On April 7th in Hong Kong, the Cartier Collection acquired at auction an exquisite necklace with 27 jadeite beads of exceptional quality and extraordinary cut (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 the acquisition attests to the high international standing of Cartier heritage pieces and their striking desirability at auctions.
The origin of these brilliant green jade beads of beautiful translucency - in strikingly perfect shapes carved from the same block - 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, passionate about jade, was advised by the leading jadeite expert in San Francisco. She commissioned the current clasp from Cartier in 1934, which is set with yellow gold and platinum, 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 jewelry and historical pieces. In the course of her lifetime, she amassed one of the most stunning collections of jewelry; 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 jewelry collectors were Daisy Fellowes and Wallis Simpson, better known as the Duchess of Windsor, who were also devoted Cartier clients. Barbara Hutton stood apart by imposing 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 Cartier Collection 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 colors 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 29 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.
Cartier Paris, special order, 1934
Buff-top calibré-cut rubies
27 imperial jadeite beads, with diameters varying from 15.4 to 19.2 mm
Sold to Princess Alexis Mdivani (Barbara Hutton)