Platinum, Diamond & Onyx
Cartier brooch, circa 1930, in platinum, diamond, and onyx. This jewelry design is known as a butterfly brooch. The butterfly brooch first became popular in the Belle Époque era, but the strong geometric styling of this Cartier brooch clearly place it in the Art Deco period. As is often the case in Art Deco jewelry, artistic effect and a virtuoso expression of the jeweler’s art, are of greater importance than the presence of large gemstones. Fabricated in unmarked platinum, this Cartier brooch bears the engraved jeweler’s mark Cartier NY, indicating the brooch was marketed at the New York branch of Cartier. At the time this piece was made jeweler’s marks were not meant to be easily visible. The Cartier mark on the brooch is very small and concealed, and it is only under magnification that it can be clearly seen.
Established in Paris, Cartier also had branches in New York, London, and St. Petersburg. Cartier is among the premiere names in fine jewelry, along with Van Cleef & Arpels, Buccellati, Bulgari, and Tiffany. The presence of the Cartier mark is a significant value factor in itself, over and above the impeccable design and craftsmanship of the piece of jewelry.
The firm of Cartier was founded by Louis–François Cartier in Paris in 1847. In 1909 Cartier first established the New York branch of the company, but it was in 1917 that the iconic Fifth Avenue headquarters was acquired as a result of a barter deal, which has become famous.
Maisie Plant, wife of the railroad baron Morton Plant, fell in love with a double strand necklace of 128 perfectly matched natural saltwater pearls, in the Cartier showroom. Even today, when cultured pearls are commonplace, pearls of this quality and rarity are extremely valuable. At the time, the pearl necklace was valued at $1,000,000. Pierre Cartier traded the necklace and a payment of $100 for the Plants’ New York City mansion on the corner of 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Located in what is now known as Midtown Manhattan, it was described by the New York Times as “one of the finest” residences in the area. The structure was built in limestone and marble, in a revival of the Italian Renaissance style. Given the price of Manhattan real estate today, there can be no doubt that Pierre Cartier got one of the great bargains of all time.