Over the years, many books have been written about Cartier, the renowned jewellery house. However, this is the first time that a direct descendant of the family has told its story. It all started when Francesca Cartier Brickell, a direct descendant of the Cartier family, went to her grandfather’s cellar to get a bottle of vintage champagne to celebrate his 90th birthday. In the course of her search, she found a travelling trunk with old faded stickers, and hundreds of neatly stacked old letters tied up with ribbons. Speaking with her grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, about her find, was the beginning of her decade long journey “researching the story of this family from as many angles as I could and following in the footsteps of my ancestors,” she says. The result is the book, The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family behind the Jewelery Empire.
The 625-page hard cover book tells the story of four generations of the jewellery dynasty. The story traces the family journey from founding of the firm in 1819 to its sale in the 1970s. The book provides an insight into the family history through exclusive access into long-lost family archives, tracing the incredible journey and transformation of a humble Parisian jewellery store into the ultimate symbol of timeless luxury.
It is not just about the jewellery and watches, it is about the people who built the business. As Francesca wanted it to be a very human story, the book looks at the social history of the time, as well as romance, drama, intrigue and betrayals. According to Francesca, what she found out is that it essentially came down to the complimentary talents of the third generation of the family. “While writing the book I was thinking that the Cartier family had a dream to build a leading jewellery firm in the world, but how on earth did they manage it,” she says.
Francesca spent 10 years researching, travelling and retracing her ancestors’ footsteps. Besides researching the family history, she also tracked down those connected with her ancestors, and discovered long lost pieces of the puzzle. Her travels took her not only to London, Paris and New York, but also to India, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia.
Art historian Diana Scarisbrick aptly writes in the Forward: “Many books have been written over the years on Cartier, but none have delved so deep into the true story of the family behind the firm. When the late Hans Nadelhoffer published his pioneering history Cartier: Jewellers Extraordinary, he told me how much he regretted having to “work in the dark,” handicapped by the lack of personal information of the members of the family who created this international empire, synonymous with twentieth century elegance and luxury. Thereafter, although exhibitions on Cartier over recent decades have shown so many beautiful objects, almost all the people most responsible for designing, making, and selling them have remained in the shadows. Now the veil has been lifted and the real story of the creation of Cartier has emerged.” It’s an inspirational story for the industry.