In 1914 the big cat motif entered the Cartier family by means of an onyx-spotted panther pattern wristwatch created by the famous designer Charles Jacqueau. Through the years, the initial pattern has evolved to fully sculptured animals and the array of cats has widened to include the striped tiger as well as the panther, with the first naturalistic brooch being produced in 1928; now in the Cartier Collection.
Promoted to Director of High Jewellery at Cartier in 1933, Jeanne Toussaint was undoubtedly one of the most influential characters of 20th Century jewellery design. A feline-lover, Toussaint was nicknamed 'The Panther' by Louis Cartier and her colleagues, a reference to the panther skin rugs which decorated her apartment. Toussaint immediately took the responsibility for supervising the 'Great Cat' designs and together with the outstanding creativity of designer Peter Lemarchand, produced a variety of jewels which forever immortalised the big cat motif within the context of Cartier design.
Already an important client of Cartier, the Duchess of Windsor immediately fell in love with these cat jewels; the first three-dimensional panther being commissioned for her in 1948. Surmounting a cabochon emerald, this gold panther was joined one year later by an iconic brooch featuring a sapphire-spotted panther, this time in platinum, with adjoining large cabochon sapphire weighing more than 152 carats. This legendary brooch had such a great impact on the style icons of the day that many adopted Cartier cats as their emblem. Daisy Fellowes and Nina Dyer, for example, both appropriated this new look. American heiress Barbara Hutton, notable style rival of the Duchess of Windsor, was also famous for her preference for Jeanne Toussaint's tiger menagerie. The first of the Duchess of Windsor's tiger themed jewels was a pair of lorgnettes, the hinged fold-out glasses concealed behind a tiger's body, purchased in 1954 and soon followed by this tiger bracelet in 1956 and matching clip in 1959.
An avid collector and one of the most stylish women of her day, the Duchess of Windsor amassed one of the most remarkable jewellery collections of the 20th Century. Her refined taste and 'avant-garde' spirit led her to acquire a combination of both classic and modern jewels. After her death, the collection was sold to benefit the Pasteur Institute in 1987. The Duchess of Windsor's collection, including this bracelet and brooch, attracted international connoisseurs and although at the time buyers remained anonymous, it didn't take long before the famous 'Tigers' were under the spotlight again.
On 26 January 1988, Sarah Brightman, arrived with then husband Andrew Lloyd Webber at the opening party of "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Beacon Theatre in New York adorned with these tiger jewels. Andrew Lloyd Webber bought these iconic jewels for Ms. Brightman, as a present in celebration of the huge London and Broadway success of the musical, which he wrote and in which she starred. "The Phantom of the Opera" still remains the most successful musical of all time. After many successful years on the musical stage, Sarah resumed her music career and today, remains one of the most prominent performers, with global album sales of over 35 million. In 2012, Sarah became a UNESCO Artist for Peace Ambassador. Through this, and other humanitarian roles, Sarah advocates education for the role of women in science and technology.