How Cartier Created Tutti Frutti Jewelry

A new exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs reveals the Islamic influences on Parisian jewelry in the 1920s.

PARIS, France – In the 1920s and 30s, Cartier began turning out gobsmackingly colorful necklaces and bracelets in its Paris atelier, offering its clients vibrants alternatives to diamonds and pearls. The collections, later known as tutti frutti, are one of the jewelry world’s favorite legends. Like many a wealthy scion, Louis and Jacques Cartier, the grandsons of the house’s founder, had travelled to India in search of inspiration, and came back with jewelry boxes full of it.

‘The discovery and reception of Islamic Art at the beginning of the twentieth century was a surprising aesthetic shock. Today, we have easy access to imagery from across the world, but at the time, Islamic Art was revealing new shapes, designs, and color combinations that had never been seen before’, said Evelyne Posseme and Judith Henon – Raynaud, curators at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, who put together Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity.

Louis in particular was struck by all things Islamic amassing a collection of art and objects to be used as a jumping off point for Cartier’s brand new baubles. After his death in 1942, however, the collection was unceremoniously dispersed and it took Posseme and Henon – Ryanaud three years to renconstruct it for the exhibit.

‘We were actually able to discover evidence that some of the original, objects inspired Cartier’s work directly. For example, an ornate vanity in mother of pearl, turquoise, and emerald, seen at the entrance of the exhibition, was inspired by an Iranian casket’, Posseme and Henon – Reynaud said.

And while the Western world was admiring the technical feats and dazzling displays of Islamic – inspired jewelry, Indian royalty was interested in European designs, commissioning works from the Cartiers or having them re – set their pieces in the Art Deco style. To capture this great jewelry exchange, Cartier and Islamic Art also includes pieces inspired by this era selected from the Louvre and its own archives. The result is a cross – cultural conversation of beauty reminding us that we have more things celebrate together than not, which is, as well – know, is a testament to the power of great jewelry.