This article was originally written by Stellene Volandes for Town & Country and published on April 28, 2022.
The news flashed across my screen like a jewelry A.P.B: “Sotheby’s is delighted to announce that we will offer one of Cartier’s most iconic designs, a Gem-Set, Diamond and Enamel Tutti Frutti Bracelet, in a dedicated online auction open for bidding on sotheby’s.com from 24 April -28 April 2020. This sensational jewel will be offered with an estimate of $600/$800,000.” [Ed note: The bracelet sold for an astounding $1.3 million.]
Behind the ruby red alert is the history of this iconic design. It is the mark of the glorious exchange of ideas and inspiration between the French house of Cartier and Indian royalty that inspired some of the most important pieces of the twentieth century.
There had been a few colorful Cartier designs before brother Jacques set out to India in 1911 to witness the coronation of King George as Emperor, but the trip is a landmark as far as jewelry moments go. It introduced the house to a series of Maharajahs who would go on to commission masterpieces, and it opened Cartier’s eyes to the stone carving techniques of the Indian jewelry tradition.
Soon bib necklaces and brooches would appear in the Cartier workshop studded with carved rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, in shapes like leaves and berries and blossoms. It was a departure from the white-diamond heavy garlands and bows that had dominated offerings before them, but also veered away from the strict geometric lines of Art Deco jewels that ruled the mid to late 1920s.
To own one of these Indian-inspired Cartier pieces was to single yourself out as a true connoisseur. Take a look at the iconic Cecil Beaton portrait of Tutti Frutti owner (and Singer sewing machine heiress) Daisy Fellows wearing her 1936 Collier Hindou Tutti Frutti. Just look at her, she knows exactly what she has on. Could this be you?
We talked to Sotheby’s jewelry maestro (and jewelry Mafia member) Frank Everett to track down this Holy Grail up for auction now.
So, about the name Tutti Frutti…
Although the name ‘Tutti Frutti’ wasn’t coined until the 1970s, these creations from the 1920s-30s always incorporate Moghul-style carved colored gemstones in natural motifs: flowers, leaves, berries and fruits. These carved stones, so popular in traditional Indian jewelry, were then mounted by Cartier in platinum and diamond settings, a perfect marriage of East and West.
How rare are they?
We don’t see Tutti Frutti’s come up often. Bracelets? Maybe once every three to five years. Smaller pieces—brooches and jabot pins— are seen more frequently but often have only one or two colors. Important Tutti Frutti pieces are the most rare and sought after artworks in the jewelry world.
How did you get your hands on this one?
The client inherited the bracelet, which has been in the family’s private collection since the 1980s.
Sotheby’s and Tutti Frutti. How far back do you two go?
Sotheby’s has a distinguished and successful history of selling Tutti Frutti jewels by Cartier. In 1991, Daisy Fellowes’ Collier Hindou achieved $2.7 million, establishing the world auction record for any Tutti Frutti jewel by Cartier. In December 2014, a Platinum, Colored Stone, Diamond and Enamel ‘Tutti Frutti’ Bracelet by Cartier (circa 1928, from the Collection of Evelyn H. Lauder) sold for $2.2 million to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This remains the auction record for any Tutti Frutti bracelet by Cartier. As recently as 2017, Sotheby’s Hong Kong sold a Very Rare and Exquisite Art Deco Gem Set and Diamond Bracelet by Cartier, circa 1928, for $1.7 million.
And this one? Entice the bidders among us…
What’s special about this one? The rubies dominate the color scheme. They are arranged in an unusual way, in pairs alternating down the sides. The colors are beautiful, very well matched in terms of hue and vibrancy. But the most unique detail is a subtle “shadow edge’”of black enamel along just one side, that gives this piece depth and character. I’m in love.
The online auction will open for bidding at 10:00 a.m. on April 24.
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