Getting stoned on sparklers - Down the years, Cartier's creations inspired by Indian designs

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  • Published 30.10.02

Having met the irrepressible Olaf Van Cleef, who is a senior board representative of Cartier, on Tuesday morning, and having tried hard to digest his heavily Gallic English as he introduced his guests to Cartier’s creations inspired by Indian designs through a slide-show, one mentally framed the question: Are diamonds only a girl’s best friend? Or do we all want to get stoned on these rocks?

Nobody would harbour any doubts about the gender of the Caribbean cricket team, and they dropped by at Van Cleef’s hotel suite to say hello to the man who sells sparklers for a living. Diamonds hold a fascination even for these hunks.

Offset with stones as brightly hued as crystallised fruit in the now famous Tutti Frutti line of Cartier or in isolated splendour, diamonds have the mystique attached with unattainable objects of desire. Olaf’s slides brought to life a world of glamour beyond our wildest dreams. There were panthers, parakeets, orchids, lotuses, rivieres and brooches and pendants, all heavily studded with these forever-rocks from the great Cartier archive of five million designs. They often resembled the pietra dura from Taj Mahal or intricate minakari.

He began his story with the famous shot of Nehru sharing a joke with the Mountbattens, in particular with Edwina, who wears a string of pearls designed by this legendary bauble shop. From the heavy jewellery of the Romanovs meant to impress and strike awe, the carousel recounted how high jewellery became more pure and geometric as it drew on Indian, Japanese and Egyptian examples.

As Cartier, 150 year old now, encountered the Indian royalty, the sar pench and carved emeralds became every fashionable woman’s trinket. Cecil Beaton caught those beauties in black-and-white magic. Recently, Cartier has restored to its former splendour the Maharaja of Patiala’s necklace resembling a cascade of light.