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  • Harry Fane

Ahhhhhh India

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

The importance of India in the story of Cartier cannot be overstated. ‘India’ flowed through the veins of Cartier giving the firm a vital life force. Whether it was as a source of gem-stones or as the well-spring of inspiration for their designers or the free-spending Indian Royal families; without India, there would have been no Cartier. It is too big a subject to write about here but I have chosen to add this tiny little ‘Tom Thumb’ lighter to the story because behind it lies quite a charming tale. As we all know, in the 1930s as the world was recovering from the Great Depression, Cartier was seeking to make great pieces but at a lower cost to appeal to a much-chastened world. India was to provide one solution. Famed for their exotic enamel designs, Cartier began ordering pieces from the Indian craftsman in Jaipur who could decorate simple brass boxes with colourful hunting or jungle scenes in intricate enamel. Back in Paris, Cartier would enhance these pieces by turning them into clocks or cigarette lighters like this or by adding a gem-set clasp and turning them into power compacts.

In 1939, The Maharani of Jaipur had a large house party staying at the famed Rambagh Palace. However, with war breaking out in Europe, her guests were unable to leave and were stuck in Jaipur over Christmas. The Maharani was caught off guard having no Christmas presents so she went to visit Mr Kasliwal of The Gem Palace. Explaining her predicament and asking if he could suggest something, Mr Kasliwal told her that his last shipment of enamel boxes to Cartier had been held up by the outbreak of war and she could have these as gifts if she wished. The Maharani had each box carefully wrapped and then presented to each of her guests for Christmas. As she gave them, she told her guests the boxes were from Cartier!

with thanks to Olivier Bachet & Alain Cartier for this image

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