The panther, symbol of grace and power, has inspired diverse artists for millenia – from the early cave paintings of Chauvet-Pont d’Arc in France through ancient Egypt into modern times. In early part of the twentieth century, the house of Cartier began to take a special interest in the panther as a design motif. Its story goes back to 1917 when Louis Cartier gifted a cigarette case with panther imagery to his designer friend, Jeanne Toussaint who immediately fell in love with the magnificent cat. When Louis Cartier appointed her to be artistic director of Cartier in 1933, Toussaint quickly set to work in popularising the panther by producing a highly desirable range of panthere jewelry. Under Toussaint’s guidance, Cartier introduced the first panther ring in 1935, made of yellow gold and black enamel. Panther rings have since become a Cartier staple.
Rich in history and elegance, the Cartier panther may be the classiest cat ever represented in high jewelry. The first three-dimensional panther came in the form of a 116-carat emerald brooch, made for the Duchess of Windsor in 1948. In the following years, the duchess added another panther brooch with purple onyx, and a diamond and onyx panther bracelet, which was auctioned for £4.5 million ($7.4 million) in 2010. In the words of Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s current image and heritage director, this piece remains “without equal, owing to its original idea, its craftsmanship, and of course, its famous owners”.
In the 1950s and 60s Cartier created many of the pieces which would still be recognisable today – brooches, bangles, rings, necklaces. Clients for these pieces included The Aga Khan and Opera star Maria Callas. As can be seen in the photo gallery, the panther continues to reign as a distinctly recognizable Cartier icon, as it been since the time of Jeanne Toussaint.
The Pixelage Necklace conjures up the familiar image of the panther with a stylised play on the feline’s coat. Polished onyxes evoke the marbling of the fur, while white, yellow and orange diamonds represent the thickness of the pelt, with its golden reflections highlighted by three golden topazes for a total of 27.34 carats.