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  • Harry Fane

Talk to me about this

Updated: May 30, 2021

In the old days, dealers used to comb all small, regional, out-of-the-way auction houses for vintage Cartier pieces which were going unnoticed. Today, the power of the internet means this tradition is now passing into folklore. Whether you are an auction house in the South of France, Los Angeles or Timbuktu you can upload your sale catalogue and, wherever you are, on the top of Mount Everest or in the middle of the Pampas of South America, if you want to find a piece of vintage Cartier…click and click again and there you will find everything on the market.

This extraordinary brooch is perfect living proof of this. Sold in a small, regional London auction house, well presented but lowly estimated and ripe for ‘picking’ in the old days, for US $ 215,000 against an estimate of US $ 15,000.00 yesterday.

So why?? Let’s review.

This is indeed a rare and pretty piece (with original case and slightly tenuous provenance). The 1920s Art Deco, Moghul-esque pendant is pure Cartier design and superb. One respected collector felt it was perhaps a little ‘flat’, but I can live with that. As we move up the brooch, I wish to diversify a little…This brooch is a New York made piece. Cartier, New York made some absolutely stupendous jewels but in the hierarchy of Paris, London and New York, New York was probably, and here we are really splitting hairs, the weakest in terms of design. I notice this, particularly in this piece. Mixing rock crystal with white diamonds was a signature Cartier Art Deco motif which I always love. Here, I find the crystal section just slightly long and the inner diamond work almost looks like an X which I find draws the eye which I do not think it should…(Louis Cartier please don’t roll over in your grave!). As for the very top section of the brooch, I believe this is modelled on a Moghul-esque crutch used by gout ridden Indian nobles to hobble around their palaces. It completes the ‘Indian fantasy’ which underpins so much of Cartier’s creativity in the 1920s and from which they won their worldwide recognition and fame.

Whilst I ‘get it’ and think this a very pretty creation, I just feel this brooch fails to make the top, top-grade which would validate the price it achieved.

In addition to all of this, I think, in today's world, this is a hard piece of jewellery to wear. Some of you will say, this is for a collector and not to be worn but that’s like making the most delicious, chocolate cake and saying it’s not to be eaten. Of course, jewellery is to be worn. That’s its sole purpose and by denying that, you deny life and breath to any jewel.

Many of you may think I am too finickity …I do very much like this brooch.... please, do not get me wrong and I am sure whoever the new owner is, will find a stylish and contemporary way to wear it which will make me eat my words…and make me think it was a bargain!

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