Cartier sunglasses are exclusive for a simple reason; wearing them requires money. Forgetting about the “great deal” found online, direct from the manufacturer, these glasses are pricey. On the company retail website, they fetch a minimum of 500 dollars, with the most expensive models selling for upwards of 2,000 dollars. On one particular pair, the “Santos De Cartier Rimmed Sunglasses” Cartier won’t even tell you the price, at least not at first. You have to request a quote from them and most people will never take the time to fill out the form and and find, shockingly, that the price is a steal, at only 1,690 dollars!. At some point, you are not only just paying for the quality of craftsmanship or materials, but for the history of the name and the company, and the story of that is a short but stunning combination of style and salesmanship.
The birth of the brand came when Cartier was established in the former workshop of master-craftsman Aldophe Picard, located in Paris, at 29, Rue Montorgueil. Louis-François Cartier bought the shop in 1847 and served as the head of the family-owned jewelers shop until his death at the age of in 1904. His son, Alfred, participated in the daily affairs of the business, as well as his grandsons, Pierre, Jocque and Louis. While Louis-François and Alfred handled the production side, the grandsons formed the brand’s reputation worldwide.
Pierre Camille Cartier was sent to Russia to become well versed in the techniques of enamel and stone used by Peter Carl Faberge, so that Cartier would not fall behind in the competitive markets in the East. Rather, through the use of the hard enamels and stone animal motifs used in Russia, Cartier won influential customers in the nobility and aristocracy. In 1909 he went to New York, where he won the favor of American Industrialists like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Ford. He also sold the magnificent blue “Hope” diamond during this time.
Jacques Theodule Cartier was the company’s expert on fine pearls and although the youngest grandson, he was also entrusted with the London office of Cartier in 1902. Through this office he would influence the royal family’s of the U.K. and the Orient. Several settings of fine pearls were set in London at the behest of envious Maharajahs who wanted the new Cartier style. It was also during this time that the phrase “Joaillier des Rois, Roi des Joailliers” (Jeweler of Kings, King of Jewelers) was coined by Edward VII of England.
Louis Joseph Cartier was the eldest grandson of founder Louis-François, and quite possibly had the biggest impact on creating the fortunes of the company on the 20th century. It was through his innovation that Cartier expanded the meaning of Haute Joaillerie (High Jewelery design) to include not only jewelery, but also high quality accessories. He expanded the company’s interests into clock making, and started producing the first ladies wristwatches in 1888. The watch would become popularized for men (up to this point pocket watches were the expected norm of a gentleman) by Cartier under Louis’ stewardship. Platinum would also begin to be used in jewelery for the first time because of Cartier. Colorful jewels and art deco features would also make their way into Cartier works while Louis Joseph oversaw designs, and Cartier would gain the patent for the “invisible setting” (patented under the name “serti mysterieux”)
The introduction of silver as a mode of Haute Joaillerie was also introduced by Cartier. Jeanne Toussaint was a designer working for Louis Joseph when in 1933 she took over design of the company’s “S” division. They introduced “Les Must de Cartier”, a line of perfume and accessories in silver, enamel, and leather. Toussaint would later become the responsible for all Haute Joaillerie production during the occupation of France during WWII, and created designs “Caged Bird” and “Free Bird” inspired by the oppression.
Sadly, the death of the three grandsons brought an end to the family-owned enterprise. In 1968 Robert Hocq, developer of the first gas cigarette lighter, partnered with Cartier to brand a luxury version of his invention. In 1972, when it was acquired by private investors. But not completely. The sole Paris location would need to be joined with its London and New York counterparts, as well as reunification with the “Les Must de Cartier” (their line of luxury perfumes). After nine years, CEO Robert Hocq had succeeded in doing just that.
Cartier has always been a prestigious name associated with creating trends in the market we still see even today. The influence of the company is a point of pride to all who know and wear the brand, and with a reputation like Cartier has it isn’t hard to see.