Cartier, the king of jewelers

Quality is timeless.

Yet, visitors to San Francisco’s Legion of Honor will get a rare treat and the opportunity to peer back through time — more than
100 years of famed French jewelry house Cartier’s presence in this country — to see famous jewels, singular gemstones and intriguing mystery clocks created for icons, screen stars and royalty.

Some 300 exquisite objects, from the early 20th-century Belle Epoque period through the 1960s and ’70s, will be on display in “Cartier and America.” The world exclusive exhibit opens Saturday and runs through April 18.

What makes this exhibition important, says Fine Arts Museums Director John Buchanan, is that it focuses on Americans who owned the spectacular pieces.

The show, according to Buchanan, has three primary themes: “First, there are these incredible stones, then the sentimental jewelry owned by American screen idols and celebrities, and then, of course, the clocks are magnificent.”

Cartier, called “king of jewelers and jeweler to the kings,” designed jewelry for Hollywood royalty like Elizabeth Taylor, Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford. The Dutchess of Windsor also was a valued customer.

“Cartier and America” features, for the first time, Princess Grace of Monaco’s personal jewelry, including her 10.47-carat, emerald-cut diamond ring with two baguettes set in platinum, her significant diamond necklace and her signature gold “bird” brooches.

One particularly interesting item is the Tutti Frutti necklace, a medley of hundreds of precious and semiprecious stones fabricated for socialite and Singer sewing machine heiress Daisy Fellowes in the 1920s.

Another unique piece created in the 1920s, from a collection owned by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and lent to the museum by Post’s Hillwood Estate Museum in Washington, D.C., is a brooch incorporating rare Indian carved emeralds, one dating from the 16th-century Mughal era.

“Mystery” clocks, lent to the museum from the Lindemann Collection of Palm Beach, are so named because they represent the “art of illusion” and artistic individuality. Created in 1913, the first was sold to the American mogul J.P. Morgan.

“I think in these times visitors should take away the idea that whatever is the best that there is, that is lasting — jewelry, art, furniture, is worthwhile collecting and viewing,” says Diane B. Wilsey, president of the Fine Arts Museums board of directors.

“That’s what the Fine Arts Museums stand for, and what Cartier has done for 100 years.”

IF YOU GO
Cartier and America

Where: Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street, San Francisco
When: Opens Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closes April 18
Tickets: $16 to $20, includes special exhibit surcharge
Contact: (415) 750-3600, www.legionofhonor.org

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