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Origin of the Cartier Panthère

The Cartier Panthère is an iconic jewelry motif with roots in Paris. The history of the Cartier Panthère began with one woman—Jeanne Toussaint. When Toussaint, a Parisian style icon, became acquainted with French jeweler Louis Cartier, new inspiration for Cartier’s famous jewelry line was born. As a result of Toussaint’s elegance and remarkable determination—as well as her finely decorated apartment adorned with leopard skin—she earned the nickname “La Panthère” from her then-lover, Louis Cartier.

Jeanne Toussiant in her Cartier office at 13 rue de la Paix in Paris. Private Collection © Cartier

What started as a nickname became the basis of one of Cartier’s most stunning developments in jewelry pieces—the Cartier Panthère wristwatch. Toussaint was soon named Head of Creation at Cartier, a coveted position that wouldn’t ordinarily have been held by a woman; her contributions led the company to even greater success throughout the 1900s. Toussaint’s panther was known for its stunningly sculpted yellow gold and black enamel—a color combination that gave the animal more dimension.

In 1914, the famous wildcat appeared on a Cartier wristwatch for the first time. The stones adorning the piece symbolized the feminine temperament and avant-garde allure of the panther, while the diamond’s scintillation was a nod to the wildcat’s gleaming coat.

The first noted appearance of the panther pattern on a Cartier ladies’ wristwatch in 1914. Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

Thanks to Toussaint’s inspiration, Cartier’s idea to incorporate the panther motif into his jewelry pieces earned him full acclaim in nobility circles. In addition to being the first jeweler to incorporate the panther motif as a trademark on his exclusive timepieces, Cartier was one of the first jewelers to use platinum in his luxurious creations.

Cartier’s elegant panther has endured for more than a century, in part because the Cartier Panthère continues to evolve. In a careful attempt to lend justice to the original piece, artisans sculpt each example in wax, cast the ornament in platinum or gold, then set the piece with thousands of hand-cut gemstones painstakingly positioned to convey movement and life.

A Closer Look at Louis Cartier: The Stirrings of the Cartier Panthère

In taking over the craft of his master, Louis-François Cartier founded his own company in 1847 Paris. His inventiveness and daring capacity to try new things led him to create exclusive, exquisite timepieces revered among the nobility of the time. His attention to detail and supreme level of craftsmanship drew the eye of the French empress Eugenie, among other socialites. As a result, his company expanded rapidly.

Cartier loved to try his hand at a variety of jewelry pieces, and in 1888, he presented his first wristwatch to the public. The watch closely resembled the sleek, classic feminine bracelets of that time. The difference? His addition of a small clock in the design. Following the initial inspiration of this first wristwatch, Cartier was driven to completely revitalize all aspects of watch design.

It may have been this initial curiosity that paved the way for Cartier’s inspired collaboration with Toussaint, as well as his subsequent fascination with the panther. Today, Cartier’s timeless pieces continue to be passed down from one generation to the next. The Cartier Panthère remains an iconic, desirable design of the most serious artistic expression.

A Timeline History of the Cartier Panthère

To better understand how the Cartier Panthère came about and how the bold motif has evolved over the years, we’ve put together a timeline of the iconic design:

1914: Cartier crafts the first panther pattern on a wristwatch and presents it to the public. The watch was adorned with white diamonds, spotted with striking onyx stones.

1922-1935: The spotted panther motif starts appearing on various Cartier watches, jewelry designs, and accessories, such as cigarette cases.

1948: The Duchess of Windsor tasks Jeanne Toussaint with creating a panther brooch and the first three-dimensional representation of the panther is born. The sculptural approach with the panther design redefines how Cartier breathes life and personality into their future panther creations. The Duchess of Windsor, being so taken by the iconic feline, later purchases more than six additional panther designs. The most famous pieces are the panther brooch of pavé diamonds and sapphires, perched atop a 152.35ct sapphire cabochon, and an onyx and diamond panther bracelet, which most recently achieved over $7 million at auction.

1949-1950: American heiress, Barbara Hutton and French socialite, Daisy Fellowes, among other fashionable aristocrats, begin investing in their own versions of the panther.

Completed in 1949 for the Duchess of Windsor. Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

1983: Cartier launches the Panthère de Cartier line of quartz watches. Although a ladies’ watch, the fine yellow gold link bracelet perfectly matched the 80s “glam” aesthetic, and the watch quickly saw an upsurge in popularity—featuring notable celebrity wearers, such as Keith Richard and Pierce Brosnan.

2005: Introduction of the Panthère de Cartier ring with its fangs bared. It is the first appearance of the Cartier panther in a stylized, faceted design.

A geometric, modern take on the panther motif. Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

2012: Panthère de Cartier necklace in white gold, with pavé diamonds and emerald eyes. The modern jewel can be worn in two styles, as a choker or an opera-length necklace, according to the position of the panther head on the link. A stunning example of style and ingenuity.

2019NOV Cartier Panthere de Cartier Pave Diamond Necklace
Panthère de Cartier Necklace with Pavé Diamonds (achieved $50,000 at Fortuna).

2017: Panthère de Cartier High Jewelry necklace in platinum, aquamarines, emeralds, onyx and diamonds. In this opulent masterpiece, the iconic feline seems to be emerging from a waterfall, and its stretched silhouette creates the illusion of movement.

Courtesy of Cartier Archives.

The Cartier Panthère Today

The Cartier Panthère, much like the fierce, untamable feline, possesses many facets to its personality and continues to be reimagined in countless jewelry designs. Whether it’s the more abstract spotted pattern that emboldens elegant jewelry designs, or sculptural representations of the panther that give the motif life and sparks of energy, the Cartier Panthère has established itself as a visual icon in jewelry history.

Cartier Panthère Convertible Brooch/Pendant with a Tahitian cultured pearl drop.

Today, vintage Cartier Panthère jewels, especially dating back to the height of Jeanne Toussaint’s time as Cartier’s creative director, continue to demand sky-high prices at auction. Contemporary Panthère jewels remain just as popular with the social elite, and with the unmatched quality of Cartier craftsmanship, they make great opportunities for investment when they appear at auction.

Get a Free Valuation at Fortuna Auction

The Cartier Panthère retains its roots in luxury, history, and tradition while still being the perfect accessory for the modern woman. There are few pieces that, without trying too hard, convey bold utilitarianism and a refined restraint all at once. If you are hunting for the perfect Cartier piece to add to your collection, visit our Upcoming Auctions page to browse our upcoming sales.

At Fortuna Auction, we want to be a resource for all who wish to learn more about watches and jewelry—replete with stylistic periods, history, craftsmanship and designers—as well as how to understand the real market value of different types of collectible jewelry and watches.

You can consult our jewelry experts for free, unbiased valuations, with no obligation to sell. And if you do decide to sell at auction, our team will market your item to millions of competing bidders located in more than 50 countries. If you’re interested in buying or selling at one of Fortuna’s upcoming auctions, feel free to contact our office today.

David Webb Horse Bracelet - Fortuna Auction - NYC

David Webb

A maker who stands unequaled in his bold use of colored enamel and love of animal motifs, David Webb’s creations offer a playful escape from the everyday.

In 1945, the North Carolina native opened, what remains today, one of the most successful American jewelry houses of the century. His strikingly imaginative designs filled with eye-catching geometric elements and remarkable use of color quickly became the favorite amongst celebrities and fashion aficionados alike. Amongst his elite clientele are celebrities like Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Vreeland, as well as Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and the Duchess of Windsor.

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Van Cleef & Arpels Magic Alhambra Malachite Earrings - Fortuna October Exchange_Mobile

The Origins of the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Collection

Van Cleef & Arpels’s opened the Parisian “La Boutique,” in 1954, which was meant to offer more accessible fine jewelry for young women to wear. This burgeoned the creativity that would eventually lead to the creation of the jewelry house’s most iconic collection, the Alhambra, in 1968. The craftsmen at VCA could not have anticipated the sweeping change that this new line would bring from 1968 and onward.

That year saw the introduction of the VCA Alhambra design, with a shape reminiscent of a four-leaf clover crafted from beaded edges. A long necklace adorned with 20 motifs debuted the collection, the origin of an emblematic style for the jeweler that since proliferated and endures today.

What Is the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Design?

The Alhambra collection likely received its namesake from the palace and fortress in Granada, Spain, whose sweeping ornate archways are said to have been the inspiration.

Princess Consort Grace Kelly of Monaco wearing two strands of Van Cleef and Arpels Alhambra necklaces in 1977.

The design resembles the four overlapping circles of Moorish quatrefoil decorations—traditional signs of good luck— so the symbol had small appearances in jewelry during the 1920s as a talisman.

“To be lucky you have to believe in luck.”

—Jacques Arpels, who was fond of including symbols of luck in many of his designs.

The Alhambra motif could also be described as a four-leaf clover, which the artisan collected in his garden in Germigny-l’Évêque just northeast of Paris.

The collection became a celebrity favorite throughout the 1970s. Former Hollywood star and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly was particularly fond of the iconic design, oftentimes wearing more than one strand of Alhambra necklaces at once.

The Alhambra motif has been revived every decade since its induction, utilizing new gemstones, such as chalcedony, carnelian, tiger’s eye and diamond, building upon the design’s versatility. Royalty and celebrities alike remain partial to the designs; the Duchess of Cambridge wore them just a few weeks ago at the BAFTA awards, and Reese Witherspoon can be spotted wearing them casually while out walking through Los Angeles. The versatility of the piece is a testament to the skill of the artisans and their incredible eye for design.

What’s the Most Sought-After Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra Piece?

Some of the most prized VCA Alhambra pieces include the opera-length necklaces in the Vintage Alhambra collection, a reproduction of the design’s first editions. The Magic Alhambra collection uses a bold, asymmetrical design for the modern-day.  Chains of white, yellow or rose gold set with up to 20 diamond motifs are the most expensive pieces in these collections.

The turquoise Alhambra set, first introduced in the ’60s has been notoriously difficult to find as turquoise that meets the jewelry maison’s quality standard is hard to come by.

Are There Still Pieces Being Made?

The most recent releases featuring the Alhambra included four models of long necklaces and bracelets introduced at the collection’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2018. Their design also follows the original, this time set with diamonds or rock crystals with grey mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli or onyx.

Vintage Alhambra Necklace with Yellow Gols and Diamond motifs from Timecraft Exchange

Today, wearers of VCA jewelry have a variety of materials, sizes and gems to choose from. The many iterations of the Alhambra make more personal expressions possible. Some of VCA’s most recent takes on the motif were revived in collections like Magic Alhambra, Sweet Alhambra, Pure Alhambra, Lucky Alhambra and Byzantine Alhambra, to name a few. Fortuna recently sold a piece from the Magic Alhambra collection, a chic pair of Malachite and Diamond Earrings with 3 Motifs (pictured above), for $11,250 at our October ’19 Exchange sale.

The high-end jewelry maison never expected their fine jewelry line to withstand the test of time but the collection remains one of their most coveted and recognizable designs. The Alhambra design changed significantly throughout the legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels. However, the enduring, iconic nature and popularity of these pieces may mean that later generations could be lucky enough to acquire new editions for themselves. Find Stunning Van Cleef & Arpels Jewelry at Fortuna Auction’

Kate Middleton in Van Cleef & Arpels Magic Alhambra Necklace and Earrings in Gold and Mother-Of-Pearl

If you’re pursuing pieces of fine jewelry from the designers of VCA, a sale by Fortuna Auction may have just the piece you’re looking for. Browse past VCA Alhambra pieces sold by Fortuna here.
 
 

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We also provide unbiased appraisals and handle all of the consignment for your VCA rings, necklaces and other accessories. Like you, Fortuna is passionate about the craftsmanship and value of fine jewelry, and we strive to provide the most transparent, risk-free experience in selling or buying your next piece.

The Jewelry of Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau was a broad artistic movement, with one of its key beliefs being art should be a part of daily life. Although short-lived, the Art Nouveau style is amongst the most celebrated periods of jewelry design.

Lasting only 15 years from 1895 through 1910, the style saw a flourishing of innovative ideas, materials and techniques that propelled jewelry designers into artists, crafting exquisite, often breathtaking jewelry.

At the turn of the 20th century, the zeitgeist called for bold, new ideas and an abandonment of the historical Victorian precedents of the 19th century in all forms of art, from the decorative arts to music, and architecture to poetry. During this time, colonial expansion by European countries re-opened trade routes with the East, bringing exotic products to the Western world. With widespread industrial production of the decorative arts, poorly made objects often imitating earlier periods were widely available. As a reaction to the overly rigid and somber Victorian period, a rejection of the machine-made and an embrace of Eastern aesthetics, the Art Nouveau style was born. Its masters sought to modernize design, revive quality of production and elevate the status of the artisanship.

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History of the Rolex Daytona - Fortuna Fine Jewelry & Watch Auction

History of the Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is an iconic success story that began as a tool of ambition. First introduced with the “Daytona” signature in 1965, the watch proclaimed Rolex’s sponsorship of the celebrated sports car race in Daytona Beach, Florida. For the Daytona specifically, Rolex had introduced a couple of major stylistic changes from its earlier chronographs, drastically improving the utility of the watch with a race car driver’s needs in mind. First, the inverse colors of the main dial and registers provided the watch with a sportier look and clear contrast to read elapsed times in each sub-dial. Second, the tachymeter scale was removed from the dial and engraved onto the bezel, allowing for greater legibility.

Daytona Beach

The historic Daytona race was born at the turn of the 20th century, at Daytona Beach (shown above). Only in 1959, did the race relocate to the world-famous Daytona International Speedway.

Yet despite its durability, aesthetics, and reliable movement, the Daytona was not hugely in demand when produced. In fact, many sat at retailers before they were sold, and often at steep discounts. At the time, Rolex was competing with a host of other watch brands that had already been well-known for creating chronographs. Furthermore, the Daytona remained a manually-wound timepiece until 1987, during the height of the world-wide craze for quartz movements.

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Jewelry of Tony Duquette - Momento Mori Brooch- Fortuna Fine Jewelry & Watch Auction

The Jewelry of Tony Duquette

Renowned for his unabashed love of ornament and theatricality, Tony Duquette’s inimitable design is one of the highlights of Fortuna’s September sale. A well-known painter, sculptor and jeweler, he was renowned for his over-the-top style in interiors, jewelry, costumes, and set design.

With the creation of pieces that are filled with such awe-inducing whimsy and wonder, it is no surprise that this American style icon started his career in costume and set design for theater. As a young man, Tony Duquette was awarded scholarships to the renowned Chouinard Institute in Los Angeles and the Yale School of Theater. Growing to become one of the most recognized LA designers of the time, it was through the patronage of Sir Charles and Lady Mendl, the then international arbiters of taste, that Duquette was able to establish himself as a designer for the film industry. He created both costumes and sets for theater, opera and ballet, as well as many Metro Goldwyn Mayer films.

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Ilias Lalaounis Gold Ruby Bull Brooch- Fortuna Auction NYC

Ilias Lalaounis

Taking inspiration from Grecian, Byzantine and a variety of other ancient jewelry styles to create contemporary pieces, the Athenian goldsmith Ilias Lalaounis has gifted the world with an appreciation for the venerable art of adornment.

Lalaounis started working as an apprentice in his family’s jewelry company in 1940. In 1969, he decided to separate from the family business to start his own production. Focusing mainly on the fabrication of chains, Lalaounis would later introduce ancient Greek revival pieces to incredible success. The jewelry house achieves the international recognition that it was striving for when in the 1960’s, Aristotle Onassis started purchasing pieces for Maria Callas, as well as his later wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

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Robert and Louis Koch Egyptian Revival Necklace-Fortuna Auction NYC

Robert and Louis Koch

Recognized by their supremely sophisticated style, Robert and Louis Koch are two of the most celebrated German jewelers of their time. With their meticulous craftsmanship and keen eye for design, the jewelry house quickly received international recognition, becoming a favorite amongst European royalty, even being awarded in 1883 the title of “Jeweler of the Court.”

 

Shown in the above portrait, is one of many Koch tiaras commissioned by European royalty—a glittering diamond kokoshnik, created by the firm in 1905 for Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Crown Princess of Germany.

Originally founded in 1879, Koch opened their first store in Frankfurt to nearly immediate success. The Koch brothers’ production of regal tiaras, crowns, diadems and bandeaux, which supplied the German imperial family as well as aristocrats and millionaires alike, solidified their presence in the local market, while their acute business sense led to their successful expansion to further international clientele. The strategic placement of a store in the fashionable spa resort of Baden Baden and Louis’s impeccable taste and salesmanship drew the attention of even more European royalty; and soon, the King of Italy, the Russian Tsar and the Prince of Wales were all looking to adorn their courts with the brothers’ creations.

 

In 1902, Robert Koch passed away, leaving Louis to take charge of the company. Louis managed to successfully lead the firm for nearly half a century, through the difficult post-World War I years and widespread economic recession. Even after his subsequent death, the firm continued to be prosperous in the hands of his grandsons and nephews. During the oppressive Nazi regime, the company was “Aryanized,” and taken over by Robert Bosch and the family eventually lost control of the firm. Although the popularity of the company was briefly revived in the 1950s, Koch jewelry from the late 19th and early 20th century continue to be considered the golden period of the Koch House, are very much sought after in today’s antique jewelry market.

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Belperron Blue Cambodian Chalcedony Cuff

Suzanne Belperron

With her unapologetically bold style and sensually carved designs, Suzanne Belperron would distinguish herself among the first female master jewelers of the early 20th century, and as a designer whose aesthetic was so unique, it would serve as her signature.

 

Belperron’s creative genius quickly drew the attention of esteemed clientele including: the Duchess of Windsor, Josephine Baker, Diana Vreeland, and countless more high-profile figures; yet, she never sought public recognition. When asked why she never signed her pieces, as was customary of all haute joaillerie maisons, Belperron famously said, “my style is my signature.”

Writing in the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle in 1961, journalist Cécile Sandoz, expressed that the creations of Belperron possessed an instantly recognizable “abstract fluidity of form, a Pharaonic or Aztec sheen that gives a centuries-old patina and a highly personal technique of setting precious gems in larger semiprecious stones.”

 

“My style is my signature.” – Suzanne Belperron

 

From humble beginning, Suzanne Vuillerme Belperron grew up in a small town in eastern France. In 1916, she enrolled at the Écoles Municipales de Musique et des Beaux-Arts, located in Besançon, a city that would be known as the birthplace of France’s watch industry. It was here that she began her formal study of jewelry design. Knowing that versatility would give her the competitive advantage she sought, Belperron immersed herself and excelled in a variety of studies. Her early productions revealed an intuition of style and form, as well as a wealth of talent.

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