The lusciously textured, color-rich beauty of Cartier Tutti Frutti is one of my very favorite jewelry motifs of all time. Sotheby’s recently sold a truly stunning example of this style and I can’t wait to take a nice, close look at it.
This is going to be a really old school #DITLClassic kind of post: we’re going to take a deep dive into one auction listing, just like in the good old days.
Hello, you Tutti Frutti beauty.
This magnificent bracelet is by Cartier, made in 1930 (a truly superlative year for jewelry). It’s a superlative example of the luscious Tutti Frutti style, pioneered by Cartier itself during the Art Deco era. What makes this piece Tutti and Frutti? It’s those wonderful individually carved rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, jumbled gorgeously together with careful, casual elegance.
I am of the opinion that, like rainbow jewels, Cartier Tutti Frutti can be worn almost as a neutral. It might not work with neon orange, but I think you could wear this bracelet with pretty much anything.
This piece sold at Sotheby’s on April 28, 2020, and it immediately set auction records for the highest price for any jewel sold at auction in 2020. In other words: I am not the only one obsessed with this piece.
More about the history of Cartier Tutti Frutti, from the Sotheby’s press release:
Celebrated as the “holy grail” of jewelry, tutti frutti designs by Cartier are joyous celebrations of texture, form and color that are coveted today as icons of the Art Deco era. The artful arrangement of carved colored stones and diamonds, together with the precise application of black enamel, uniquely illustrate the marriage between Eastern and Western influences on Art Deco jewelry design.
Cartier produced tutti frutti jewels in a variety of forms, with bracelets widely regarded as the most desirable. All share the hallmark of Moghul-cut colored stones – but each piece is unique. The present example is distinguished by the vibrancy of its gemstones, predominated by rubies, and by the lines of black enamel, applied to just one side, in an echo of the organic asymmetry of the carved gems. The bracelet returns to a more traditional Art Deco aesthetic with its pavé-set diamond clasp, highlighted by onyx triangles and chevron-shaped closures.
Pierre Cartier’s first foray into the tutti frutti style in 1901 was a necklace for Queen Alexandra who, as the wife of King Edward VII and by extension Empress Consort of India, commissioned a piece to complement three Indian-style dresses. The master jeweler’s necklace succeeded in blending the sumptuous curves and dazzling colors associated with the perceived exoticism of India with the techniques of modern craftsmanship perfected at the House of Cartier. The necklace opened the door to future Royal commissions and became the basis for the firm’s most celebrated jewels of Eastern inspiration. However, it wasn’t until 1911, when Pierre Cartier’s brother Jacques ventured to India, that this style truly came to life.
Upon observing India’s exotic culture and traditions, Jacques’ business expedition soon developed into an educational journey that would influence how his family firm would design jewels for years to come. He returned to his London workshop teeming with inspiration, incorporating the fulgent colors and rich textures of carved Moghul gemstones into the geometric platinum and diamond mountings crafted at Cartier. After being exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, tutti frutti jewels rapidly gained popularity among the most fashionable and discerning collectors of the day, including Mrs. Cole Porter and Daisy Fellowes.”
I hate to throw giant blocks of text at you, but when I tried to distill this history into a smaller summary, I just felt like I was leaving things out. I’d rather give you the whole story in someone else’s words than distill it and lose things.
The carved emeralds, sapphires, and rubies sort of steal the show here, but I want to make sure you don’t miss one super important element: the black enamel detailing that punctuates certain lines of the design. You can see it underlining several sections along the lower edge in the above photo, both under the all-diamond section and carefully interspersed along the rest of the bracelet.
This subtle but vital design element adds such a glorious contrast to this piece and really helps the eye process what could otherwise be an almost overwhelming experience. To me, the careful black enamel detailing is one of the key elements that elevates Cartier Tutti Frutti to the level of pure genius. I don’t mean to fangirl excessively, but it’s just so perfect! A beautiful reminder that the Art Deco period, so hallmarked by clean geometry, also celebrated lush and curvaceous color.
Here’s a closer look at the rear of the bracelet. The clasp here is just ultimate, iconic Art Deco, with the geometric lines, negative space, and perfect subdued black detailing on an otherwise all-diamond field.
I also love this shot because you can see the light shining through the carved jewels on the other side of the bracelet. It also gives you a good view of the open spaces worked carefully into the overall design. Sighhhhhh. If I owned this treasure I would stare at it all of the time.
This particular jewel has never been sold at auction before, but I actually featured a very similar Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet – also made in 1930 – right here on DitL in 2012. I guess I have a type? I stand by it, though.
If you share my love of classic Cartier, I’m also going to point you towards the recent book, The Cartiers, which tells the inside story of this legendary jewelry family. See more Cartier jewelry in my Cartier blog archive here or on my Cartier Pinterest board here.
All photos c/o Sotheby’s.