‘Every single day of the 40-plus years I have worked for Christie’s, I’ve always worn a pair of cufflinks,’ says Senior International Jewellery Director David Warren. ‘I put quite some consideration into which pair I choose every morning, and do not feel properly dressed without them.’
Warren has the appropriate cufflinks for any occasion, whether that be opals, the national gemstone of Australia, for meeting Australians, or black onyx and diamonds for a funeral. So what exactly is their appeal?
‘Generally speaking, men have a fairly limited array of options when it comes to jewellery,’ Warren points out. ‘This makes cufflinks hugely popular. They are a fun yet discreet way to express yourself and can also be very attractive or artistic fashion statements.’
Before him, on the desk in his office at King Street in London, lies a tray of 20 Cartier creations. ‘Whoever buys these will definitely be buying them to wear,’ he observes.
‘I did not know the gentleman who put this exquisite collection together,’ he continues, ‘but I would guess it began with some of the simpler links, such as the 14-carat yellow gold bars. The pairs featuring larger precious stones might have come later, when he wanted something show-stopping and could afford to indulge.’
These Cartier cufflinks tick all the boxes. They are each superbly made, very pretty and immediately shout Cartier’
The history of cufflinks begins in the mid-18th century when gentlemen started to replace ruffs, ribbons and laces with something more sophisticated. Soon after simple metal buttons had been invented to thread through two holes and keep cuffs tied, people began to customise them. ‘Early examples included engraved designs, painted miniatures and even locks of human hair set below faceted rock crystal and were commonly set in metal or silver,’ explains Warren.
As gold became more widely available in the latter half of the 19th century, gold cufflinks became highly sought-after, and in 1882 an American jeweller named George Krementz adapted a cartridge shell-making machine to produce cufflinks for the middle classes. By 1900 cufflinks had become a staple of any well-dressed gentleman’s wardrobe.
Cartier was established in 1847 in Paris by Louis-Francois Alfred Cartier, and by at least the 1870s they were producing cufflinks. In 1874 there is an entry in Cartier’s archives listing a pair of cufflinks edged in platinum. This use of platinum shows their innovative thinking from the very beginning, as platinum was rarely used in jewellery until the end of the 19th century owing to the technical difficulties of working with this metal.
However, it was not until the Belle Époque and Art Déco periods that Cartier began to produce a wide range of cufflinks, from decorative enamelled pieces to more richly gem-set examples. The collection offered in London varies from the late Art Deco period to the early 21st century and is united in its themed use of gemstones, with the gems often cut specially to fit the intricate designs of the links.
As with most of the jewellery Warren deals with, the value of these cufflinks is based on three defining factors — gem content, quality of design and manufacture, and the reputation of the maker.
‘These Cartier cufflinks tick all the boxes,’ he states. ‘They are each superbly made, very pretty and immediately shout Cartier, which always gets collectors excited.’
For regular auction updates follow David Warren on Instagram — @davidwarrenchristies
Christie’s Education Luxury courses range from jewellery to handbags to fashion, providing exclusive behind-the-scenes tours to leading jewellery houses, workshops and studios. Learn about handbag investment and quality of care from a Christie's Handbag and Accessories Specialist, or enrol for a series of lectures that examine the interrelationship between Fashion and Art. Our courses take place throughout the year