Designed as a stylised panther with articulated tail and paws, the body pavé-set with brilliant-cut diamonds, the nose and spots embellished with onyx, to a pear-shaped emerald eye, signed Cartier Paris and numbered, French assay marks, 1970, circa 10.8cm nose to tail. Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Cartier.
Note: The Cartier panther is one of the most universally recognisable designs in modern jewellery history. Its first manifestation was over 100 years ago and the design has now become so synonymous with the brand itself that the panther can be found at the forefront of many decades of advertising campaigns for Cartier. The woman often credited with the panther becoming such a staple of popular culture was also one of the first to own an example. Jeanne Toussaint, who would go on to become Cartier’s Creative Director in 1933, owned a Cartier vanity case applied with an onyx and diamond panther (probably made in 1917) before she even met Louis Cartier and he coined the nickname ‘the panther’ for her. This was possible because the original panther inspirations had come courtesy of the in-house designer Charles Jacqeau as early as 1913. In 1914 a wristwatch with the now classic onyx and diamond panther skin motif was created and in 1915 another in pendant form was made and purchased by Pierre Cartier. In 1914 Louis Cartier ordered an advertisement card from the famous illustrator George Bardier which depicted a woman with a panther at her feet. The image of the panther had been increasingly creeping into the European aesthetic psyche as a symbol of decadent yet savage sensuality since the beginning of the Century. A fashion for the exotic reflected in the leopard and zebra skins introduced to interior design by Princess Elsa de La Tour and then made famous by renowned interior decorator to the stars Elsie de Wolfe, known as Lady Mendl and a great ambassador for Cartier throughout much of her life, who had leopard-skin covered cushions in her Villa Trianon in Versailles as early as 1919. Jeanne Toussaint, was very much a part of the fashionable scene in Paris, moving in the same friendship circle as Coco Chanel, was one of the first ladies in Paris to wear a tiger-skin coat by Révillon and her apartment in Paris was reputedly decorated with leopard and zebra skins. Jeanne Toussaint arrived in the Cartier world in 1918. Already known for her great taste and instinctive sensibilities, Louis Cartier saw great potential in Jeanne and undertook her artistic eduction by travelling extensively and exposing her to as much as possible. This lead to not only a very close personal relationship, but also one of great unity of artistic vision, that resulted in Jeanne’s appointment as creative director. In 1948 the first figurative leopard came to life in the form of a collaboration with The Duchess of Windsor. Sitting atop a large beryl, it was the elder sibling to the more famous commission the following year of a diamond panther presiding over a large cabochon sapphire, followed by an articulated bracelet, opera glasses, and brooch. Soon other Grande Dames from both sides of the Atlantic became equally inspired by the Cartier big cats and their symbolism. It is no mistake that these powerful felines found themselves in some of the strongest female jewellery collections. Conceived by a woman who had achieved remarkable influence and recognition through sheer strength of character and a fierce dedication to beauty, they spoke not only to the infamous Duchess of Windsor who overcame huge social criticism for her marriage to Prince Edward, but Princess Nina Aga Khan who owned two black panthers that destroyed every hotel suite she stayed in and caused scandal by habitually swimming naked off her Caribbean island, Daisey Fellowes the heiress of the Singer sowing machine fortune and Paris editor of Harper’s Bazaar who was often cited the best dressed woman of her time, Barbara Hutton one of the richest women in the world in her time who married seven times in an endless quest for happiness, Maria Callas the famous opera singer whose voice and passion are considered by many unparalleled, and Maria Felix the sensual Mexican beauty who became the most famous Mexican actress renowned for playing strong and controversial female roles on screen and winning over even the staunchest of critics off screen.