Cartier’s vivid Tutti Frutti jewels are undoubtedly some of the crowning designs in the firm’s vast and storied repertoire. Debuting in the early twentieth century, these gems took the world by storm from the moment they were unveiled, quickly becoming some of the most coveted objects on any jewelry collector’s wish list.
Inspired by Jacques Cartier’s many voyages to India, these jewels were designed in the exuberant Indian style. Bold and creative, they provided a dramatic break from the severe geometries and monochromatic emphasis of Art Deco by utilizing elaborate mounts covered in layers of bright and colorful gemstones. Using vintage stones purchased in India, the jewels combined exotic gems and motifs with traditional European setting techniques to create a look that was entirely new. Large cabochons and carved stones were implemented into traditional Moghul style with new diamond shapes and French mountings to create pieces that injected refined naturalism and color into Art Deco shapes.
Although the style was officially unveiled at the 1925 Art Deco exhibition in Paris, Cartier was producing polychromatic “Indian style” jewelry from as early as 1915, with similar commissioned jewels dating as far back as the start of the 20th century. Cartier’s first recorded piece was created in London in 1901 for Queen Alexandra who wanted an elaborate necklace of rubies, emeralds, and sapphires to pair with some gowns made of brightly colored Indian silks.
This first commission sparked a new creative direction for Cartier, as well as a long and fruitful relationship with Indian royalty- especially after Jacques Cartier’s first trip to the country in 1911 where he was commissioned by many nobles to reset their family treasures into fashionable “new style” Parisian jewelry. This direct exposure to the details of traditional Indian jewelry such as colorful floral- motif Jaipur enamels, the varying types of carved stones and the elaborate Polki and Meenakari jewelry styles had a profound effect on Cartier’s designs. From there the House began creating custom pieces using stones, embellishments and mounting techniques learned on trips to the East. This influence coupled with a new supply of rare stones and Cartier’s existing knowledge of design and creative mounting techniques would ultimately translate into some of the most important Art Deco jewels ever produced.
Highly sumptuous, Cartier’s new jewels were presented as vibrant entanglements of diamond foliage studded with leaves, fruits and fluted berries of intricately carved emeralds, sapphires and rubies. These pieces were practically glowing visions and soon popularly became known as “fruit salad” or “tutti frutti”, terms that perfectly described the richness of the gems. Originally known as Cartier’s Pierres de Couleur (colored stones), the style became colloquially known as “Tutti Frutti” sometime in the 1940s, most likely inspired by Carmen Miranda’s popular Bakelite fruit jewelry and tropical hats. Italian for “all fruits”, it was an appropriate name for multicoloured gemstone jewelry, and while it was considered vulgar in the ’40s, “Tutti Frutti” became so widely used that it was accepted as the style’s official name by the start of the 1970s.
Although the term “Tutti Frutti” is still occasionally used in reference to colorful jewelry today, it specifically refers to jewelry composed of rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. Occasionally enamel, natural pearls, jet or onyx accents were included in the the design, but with any other coloured stone inclusion, the piece would be classified under the term “carved stone”. The only exception to this rule is the conch pearl, enamel and diamond Tutti Frutti bracelet made for Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain in the 1920s. An exceptional piece, it’s only colour comes from the pink of the conch pearls and black enamel accents.
These jewels reflected the pursuit of the exotic that so captivated the sophisticated European and American collectors of the 1920’s and 1930’s. From the very beginning this new style was a hit with all the fashionable ladies of the day. Avid customers snapped up ear clips, necklaces, brooches, barrettes, powder cases, lapel pins and many other items in the style (there’s even a Tutti Frutti tiara that belonged to Countess Edwina Mountbatten), but bracelets were undoubtedly the most popular items… practically every major jewelry lover had at least one Tutti Frutti bracelet in their collection.
However Cartier’s most famous Tutti Frutti jewel is the impressive Collier Hindou necklace created for (eternally stylish) socialite Daisy Fellowes in 1936. Based off the design of a necklace made for the Maharajah of Patna in 1935, this piece took the form of an elaborate bib done in the traditional Indian style. Very similar to the Maharajah’s piece, which incorporated old- cut diamonds, carved rubies and emeralds, the Collier Hindou was a knot of twisted diamond vines studded with emerald leaves and berries of ruby and sapphire. An unlucky stone in Indian tradition, sapphires were obviously not used in the Maharajah’s collar, but this necklace used them in excess, with borders of sapphire beads along the top and bottom edges and an additional fringe of thirteen faceted stones suspended along the front. Originally fastened on a cord of Indian silk, the necklace could be adjusted to be worn at varying lengths along the neck, but this feature was changed in 1963 when Ms. Fellowes’s daughter Emmeline de Casteja had the strings replaced by a continuation of the necklace’s jewelled motif.
The Collier Hindou, with a matching pair of carved emerald and diamond earrings, surfaced at auction at Sotheby’s in Geneva in 1991, and was purchased by Cartier for it’s private collection. Sold for $2,655,172.00, the sale set a record price for Cartier’s Tutti Frutti jewels and a price trend that has held on to this very day. Tutti Frutti pieces frequently set records at auction, often surpassing their pre- sale estimates four times over, with bracelet prices exceeding $1 and $2 million mark for notable pieces. Christie’s London has set records twice in the past five years with the sale of two Tutti Frutti bracelets, one going for $1.9 million in 2011 and another for $2.1 million in 2013, while Evelyn Lauder’s famous piece went for over $2.4 million at Sotheby’s in 2014.
Tutti Frutti jewels are at the pinnacle of style, and are so highly valued by jewelry collectors that even tiny brooches in small auctions draw both worldwide interest and bidders. This distinctive style, with its combination of colors and materials, makes these jewels both objects of wonder as well as a vital part of the history of jewelry. They are lavish displays of Cartier’s most emblematic motifs and a lasting symbol of the firm’s ingenuity in design, exploratory spirit and exemplary craftsmanship. These coveted jewels will undoubtedly continue to command worldwide admiration for many years to come.
Xx – Ana