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Cartier and the Arts of Islam: The Sources of Modernity Exhibition

by Julie MIALET 15 Jan 2022

The influences of the arts of Islam on the production of jewelery and precious objects by the famous Maison de haute joaillerie, from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

Since when did the arts of Islam begin to influence the decorative arts and in particular fine jewelry?

This is the question that the exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs tries to answer.

If you want to understand the passion of Louis Cartier (1875-1942) for the arts of Islam, you have to go back in time and propel yourself to the exhibition of so-called Muslim arts at the Marsan pavilion in 1903.

From that moment on, Louis Cartier filled his library with miniatures, Korans, Persian books, objects from India or Egypt, earthenware dishes from Iznik, inexhaustible sources of inspiration.

Iznik earthenware dish

Thus Louis Cartier urges the "designers" of the Maison Cartier to draw inspiration from it.

From 1910-1911, and his return from India, squares, diamonds, checkerboards, palmettes, scales appear on all kinds of creations: compacts, cigarette cases, gold boxes, brooches, pins, tiaras , all inspired by oriental and geometric patterns precursors of the great era called "art deco" in reference to the international exhibition of modern decorative and industrial arts in Paris in 1925. The house of Cartier will thus make its entry into modernity.


The repertoire of geometric and naturalistic motifs from the arts of Islam, of which the boteh gradually constitutes a real stylistic language!


All the interest of this fascinating exhibition lies in the fact that the curators have brought together a good number of archives and drawings presented in parallel with the finished work.


Thus ceramic dishes from Iznik, fabrics, embroidery, illuminations from the Koran and motifs such as that of the " boteh " leaf are transformed into brooches, necklaces or headbands, while the designs adorning the interior of mosques become pendants and bracelets in platinum and white diamonds.

Tiara with Indian motif, based on turquoises, Cartier London in 1936

The novelty of these creations also lies in the combination of colors and materials little used before: marriage of lapis lazuli often coming from Afghanistan, and turquoise from Iran, sapphire and jade, ruby and emerald etc.


From 1930 under the artistic direction of Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1976), the inspiration of the House will evolve towards Indian motifs: Tutti Frutti, large necklaces, jewels all in very colorful and spectacular volume. It must be said that the main customers of the House are now Maharajas ordering sublime adornments from their prestigious collection of stones, in particular the mythical type IIa diamonds from Golconda, the emeralds from Colombia which in the 16th and 17th centuries passed through the port of Goa, the sumptuous rubies of Burma and the famous sapphires of Kashmir.

Gouache of a Maharajah headdress by Cartier

To end the visit, you can enjoy a captivating central animation broadcast by a projector on huge canvases showing the making and assembly of three or four pieces of high jewelry including the spectacular necklace of amethysts, turquoises and diamonds which belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, gift offered by the Duke in 1947. This is my favorite of the exhibition.

Drapery necklace (gold, platinum, diamonds, amethysts, turquoises), Cartier

A total success, perfect combination of Wallis Simpson's favorite colors.

Commissioned from Maison Cartier, this draped necklace was designed and inspired by Indian jewelry.

It is composed of 29 emerald-cut amethysts, turquoise cabochons and brilliant-cut diamonds. The most prominent cabochon amethyst is heart-shaped. The Duke of Windsor himself chose all the stones, except those of turquoise.

In June 1953, during the gala ball at the Orangerie of Versailles, the Duchess of Windsor wore a strapless dress with the matching necklace and earrings.

When he died in 1986, the necklace was sold at Sotheby's in Geneva for $605,000, the funds from which were donated to the Institut Pasteur.

If you are interested in Maison Cartier jewellery, do not hesitate to discover what Les Pierres de Julie has in store for you…

We are also available for any free expertise of your vintage jewelry, for this you can send an email with your photos to

Welcome to our shop in the Swiss village of the 15th arrondissement of Paris!

Tutti Frutti necklace (emeralds, sapphires, rubies), Cartier

Cartier and the arts of Islam. At the sources of Modernity @MAD (until February 20, 2022)

Whether you're interested in buying a piece of jewellery or a stone, a free jewelry appraisal or jewelry resale, Pierres de Julie welcomes you to its Parisian boutique in the Village Suisse, a stone's throw from the Ecole Militaire and the Esplanade des Invalides.

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