Cartier’s most iconic motifs — and the designers that defined their eras

Cartier’s most iconic motifs — and the designers that defined their eras

A closer look at four classic Cartier motifs — the Trinity, the Panther, the Love Bracelet and Juste un Clou, illustrated with highlights from Christie’s Jewels Online sale, running 5-12 May

The Trinity by Louis Cartier, 1924

The iconic Trinity ring was conceived by Louis Cartier over 90 years ago, at the request of French artist and writer Jean Cocteau. The sleek and seemingly simple design of three interlocking rings — each a different gold colour — quickly became a Cartier classic.

Cartier diamond Trinity jewellery set. Comprising a ring and earrings designed as three interlocking bands set with round diamonds. Estimate HKD $50,000–80,000
Cartier diamond 'Trinity' jewellery set. Comprising a ring and earrings designed as three interlocking bands set with round diamonds. Estimate: HKD $50,000–80,000

The pink gold band represents love, the yellow band is for fidelity, and the white is for friendship, a combination which has contributed to the Trinity design becoming a lasting symbol of relationships.

Cartier gold Trinity jewellery set. Comprising a bangle and earrings of tri-gold entwined triple hoop design. Estimate HKD $15,000–25,000
Cartier gold 'Trinity' jewellery set. Comprising a bangle and earrings of tri-gold entwined triple hoop design. Estimate: HKD $15,000–25,000

The original Jean Cocteau ring and bracelet commission inspired a whole collection of intertwined jewels. As simple and as stylish as they look, the Trinity models are also a technical accomplishment with the three bands sliding smoothly over the skin.

Cartier Diamond Trinity Bangle. Composed of three interlocking bangles; one set with diamonds. Estimate HKD $20,000 – 30,000
Cartier Diamond 'Trinity' Bangle. Composed of three interlocking bangles; one set with diamonds. Estimate: HKD $20,000 – 30,000

The Panther by Jeanne Toussaint, 1933

In 1933, Jeanne Toussaint, who was Louis Cartier’s muse, took over as director of the design house’s jewellery department, moving away from abstract Art Deco designs and into jewels of great realism.

Cartier diamond and multi-gem ‘Panthère’ bracelet. Designed as a gold cord bracelet with a panther head clasp set with black lacquer spots, onyx nose and tsavorite garnet eyes. Estimate HKD  $20,000 – 25,000
Cartier diamond and multi-gem ‘Panthère’ bracelet. Designed as a gold cord bracelet with a panther head clasp set with black lacquer spots, onyx nose and tsavorite garnet eyes. Estimate: HKD $20,000 – 25,000

Highly regarded for her impeccable taste, well-balanced sense of proportion and delicate brand of craftsmanship, Toussaint was adept at creating jewels in the shapes of all sorts of creatures. The most iconic jewels she created, however, were the ‘Great Cats’.

Cartier garnet and onyx Panthère pendant necklace. Suspending a yellow gold panther with tsavorite garnet eyes and onyx nose, on a double chain necklace. Estimate $8,000–12,000 HKD
Cartier garnet and onyx 'Panthère' pendant necklace. Suspending a yellow gold panther with tsavorite garnet eyes and onyx nose, on a double chain necklace. Estimate: $8,000–12,000 HKD

The French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who was referred to as ‘the most famous actress the world has ever known’, was often sighted walking her gold-and-pearl collared panther in the streets of Paris. Toussaint adored these cats, filling her apartment with their skins and wearing panther coats from the famed furrier, Revillon.

Cartier garnet and onyx Panthère pendant necklace. Suspending a yellow gold panther with tsavorite garnet eyes and onyx nose, on a double chain necklace. Estimate $8,000 – 12,000 HKD
Cartier garnet and onyx 'Panthère' pendant necklace. Suspending a yellow gold panther with tsavorite garnet eyes and onyx nose, on a double chain necklace. Estimate: $8,000 – 12,000 HKD

During a trip to Africa with Cartier, Toussaint witnessed a panther pursuing its prey. It inspired her in a way that was to prove pivotal to the House’s creations of the period.

Cartier diamond and emerald Panthère bracelet. Designed as a diamond set panther with emerald eyes and black lacquer nose on white gold chain. Estimate $15,000–25,000 HKD
Cartier diamond and emerald 'Panthère' bracelet. Designed as a diamond set panther with emerald eyes and black lacquer nose on white gold chain. Estimate: $15,000–25,000 HKD

The panther’s form lends itself perfectly to jewellery design, and it has been worn by society legends such as Woolworth heiress Barbarah Hutton and the Duchess of Windsor. To this day, the ‘Big Cat’ theme is still prevalent within Cartier’s production.

The Love bracelet by Aldo Cipullo, 1969

The designs of Aldo Cipullo can best be described as simple, bold, and elegant. Born in Italy, Cipullo joined Cartier’s New York team in 1969, a year in which he would go on to design what would become one of the design house’s most iconic pieces: the Love bangle.

Cartier diamond Love bangle. Designed as a gold bangle set with ten round diamonds, accompanied by a screwdriver. Estimate HKD $15,000–25,000
Cartier diamond 'Love' bangle. Designed as a gold bangle set with ten round diamonds, accompanied by a screwdriver. Estimate: HKD $15,000–25,000

Understood to be inspired by the chastity belt and the idea that symbols of love should be everlasting, the bracelet, which can only be locked and unlocked on one’s wrist with a screwdriver, quickly became a favourite among collectors including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Nancy and Frank Sinatra, and Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti.

Cartier diamond Juste un clou bangle. Designed as a bypass nail bangle accented with round diamonds. Estimate HKD $15,000–25,000
Cartier diamond 'Juste un clou' bangle. Designed as a bypass nail bangle accented with round diamonds. Estimate: HKD $15,000–25,000

Three years later Cipullo would go on to create another design with instant recognition, ‘Juste un Clou’. Translated to ‘just a nail’, this sleek and refined bracelet, designed as a single curved nail that wraps around the wrist, was a product — and icon — of the frenzied energy of 1970s New York.

Cartier diamond Love bangle. Set with four round diamonds alternating with screw motifs, accompanied by a screwdriver. Estimate HKD $15,000 – 25,000
Cartier diamond 'Love' bangle. Set with four round diamonds alternating with screw motifs, accompanied by a screwdriver. Estimate: HKD $15,000 – 25,000