First, a disclaimer. Style Matters loves jewelry, any kind. I will stop to peruse Target’s jewelry department. I think the new JC Penney jewelry cases at Park Meadows are worth inspecting. The first place I go to when visiting a new city is its museum jewelry display. So, you can imagine my
anticipation for the newest Denver Art Museum blockbuster, “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century.” I was in love with the exhibition even before I saw it.
Founded in Paris in 1847, Cartier rose to prominence as one of Europe’s leading jewelers of the 20th century. The display showcases some of the company’s most magnificent jewelry created between 1900 and 1975. The 250 pieces in the exhibit come from the company’s own collection and private lenders. Cartier’s commitment to superior craftsmanship and stunning creativity appealed to clients of the highest aristocracy to newly coined captains of industry. King Edward VII of England referred to Cartier as “the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers,” quite the compliment and one of the reasons the company rose to global prominence.
The gala was catered by Kevin Taylor and featured signature drinks of Shimmering Ruby Cosmopolitans.
[Cartier jewels have adorned the necks, wrists and fingers of the famous and the infamous, Indian maharajahs and monarchs, great beauties and plain debutantes. All beat a door to the Cartier studio where Gilded Age American money and impoverished European aristocrats merged pedigree and fortunes together. Call it an early match.com.
Now Denverites have the chance to peek into this exclusive world. Five years in the making, DAM director Christophe Heinrich, exhibit curator Margaret Young Sanchez and their staff, have brought together many of Cartier’s most spectacular pieces in a cleverly conceived setting organized around several themes: Aristocracy and Aspiration, Art Deco styles, Men’s Jewelry, Smoking, and the Age of Glamour.
Crystal Osthoff whose husband Shawn is president of Bank of Colorado, wears one of the trends of the evening: a one-shoulder long gown, this one by Adrianna Papell. Brittany Rogers whose husband is on the bank board looks lovely in a Monique L’huillier ball gown.
Exhibition designer Nathalie Criniere, who designed the popular Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 2012, used the concept of a jewelry box as the organizing theme. She has maximized the sparkling allure of every stone by installing 1500 spotlights.
Natural pearls, especially large ones, are extremely rare and costly. In fact they are worth more than diamonds. This famous necklace once belonged to the Maharajah of Patiala who commissioned Cartier to make one for him. It contained 2,930 diamonds, and weighed 234.65 carats in its final setting.
A few pieces with interesting back stories:
Heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune and a member of British royalty, Daisy Fellowes was upset that the Great Depression had forced her to sell her yacht. To raise her spirits, Fellowes purchased from Cartier a necklace mounted with emerald, sapphire, and ruby beads. The gems looked like berries and hence the name Tutti Frutti.
Jana Gottschalk, Donna Pierce, Marty Corren and Howard Corren.
By far the best known of Richard Burton’s many jewelry purchases for Liz Taylor was the 69.42-carat pear-shaped stone, later to be called the Taylor-Burton Diamond, that was once owned by Cartier. Burton paid about $1.1 million, which seems a paltry amount in today’s dollars.
After their divorce, Taylor auctioned the diamond for $5 million, which was used to build a hospital in Botswana.
Natural pearls, especially large ones, are extremely rare and costly. In fact they are worth more than diamonds. A famous necklace on display once belonged to the Maharajah of Patiala who commissioned Cartier to make a necklace for him, using 2,930 diamonds and several of the Maharajah’s supply of rare natural pearls.
Nowadays, our merger billionaires prefer to invest their dollars in art, mansions and jets. The days of fabulous baubles could be disappearing. After all, how many places can a woman wear a $5 million necklace. If she wore it to every gala, her friends might comment: “She’s not wearing that old thing again. You know how many times we’ve seen that?” Or perhaps she could try dressing it down with skinny jeans and boots. Would an insurance policy cover that? Not so sure.
According to Heinrich, the Denver Art Museum is the only venue worldwide to host “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century.” It’s ours from now until March 15, 2015. Don’t miss it because we will probably never see the likes of this show in Denver again. For more information go to www.denverartmuseum.org for tickets and times.
Style Matters suspects that it was probably a bit challenging to decide what to wear to last week’s Brilliant gala. It’s a daunting task to dress and accessorize for a gala that contains so many fabulous pieces. Still Denver glitterati rose to the occasion. Check out some of these ensembles.
One-shoulder gowns — stunning on many women.
Oversized necklaces — This was the place to wear them.
Ball gowns — Several of the women who worked at the DAM were wearing long ball gowns, perfect for the gala which was all about late century styles.
Real jewelry — I am not at liberty to name names, but you know who you are. The family jewels came out en masse, and the DAM entrance hall during cocktails was almost as glittering as the exhibition.
This obsession with large stones, the kind that have names and bloody histories, appears to be universal. Large stones were believed to bestow power and status on the wearer. Look at this monster sapphire weighing in at 478 carats once owned by Marie of Romania.
“Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century” is presented by Joy and Chris Dinsdale and Bank of Colorado. Joy chats with museum trustee Arlene Hirschfeld
Photos by Marie Griffin Dennis
Judie Schwartz, AKA Style Matters, is the co-author of two best-selling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion-Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz is also a wardrobe consultant. She has one husband, three children, no pets and small closets. She can be reached at email@example.com.