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Cartier: The Exhibition.


Cartier: The Exhibition. Credit: Angela Fane.

The National Gallery of Australia is showcasing an array of more than 300 items of Cartier jewellery, timepieces and precious objects. It is the largest collection of diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones to go on exhibit in Australia.

Cartier: The Exhibition is a rare opportunity to discover Cartier jewellery loaned from Maison Cartier’s international clientele, including royalty, aristocrats, film stars and socialites, and the astonishing Cartier Collection itself.

The immersive collection includes design drawings, invitations for jewellery exhibitions, pages from the Cartier catalogue, as well as portraits, historic photographs and film, and jewellery making tools and equipment to illustrate Cartier’s enchanting history.

The Style, Image and Heritage Director of Cartier, Pierre Rainero, said “Cartier is about a living style”, which Cartier’s founder Louis Cartier believed should “evolve with time”.

The exhibit reflects this, pinpointing defining moments of style in the 20th century and placing them in chronological order. The exhibition is curated so that visitors walk through the history and evolution of the Cartier style, from Cartier’s beginnings through to Cartier today.

Stepping into the gallery, it is apparent that Cartier’s point of difference is the artistic dimension of its jewellery and the involvement clientele had in creating pieces.

The distinct strength the former brought to the collection can be described by Rainero’s comment that the feelings people “cherish most” is often “expressed through jewellery”.

“Love is the most important feeling in life and jewellery is probably the most important vehicle of that expression and that feeling in the life,” he said.


The collection also makes it clear that design inspiration hailed from across the globe, from Ancient Egypt, China, Japan, India and the Islamic world. Cartier’s designers combined unique varieties of colours, textiles, patterns, and motifs to create astonishing pieces, which appealed to clientele worldwide and satisfied both conservative and daring tastes.


Notable pieces from Cartier: The Exhibition include jewellery and objects of ‘foreign fascination’, a workshop outlining Cartier’s jewellery-making process, equipped with designer, metal polisher, cutter, setter, jeweller and plaster cast (for real-sized jewellery documentation) stations; Hollywood’s red-carpet room, featuring a movie screen playing a montage of clips that feature Cartier jewellery in film, and perhaps most prominently, jewellery owned by royalty including Australia’s own British monarchy.

On loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Royal collection, is the Halo Tiara that Queen Elizabeth lent to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for her wedding to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Also on display is the Patiala Necklace, made in 1928 for Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, a former Maharaja of the Indian princely state of Patiala, and Princess Grace of Monaco’s 10.48-carat diamond engagement ring.


Regardless of what visitors think is the centrepiece of the extensive collection, they are provided with a background to all pieces and are taught about the intricate processes of Cartier’s jewellery making.

Cartier: The Exhibition provides a glimpse into 20th-century glamour at its best and, through its items, takes visitors on a journey through foreign lands and cultural changes as the world moved into the 21st century.

The exhibition will run for four months, from 30 March to 22 July 2018. It is open daily 10 am – 5 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the Gallery or online through Ticketek.

General admission is $27 for an adult pass, $25 for students and $20 for NGA members.


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