Cartier in Russia and not in the Soviet Union
Nobody was more responsible for Cartier’s fame in Russia than the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. Over the years she became Louis Cartier’s best customer, commissioned numerous important pieces – including the Vladimir tiara, now owned by Queen Elizabeth II of England – and introduced the jeweler to her friends and family. She encouraged Louis Cartier and his brothers Pierre and Jacques to open the seasonal business at the Grand Hotel in 1907, where it thrived for several years.
In the early years of the last century, towards the end of the Romanov regime, Pavlovna had amassed a treasure trove of Cartier jewelry, which included a six-row pearl necklace adorned with two diamond-set imperial eagles, an intricate diamond tiara with a 5 .22 carat Beauharnais ruby and an ornate arched diamond and onyx brooch with a lorgnette. Her collection impressed her nephew Tsar Nicholas II so much that in 1907, shortly after the opening of the Cartier boutique in the Grand Hotel, he appointed Cartier jeweler of the imperial court in St. Petersburg, which at the time was the capital of Russia.
The beginning of World War I gave way to its closure and the Russian Revolution followed. There was no more room for a luxury jeweler in the Soviet Union. Cartier’s target customers were wealthy citizens and upper class nobles, and during the Revolution and the numerous campaigns of the Soviet Union, these people were wiped out, which meant they were killed or imprisoned, leaving the jewelers no chance of staying in Russia. The jewelers themselves ran the risk of being killed or imprisoned if they had stayed there.
When the Russian Revolution began 10 years later, the Grand Duchess had to hide her jewels in a vault in the Vladimir Palace, her home in St. Petersburg, and fled to the Caucasus. She refused to leave her country and stayed in the Caucasus until 1920. Meanwhile, Albert Stopford, a member of the British Secret Service and a family friend who sympathized with the Romanovs, retrieved the jewels from the vault and smuggled them out of Russia. He eventually brought her back to the Grand Duchess, who lived in Venice, Italy after she left Russia for good.
The influence of ancient Egypt
The influence of ancient Egypt has been a huge factor in the world of art and design since the 18th century. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 encouraged this interest, as did the 1911 Franco-Egyptian exhibition in the Louvre. People flocked to see the ancient art and relics and, as such, were influenced by the ancient Egyptian style
Cartier’s early Egyptian inspired pieces used Scarab motifs, lotus flowers and other recognizable Egyptian symbols in lapis, Turquoise and garnet, highlighted by pearls and diamonds. Early 20th century pieces include stylized Cartier-style motifs with platinum and diamonds with onyx and with designs Caliber cut emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
Following the groundbreaking and exciting discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922, interest in the Egyptian style rose sharply and was revisited for more inspiration. Inspired by Louis Cartier’s long-standing personal interest in Egyptian relics and his collection of items along these lines, Cartier began creating unique and imaginative pieces that revolve around ancient Egypt Faience beads and fragments.
The mysterious clocks
The hands of a mysterious clock seem to work by themselves and keep the time around a transparent face, which is typically made of rock crystal, with no visible connection to movements of any kind.
While the effect is mystical and simple, the truth is nowhere near as simple as the effect. In fact, each hand is mounted on a separate crystal disc with a sawtooth-shaped metal rim driven by gears camouflaged within the frame of the case. The crystal discs are transparent and cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Every part of the watch is entirely handcrafted, and making a finished watch was a tedious and arduous process that took three to twelve months to complete until the 1980s. The first mystery watch called “Model A” with a vertical frame and heavy stone base was sold to JPMorgan.
Subsequent models of the Mystery Clock featured many different shapes and motifs, often with oriental themes, including the famous portico models, which were designed as free-standing oriental porticos with great images of dragons or Buddhas.