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Cartier Jewelry & Watches

Kseniya Burns


The store of the coveted Cartier brand starts in 1847 when an apprentice by the name of Louis-François Cartier  inherits his masters jewelry shop. Louis Francis Cartier became the mastermind behind the precious creations that are sold to this day under the name Cartier.  Louis Francis was always interested in creating unusual and stunning jewelry, but his true passion was in wrist watch design.  Although Cartier was not the first to design a wristwatch, that honor belongs to Patek Phillippe, Cartier is largely responsible for popularizing the model and the creation of the first bracelet ladies watch in 1888.

From the early begging, Louis- Francis Cartier began acquiring an elite following in the face of Parisian aristocracy. The court was bored of the "old world" jewelry and trinkets. Being the leader in the world of fashion, the French, could not allow anyone to surpass them as trend setters.  Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III and a regent of France, admired some of her niece's jewelry that was made by Cartier and shortly thereafter became his client.  Just as expected, the trend followed. Soon royal courts around Europe began appointing Cartier as the official purveyor for their kings. The popularity of Cartier jewelry and watches was so immense that by the 1920's Cartier had multiple stores in some of the key cities of Europe and United States. After his death Louis Francis left the family business to Alfred Cartier and his three sons: Louis, Pierre, and Jacque. While their father remained largely on the periphery as an artisan, Louis, Pierre, and Jacques were in charge of marketing and growing the business.  


During the early 1900's the popularity and fame of Cartier's designs continued to grow. More and more royal families and aristocrats were going out of their way to acquire Cartier's creations. In 1904 Cartier received an appointment to become an official purveyor for the r King Alfonso XIII of Spain. It is during that time that Cartier was asked to create a functional wrist watch for his long term friend and adventurer Alberto Santos- Dumont.  Alberto Santos -Dumont was one of the most famous people in the world in the early 20th century due to his incredible, controlled flight around the Eiffel Tower in 1901 in a dirigible that was built and constructed by him.  Santos complained to Cartier that using  a pocket watch during a flight was extremely impractical and interfered with other operations. Heeding to the request for a more practical watch, Cartier created a thin wrist watch with an iconic square design that fit comfortable on the wrist of a pilot. The watch was an instant hit making the "Santos" Cartier's first official men's wrist watch line.

During the early years of Cartier watchmaking, all of the watch movements were supplied by the third party companies and Cartier did not label his creations with a model number. In 1907 Cartier signed a contract with Edmond Jaeger, a Swiss watch movement maker, to exclusively supply Cartier with movements for the upcoming watch lines.  The partnership between the two companies was such a success that by the early 1920's Cartier and Edmond Jaeger formed a joint venture and called it Jaeger-LeCoultre. Together the company offered some of the most complex and precise watch movements in the world which contributed to the growing popularity of Cartier timepieces. In no small part because of the relationship that Cartier had with Jaeger, it was possible for Cartier to create the first  mystery clock, a completely clear clock with a hidden watch movement.


While Louis Cartier continued amazing the world with incredible watches and jewelry designs, his brother Pierre Cartier was in New York running the New York city branch of the family business. Pierre Cartier was an extremely skilled salesman,  a charming socialite, and an incredible jeweler which is why it comes as no surprise that Pierre Cartier eventually found himself contributing to the history of the most cursed jewel in the world. In 1910, Pierre purchased the Hope Diamond from another jeweler for $150,000. Pierre Cartier saw an opportunity to take something so feared and mysterious and wrap it in the beauty of a Cartier design to hopefully dispel the awful reputation of the stone.

Pierre offered the stone to a wife of a young  Washington D.C. socialite Evelyn Walsh McLean. It was evident to Pierre from the early beginning that in order to sell the Blue Diamond, some extremely creative marketing  techniques needed to be implemented. During his meeting with Mrs. McLean, Cartier kept the Hope Diamond out sight while he described to her its rich history while carefully avoiding the rumors about the curse. By the time his speech was over, Mrs. McLean could not wait to see the beautiful stone. After weeks of negotiations, the McLeans decided to back out of the deal. It is speculated that the indecision of the young socialites about the purchase of the Hope Diamond was due to their discovery of the diamonds sorted past. Every newspaper from Washington D.C. to New York City buzzed about the diamond's  curse.  However, based on the sources from the Smithsonian Museum where the diamond currently resides, all of the media attention was generated by the McLean family in order to bump up the value of their potential investment while decreasing the sale price. For over a year the McLean family and the attorneys of Pierre Cartier went back and forth over the deal. However, after Cartier had offered to reset the diamond into a modern, platinum setting that had the stone surrounded by round and pear shaped white diamonds with the final sale price of $300,000, Mrs. McLean could no longer resist the gorgeous jewel. On February 12, 1912, Mrs. McLean wore her Hope Diamond to the "brilliant ball". The date marks the first time that the diamond was worn since it changed owners in 1909. Despite the diamond's bad reputation for bringing misfortune to many previous owners, Evelyn McLean lived a long life with the Hope Diamond in her possession until her death in 1947 at which point the diamond was bequeathed to her  grandchildren. The diamond and the rest of her estate was put in a trust until her benefactors reached the age of 25 years of age. However, before her descendants could take possession of the stone, the McLean estate was sold to pay her debts at which point Henry Winston, a New York diamond merchant purchased McLean's jewelry in its entirety. Currently the Hope Diamond is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.


After the death of Louis in 1942, his brother Pierre Cartier became the president of Cartier International and the head of Cartier Paris in 1945. Claude Cartier, the son of Louis Cartier took over Cartier New York and Jean-Jacques Cartier became the head of Cartier London. After Pierre Cartier's death in 1964, Cartier International was put up for sale by the children of the Cartier brothers. In 1972 Joseph Kanoui and a group of investors bought Cartier Paris and appointed Robert Hocq as the President. It is under Hocq's flagship that Cartier developed its slogan " Les Must de Cartier"  (Cartier, it's a must!) and became one of the leading jewelry companies in the world. By 1980's Cartier experienced a boom. New stores opened  all over the world making Cartier products some of the most accessible and highly thought after. The slogan worked. Cartier was really a must!

Although Cartier was no longer owned by the original family members, it did not stop the brand from upholding the same high quality standards and drive for innovation as well as the support and care for the world of art. Hocq constantly though of new ways to expose the world to the products of Cartier and created some of the most well attended gatherings of jewelry and watchmaking professionals to this day. As of 2012, Cartier is owned by a South African  Rupert family and Elle Pages who is Pierre Cartier's granddaughter.