In 1984, Cartier began the Cartier Collection. These pieces, acquired over time, are of interest to both Cartier and the decorative arts as a whole. The criteria for selection include style, inspiration, materials, craftsmanship and, for certain pieces, their historical dimension.
The Cartier Collection now contains more than 1,360 pieces dating from the beginnings of the Maison to the present day. Items listed in original archive documents include jewelry sets, collections of tiaras, collections of classic or precious watches and a group of “mystery” clocks equipped with hidden mechanisms. There are also extravagant or utilitarian objects and accessories: small ladies’ vanity cases, decorated boxes, writing instruments, cigarette cases, etc. All purchased by Cartier privately or at public sales, these pieces used to belong to public or private individuals and each has its own story. The Cartier Collection constitutes a record that stretches from the past to the present day and that takes you, via the Maison’s reminiscences, through the history of both jewelry-making and a rapidly growing company.
The Cartier Collection has been regularly displayed in major retrospectives organized at internationally renowned museums, including the Petit Palais in Paris, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Metropolitan Teien Art Museum in Tokyo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London, the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico, the National Museum in Shanghai, the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, the Kremlin Museum in Moscow, the Deoksugung Museum in Seoul and, more recently, the National Museum of Tokyo, the Palace Museum located within Beijing's Forbidden City and the Legion of Honor, one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco...In addition to these exhibitions, dedicated exclusively to Cartier, the pieces in the Collection have also been requested by museums wishing to include them in exhibitions on other themes illustrated by Cartier. These include the “Jean Cocteau, Spanning a Century” exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in 2003, the “Cartier and Fabergé: Rivals at the Tsar’s Court” show in the Kunsthalle in Munich in the same year, which juxtaposed the work of these two illustrious names, and more recently, the "Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts" at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.