On April 7 in Hong Kong, the Cartier Collection acquired at auction a spectacular necklace comprised of 27 jadeite beads of extremely rare quality and dimensions (from 15.4 to 19.2 mm). The price of $27.44 million represented a new world record for a jadeite jewel. The interest surrounding this acquisition attests to the international recognition of Cartier creations’ patrimonial value and their high desirability at auctions.
The origin of these brilliant green jade beads of beautiful translucency, in strikingly perfect shapes carved from the same boulder, remains a mystery. It is possible they were cut in the 18th century. The necklace made its public debut in 1933 at the marriage of Barbara Hutton (1912-1979) and Prince Alexis Mdivani, as a wedding gift from the father of the young bride, Franklyn Laws Hutton. The clasp of the necklace was then adorned with a navette-cut diamond, crafted by Cartier.
Barbara Hutton was passionate about jade and, on the advice of leading experts in the stone, commissioned from Cartier in 1934 the current clasp, which is set with yellow gold, calibré-cut rubies and baguette-cut diamonds that enhance the deep green hue of the gems. On the same date, she also commissioned from Cartier a jade, ruby and diamond ring to match the necklace, which today forms part of the Cartier Collection.
When she came of age, Barbara Hutton, granddaughter of the founder of the Woolworth stores, inherited one of America’s greatest fortunes. Before long, she became known for her bold and sophisticated taste in contemporary jewellery and historical pieces. In the course of her lifetime, she amassed one of the most stunning collections of jewellery; highlights included the dazzling Pasha diamond mounted as a ring by Cartier, the Marie-Antoinette pearl necklace and the Romanov emeralds, acquired at Cartier, where they were mounted on a necklace that transformed into a tiara.
Her rival style icons and jewellery collectors were Daisy Fellowes and Wallis Simpson, better known as the Duchess of Windsor, who were also devoted Cartier clients. Nonetheless she imposed her own distinctive taste, preferring a Tiger to the iconic Cartier Panther in a set of yellow-diamond earrings and a brooch which is in the CartierCollection today.
The necklace attests to Cartier’s pioneering interest in Chinese culture and jade at the beginning of the 20th century. In boldly pairing contrasting colours of green and red, Cartier created a modern interpretation of a precious gem that has been revered since the dawn of time.
The Cartier Collection boasts some 1,500 pieces. It has been exhibited to date in 27 museums around the globe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the British Museum in London; the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon; the Kremlin Museums in Moscow; the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City in Beijing, and, last winter, the Grand Palais in Paris. The Collection will continue to tour the world, hosted by the most prestigious cultural institutions.