They also bear witness to everyday life at a jewelery company. Each item of jewelry has its pedigree, from the initial sketches to its manufacture in the jewelry workshops to the moment of its sale. Cartier has occupied the same premises on rue de la Paix since 1899, on the very site chosen by Alfred Cartier and his son Louis who had recently joined the firm. This documentary heritage has lasted through the ages, a record of virtually every piece that Cartier has created since the turn of the century. In addition, an important collection of registers dating back to the nineteenth century retraces Cartier's activity at its premises on boulevard des Italiens. Even the Second Empire, a significant era in Cartier's history, has left its trace. These written records are combined with a rich collection of photographs, as each item of jewelry was photographed, life-size, before leaving the workshops. Begun in 1906 and preserved in Paris, this collection contains some 40,000 negatives. 30,000 of these negatives are preserved on glass plates in gelatino-bromide. Photograph albums, updated each day, captured production in a precise visual record.
The archive departments are also the guardians of a number of manuscript documents – sketches, preparatory drawings and production drawings – each using the highly specific technique of gouache on tracing paper. In Paris, a collection of plaster casts from 1905 to 1915 remains a touching reminder of life in the jewelry workshops and a unique three-dimensional record of their work.