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Cartier: The Exhibition - The Curators Insight

377 items. 7716 diamonds. 1246 emeralds. 301 sapphires. 249 precious stones. 3500 carats combined.

Cartier: The Exhibition is almost here. And it's exclusive to Canberra, not to be seen anywhere else in Australia. From the Queen's Halo Tiara, as worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding, and Dame Elizabeth Taylor's ruby and diamond necklace to Grace Kelly's 10.47ct engagement ring, the levels of opulence at this exhibition exceed anything Australia has ever seen before. 

As the official accommodation partner, we sat down with Simeran Maxwell curator of the exhibition, to delve a little deeper into the luxurious brand that is Cartier, and find out what we can expect from this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.

Cartier is a global luxury brand, who’ve upheld a strong reputation since founded over 170 years ago, to what do you attribute the success?

Cartier has been at the peak of jewellery and luxury goods design for as long as they have because of their innovation and ability to adapt and pre-empt their customers’ needs and wants. Rather than simply following trends, they have led some of the most significant changes style and fashion throughout the 20th century.

What period do you believe produced the most beautiful Cartier jewellery?

There are so many significant design moments which have become synonymous with Cartier jewellery. My favourite took the world by storm between the two world wars in the 1920s and 30s: Art Deco. However, Cartier were making jewellery in the distinctive geometric and abstract Art Deco patterns as early as 1904. The other thing I love about Cartier’s Art Deco designs is that the vary so greatly and pick up on so many great international aesthetic traditions in a unique way. The firm actively encouraged their designers to study art and architecture from around the world, such as ancient Egypt, India, East Asia.

Can you tell us about what styles of jewellery we can expect to see on display?

Cartier significantly changed its style several time throughout the 20th century. Their first signature design was called ‘garland style’ and was inspired by the 17th-century French court of Louis XVI. Dominated by diamonds and newly introduced materials such as platinum (before Cartier began using this in their jewellery it wasn’t seen as a precious metal!). After the First World War they became leaders of the new and daring Art Deco style. Then after the Second World War and into the 1950s and 60s they brought back gold as a popular metal and made some really extravagant jewellery designs for the world’s jet-setters.

Can you tell us what you think the highlights of the exhibition will be?

I think some of the pieces which we have borrowed from Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewellery box will be hugely popular! We are so lucky that the royal family have been so generous with their loans, particularly of things which the queen wears so often.

I also think that our final section which looks at the design partnerships which took place between Cartier and five leading style icons, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and the Duchess of Windsor, will really blow people away.

Can you provide us with a bit of insight into how celebrities go about commissioning a piece from Cartier?

There are really no hard and fast rules around the relationships which exist between Cartier and their clients. They are incredibly personal and Cartier do not like to talk about their clients which keeps the relationships tight. However, we do know that the firm has a long history of being commissioned to make bespoke pieces for the world’s most famous, powerful and wealthy. In some instances the client simply has a general style in mind and the designers come up with a concept independently which is submitted to them for approval.

In other cases, particular gems are provided to Cartier who create a design inspired by them or that best showcases them. This happened with one Queen Elizabeth’s wedding presents: the largest pink diamond ever discovered. Cartier was asked to design a brooch with this diamond at the centre. It is one of the queen’s favourite jewellery pieces and she still is often seen wearing it at public events.

In other situations Cartier and the client design the items in a very collaborative way. One of the design drawings coming for the exhibition from the Cartier Archive has Elizabeth Taylor’s writing all over it in red pen. She annotated the design with changes that she wanted made including type of metal used and length of the necklace.

Exhibition Details

30 March - 22 July 2018

National Gallery of Australia

Accommodation Packages

Accommodation packages, including tickets to the exhibition, start from $179.00. Click here to book.