Updated: Oct 9, 2020
An incredible pair of yellow gold 'grain de cafe' bracelets made by Cartier, Paris in the early 1950s.
Jewellery made using gold 'coffee beans' became increasing familiar after 1950. Whilst, this was a
signature motif of Cartier Paris, Cartier London also joined the party and made 'grain de cafe' or 'coffee bean', (as it is known in English) jewellery. One of the great fans of this jewellery was Princess Grace of Monaco seen on the 1957 Monaco stamp wearing her 'grain de cafe' necklace.
The question: Who can give a definitive explanation as to why Cartier chose to use this particular motif?
We understand it must have originated with Madame Toussaint, Louis Cartier's lover, confident and chief designer who became ever more to the fore after WW11. Her friendship with Wallis Simpson, The Duchess of Windsor, saw the birth of many animalia and floral designs being incorporated into Cartier jewellery. Who could forget the stunning flamingo brooch or the panther bracelet owned by the Duchess of Windsor?
So was 'grain de cafe' her take (or poke at) 'cafe' society. Or did the idea take form earlier after Elsa Maxwell, the great social arbiter, who had a habit of describing people 'as full of beans'??
Princess Caroline of Monaco wearing her mother's necklace and matching bracelet.
Left Prince Rainier and Princess Grace window shopping circa 1957