During the Art Deco period, a single bold colour and white was the most fashionable combination for women's day and evening wear. The great jewellers followed suit by creating jewels and accessories contrasting diamonds with onyx, black enamel, lacquer or shellac. Enamel is coloured glass or a combination of vitreous glazes as opposed to lacquer which is a natural resin from the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree or shellac which is made from the secretion of the lac insect, indigenous to India. Applied in several layers, once dry, lacquer is water-resistant and can be carved, painted or inlaid. Although all four mediums created the desired bold effect, Cartier found that lacquer was preferable for many black or red objects, specifically bangles with diamond clips, as it did not chip or crack as easily as enamel. And what is commonly known as shellac was the desired medium for other colours.
Cartier introduced lacquered bracelets and rings in 1934. However, due to their relative fragility few of these jewels have survived. The superb set of interchangeable coloured lacquer and shellac cuffs exemplify the fine craftsmanship and elegance of this era.