Tantalising Tutti-Frutti Jewellery
In 1901 Pierre Cartier was commissioned by Queen Alexandra to design a piece of jewellery to sit specifically with a collection of Indian gowns recently gifted to her by Lady Curzon, the Vicereine of India. The piece was a sumptuous blend of colour and texture that really encapsulated the exoticism of the east. The vibrancy of Indian culture had always provided fascination for those from the west and as travel to the subcontinent became easier at the turn of the last century enamoured visitors would return home laden with the country's distinctive carved gemstones ready to be incorporated in to their own fashionable gowns.
A decade after Cartier's first commission, Jacques Cartier took his maiden voyage to India for the 1911 Delhi Durbar, the bejewelled celebration of coronation of George V. Attended by the highest of society, Cartier developed a great number of pivotal relationships that truly exemplified the mutual adoration between east and west. As explained by Hans Nadelhoffer, “Indian rulers were exclusively interested in Parisian jewellery and had no hesitation in handing over their family treasures for reworking in fashionable European styles. Conversely, India's traditional enamel jewellery with its engraved gemstones became something of a craze in Europe.”
This captivating style soon became known as ‘Tutti-Frutti’ and the craze for the dramatic pieces – with their carved sapphires, emeralds and rubies engraved in naturalistic leaf, flower and berry motifs – swept the fashionable circles of London, Paris and New York. The two pieces illustrated here, although not directly from the house of Cartier, are fine examples. Their provenance can be traced back to the family of the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, via his daughter's marriage to Sir Edward Mosely. The carved gemstones brought back by the family on their return from India, a perfect reflection of the family's association with the jewel in the crown of Britain's Empire.
These two stunning pieces attracted considerable interest - alongside a number of more traditional Indian pieces in gold and enamel set with rubies, emeralds and pearls - on the Selected Jewellery & Watches auction day; the earrings reaching £25,000 and the bracelet over £37,000 (both prices premium inclusive).