Like the Arpels family, the lasting presence of the Cartier brand is due largely to fathers passing on their knowledge and expertise to their sons. The Cartier history is quite amazing.
The development of the company began with Louis Francois Cartier, Louis Cartier's great grandfather, who worked as a goldsmith. When he died, his son, also named Louis Francois Cartier, became a goldsmith as well and he worked as an apprentice to a jewelry maker, Adolphe Picard.
Picard's handcrafted jewelry became very popular and after his death in 1847, the junior Louis Francois Cartier took over Picard's fast rising company. The Cartier brand was then born.
By 1853, the junior Louis Francois Cartier had expanded the business by venturing into the aristocratic circles of Paris. His designer jewelry became the favorite of Napoleon III's cousin, Princess Mathilde, and this coup opened more doors for the Cartier brand.
Twenty years later, the junior Louis Francois Cartier's son, Alfred, took over the company and his son, the Louis Cartier, was instrumental in bringing the Cartier brand to the world.
In later years, Louis Cartier was so well admired by Parisian aristocracy he married the Countess Almasey of Hungary. A captivated Prince of Wales, Edward VII even described Louis Cartier as "the jeweler of Kings, the King among jewelers."
Along with his brothers, Pierre and Jacques, Louis Cartier blazed a diamond trail by establishing Cartier shops in London, Moscow, the Persian Gulf, and the United States. Jacques headed the London boutique while Louis established a boutique in Paris. Pierre headed the boutique established in New York and along with his assistant Jules Glaenzer, helped to solidify the Cartier name in the United State.
In 1904, Louis Cartier designed the company's signature piece, a man's wristwatch. It was designed according to the specifications of an aviator friend, Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont, who wanted a timepiece that could handle his daredevil exploits. However, Louis Cartier did not introduce this particular wristwatch, named the Santos, to stores until 7 years later.
In 1917, inspired by the tank war vehicles used by Americans in World War I, Louis Cartier designed and introduced the most famous of the Catier watches, the Tank. First Lady Michelle Obama wore the Cartier Tank Watch in her first official White House photo.
Since 1847, the Cartier name has become synonymous with unique and lustrous pieces of jewelry that has been worn by kings, queens and Hollywood starlets. The company uses the finest diamonds in their engagement ring settings blending modern trends and French sensibilities into their elegant designs.
The company is currently expanding its presence in India through its Indie Mysterieuse Collection. Other Cartier collections include Trinity de Cartier, Hearts of Cartier, and Charms de Cartier.
Recently Cartier celebrated its 100th year in the U.S., click here to see the New York Times' slideshow featuring some of Cartier's amazing designs.
Photo 1: Cartier Tank watch
Photo 2: Cartier Santos watch