The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire by Francesca Cartier Brickell.
This book is: a deep dive into the history of the Cartier family, written by one of their own.
Other elements: jewelry, Paris, Cartier, New York, famous jewels.
Read it: if you have any interest in Cartier at all.
The story starts with a young Francesca Cartier Brickell discovering a previously undiscovered trunk of family letters in the basement of her grandfather Jean-Jacques Cartier’s house in the South of France. This cache of correspondence serves as the bulk of the book’s primary sources, with Francesca’s memories and direct quotes from conversations with Jean-Jacque adding to the richness of the story.
This book is fascinating. It’s an intimate, behind the scenes portrait of the actual humans behind the legendary Maison Cartier. This isn’t an impersonal history of a great jewelry dynasty, it is the true story of a family.
The growth and direction of Cartier’s jewelry empire directs the flow of the book – we start in France, visit London and St. Petersburg, we flit across the ocean to New York – but always the narrative follows the family first and the business second.
I learned more detail about some Cartier facts I’d heard before and even more things that were completely new to me: like the incredible story of how a wealthy eccentric with a penchant for aeronautics inspired the invention of the modern wristwatch or how Pierre Cartier secured Cartier’s iconic 5th Ave space in NYC by trading a strand of pearls in exchange for the building after overhearing just the right conversation at a dinner party.
The writing is elegant and rich in detail. Pair this book with a hot toddy and and warm blanket and you’ll be perfectly happy to spend the whole of a winter afternoon with the Cartiers.
I do recommend reading with your phone next to you because you’re going to want to Google all of the famous pieces of jewelry you’re reading stories about. The book includes occasional black and white photos and a gorgeous insert of full color photos, but it doesn’t illustrate every piece mentioned. This is not one of those coffee table art books stuffed with huge full color photos of jewelry – its focus is the stories behind the jewelry rather than the jewelry itself.
If you’re looking for non-jewelry gift for a person who loves jewelry history, this book is the answer.
A few people have asked me if I recommended buying the ebook or the hard copy of this book, and this is my advice: the hard copy of this book is beautiful and looks great on my shelf, but it is quite hefty. If you like to read on the go, you might be better off with an ebook.
I received a review copy of this book for free, but my opinions are my own. Thanks to Francesca Cartier Brickell and Random House for this enjoyable read.
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