The History of Cartier

If you take a close look at the history of prominent luxury brands such as Cartier, you will notice that these brands were not always this huge back in the day. It usually started from an individual who had a passion and an eye for perfection. Every brand expanded further by innovating and introducing items that were ahead of their time. Cartier being a trendsetter and a class on its own, peaked heights that not every brand was able to. From designing to manufacturing, Cartier has made history by introducing some of the best and luxurious watches and jewelry.

It was founded by Louis-Francois Cartier in 1947. Based in Paris, the brand has successfully extended its reach to almost every corner of the world. Let us find out how.

 The Beginning

The story begins with Louis-Francois Cartier being born in 1819, in Paris. As a young individual, Cartier was employed and working at a modest store owned by Adolphe Picard who was a watchmaker. During his time at the workshop, Cartier learned all the skills needed to create the perfect timepieces along with jewelry. As time passed, his obsession grew and soon the store was acquired by Cartier. Cartier began his quest to produce the finest quality luxury items and was unaware that France’s political turmoil in the upcoming years would give his business a boost, he had never imagined.

Initially, when Cartier was employed at the workshop and had bought off the store, it only specialized in making timepieces. However, Cartier thought of adding jewelry as well to expand the product line. Therefore, Cartier found himself searching for the finest jewelry in and around France. As his budget was limited, he had to be smart and wise with his decisions.

This was also a time when the economy of France was in such bad shape that people were eating rats. Therefore, there was no chance of a diamond/jewelry market to survive, let alone a shop. As things settled down, Cartier’s business managed to come out alive from the other end. Now, nothing was stopping Cartier in his tracks.

The Early Years

While Cartier was employed at the shop, he had witnessed the struggle of his employer to transform the business into a moderately successful one. After the French revolution in 1848, Cartier had worked day and night to sustain the business but the overall situation of the country was a ruckus. Cartier would buy and sell jewelry and use the profits to purchase even finder jewelry. For around two decades, Cartier was able to run his shop modestly amidst the bouncy economic situations. Later, his son Alfred joined the business. Compared to his father, Alfred was more business-oriented and was thought to expand the business by introducing it to Europe and markets beyond. Since luck was on Cartier’s side, his business was gradually growing especially when France itself had lost hope of survival.

 The Revolution of Cartier

Cartier was extremely lucky when it came to finding opportunities in tough times. One such example was the Paris Commune. This was a revolution, socialist in nature, and the new rulers in charge of the waged war against the aristocracy. The wealthy people, unable to reach their wealth, wanted to sell whatever they had in hand, which mostly meant jewelry. Cartier took advantage of the situation and bought every piece that was brought to him for selling.

This way in a matter of months, Cartier had accumulated the most luxurious and finest jewelry pieces for less than half the price. Although the Paris commune lasted for months until things settled again but Cartier was already destined for huge success. The French were again free to spend and purchase and Cartier was offering his pieces to anyone who could afford it. Over the next 20 years, people were putting in requests to get their jewelry items made. As a result, the business expanded and there was a need to find larger premises. It was in 1899 when a showroom was finally established to showcase Cartier’s brilliant craftsmanship.

The Golden Years

The years from 1904-1920 were golden years for the brand. Alfred had introduced his three sons to the business and each was a master of his skill. Alfred had always believed in the finest quality products and therefore, had a strict policy of producing only the best items. Although there were other brands as well, who were known to implement strict quality measures but it was nothing like what Cartier had practiced. This was perhaps the only reason because of  which Cartier managed to remain at the top even after 100 years.

Further down the road, Cartier was producing some of the best pieces. It had introduced the world-famous tutti-frutti bracelets and necklaces. Moreover, it also produced the necklace of Maharaja of Patiala, which consisted of around 3,000 diamonds.  Under Louis’s eye, Cartier had raised the stakes and he knew that amongst fierce competition, he would be able to sell his brand to the world since he had an eye for perfection.

He was also the one to introduce the first wristwatch, replacing the pocket watch. Then, the introduction of Platinum to the jewelry world changed the game. Louis found out that it was both stronger and lighter than gold to work with but relatively difficult. Nonetheless, Louis ended up revolutionizing the industry.

Cartier’s Expansion

Cartier's Expansion

While Louis was busy in doing what he did best, his brother Pierre wanted to expand the business. He knew that the US had experienced tremendous economic growth during the late 19th and early 20th century, therefore, informed his brothers about moving to New York. As a result, Pierre purchased a 5th Avenue Townhouse. This would prove to be the best deal ever made by the family. Cartier was now putting itself on the front in the U.S newspapers.

Then came the Hope diamond, which was the most famous diamond in the world at the time. Known for bad luck that it brought to its owners, Pierre bought the diamond and quickly sold it. By this time, Cartier was at the peak and ruling the jewelry industry.

Sale of Cartier

Cartier was a brand that had witnessed its fair share of depressions. However, it managed to survive each time. With the death of his brothers, Louis was now in charge of the business alone. After Pierre died in 1964, it was decided that the brand be sold. One by one, the branches in London, Paris, and New York were sold. Robert Hocq, who was a French Resistance hero bought various branches of Cartier. Unfortunately, he was not able to witness the expansion of the brand as he passed away in a tragic automobile accident in 1979.

Final Word

Cartier as a brand was a dream comes true. It all began with an eye for detail and political circumstances working in favor of the brand. Today, Cartier continues to produce the finest jewelry items and remains at the forefront of innovation. It proves its presence every year by introducing products that keep the industry gossiping about