unique; one can only assume that such an element was specifically requested or provided by the client.

Examples of similar bracelets by Cartier of this period normally employ the use of two or three coloured gemstones. This bracelet is rare as it incorporates the use of only one accent colour, the light pink iridescent shades of the conch pearl. And whilst other examples employ carved and polished gemstones, the natural flame like structure of the conch pearl negates any need for carving. Also adding to the illusion of naturalism is the use of black enamel at the base of each ‘fruit’ creating a shadow effect. This bracelet ranks amongst the most important jewels created by Cartier in the inter-war years.