India is famous for its vibrant, bright and exotic colours that speak of a rich cultural history marrying together both religious and economic aspects. It is no wonder then that Indian jewellery reflects these virtues through sparkling luxury and dynamic vivacity. India has a vast legacy of jewellery making. This is partly due to the infinite supply of diamonds, pearls, emeralds, gold and silver. One of the first groups of people to make jewellery were the people of the Indus Valley Civilization (Pakistan and North India). By 1500 BC these people were making gold necklaces, earrings and metallic bangles.
Jewellery was considered extravagant ornamentation and the wearing of jewels was reserved only for Maharajahs and people related to royalty because it was considered that they had a deeper connection and so a right to adorn themselves in resplendent gems. From being heavily dressed in jewels, the Maharajahs expressed their wealth and power. For this reason a law was passed stating that only royalty was allowed to wear jewellery. The Mughal reign was a very significant period for jewellery and many jewellers prospered from between 16th century to 19th century creating jewellery for royalty.
The expressive and evocative appeal of Indian jewellery with its rich colours and elaborate detailing drew the Cartier brothers to incorporate the richly exotic designs into their jewellery.
The Cartier brothers arrived in India in 1919 and proceeded to travel around the country gathering photographs of a world that was totally new to them. At that time prestigious jewellery brands were being commissioned by the wealthy families of India because of their desire to possess French designed jewellery that was in fashion at the time. The riches, colours and patterns that were revealed through the experience of this exotic land inspired the Cartier brothers to start incorporating Indian styles into their jewellery designs. Through the adoption of these Indian influences, Cartier changed traditional works of art in the west for the 20th century.
Cartier created a fashion for the exotic style of jewellery that excited western customers. The exotic influences consisted of precious stones such as Burmese rubies, Mughal-engraved emeralds, Kashmiri and sapphires. The flamboyant and daring new styles continued to remain in high demand in Europe throughout the 20s and 30s. A particular collection that was extremely popular was Cartier’s Tutti Frutti collection of the 1920s and 30s. It expressed the joy and aesthetic appeal of the Indian culture through strong bursts of coloured jewels, emeralds and precious stones. Cartier’s creations for the Indian Maharajah were very different to that for the western market as the jewellery was stripped back and simple and clean designs were created. The Indian trade proved very beneficial for the company’s expansion.
Cartier’s success reveals why it is important for a brand to both connect with history and its past designs as well as to look forward. It is able to be inspired and provide innovative new tastes through fashionable influences yet remain true to itself. It introduced the west to new design ideas and excited western customers through bringing the exotic and vibrant appeal of India to Europe.