Eric Nussbaum (1940-2003) enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a jeweller, gemologist and trendsetter at the zenith of the haute joaillerie world. Acknowledged as one of the industry’s most eminent Cartier experts, he has been hailed by his peers as the ‘Eye’, a tribute to the virtuoso level of his taste and refinement.
Nussbaum (1940-2003) joined Cartier in 1969 and in 1983 became the first director of the Cartier Collection — an archive of some of the finest examples of watches, clocks, jewellery and objets d’art produced by Cartier since its foundation in 1847. In the following decades, Nussbaum continued to buy back important jewels, piece by piece, to build the entire Cartier Collection to what it is today: a comprehensive, judicious and representative assemblage of around 1,600 pieces.
Eric Nussbaum, the first director of the Cartier Collection, with the Shinto shrine gate mystery clock, made by Couet for Cartier Paris, 1923. Sold at Christie’s Geneva on 20 November 1973
In just under six years, Eric Nussbaum had created a collection worthy of exhibition at the world’s grandest museums. ‘The Art of Cartier exhibition of 1989 at the Petit Palais in Paris, the first of its kind, was a triumph,’ says Pascale Lepeu, the collection’s current curator. Subsequent exhibitions followed at the Hermitage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum.
In his lifetime, Mr. Nussbaum also acquired a sizeable and rather eclectic assortment of personal items: pearls, gemstones, delicate jewels, timepieces, bejewelled boxes, objects of vertu and a remarkable variety of cufflinks. With their quiet beauty, they are treasured for their provenance, artistry and rarity.
Christie’s Jewels Online sale (14-22 June) presents a selection from The Private Collection of Eric Nussbaum, and here, specialist Angelina Chen selects her highlights.
‘These classic Cartier cufflinks are ideal for the connoisseur and first-time buyer alike. The Cartier signature makes them a significant collector’s item.’
‘Made in the early 20th century, these cufflinks are excellent examples of Cartier’s Art Deco work, which Eric Nussbaum particularly admired.’
‘Principally associated with the Roaring Twenties (think lavish over-the-top parties with flappers galore), champagne whisks were specifically designed for stirring the bubbles out of glasses of bubbly. This particular example is set with jasper plaques that rotate with a push-down mechanism. Made for the person who pretty much has everything.’
‘This beautiful silver and sapphire cigarette case is another of the many elegant accessories that Cartier created. The step-bezel-set sapphires give the case an additional dimensionality.
‘At the time it was made, everybody smoked — in trains, on planes and in cars. A cigarette case became the accessory of choice, valued as much for its artistic quality as for its ability to charm. I can just imagine a well-dressed man pulling this elegant case out of his pocket and lighting a cigarette. Accessories such as this were often given as gifts, engraved with notes or messages.’
‘The most whimsical Cartier accessory from the Nussbaum collection has to be this sterling-silver pair of dice. Only to be used by the most glamorous of players.’
‘A classic colour combination for the design house, the striking rubies contrasted against the cabochon emeralds make this brooch a dramatic statement piece.’