Cartier and Baroda: a journey in jewels

Francesca Cartier Brickell of the Cartier jewelry household and Radhikaraje Gaekwad of the erstwhile royal household of Baroda focus on the gem-rich legacy of their ancestors

A household home in the South of France; a birthday celebration; rooting across the cellar for a bottle of champagne; stumbling upon a battered well-travelled trunk; and discovering a treasure trove of outdated letters, diaries and pictures inside set Francesca Cartier Brickell off on the invention of a lifetime and her legacy.

Oxford-educated Francesca, a descendant of the French household which based the well-known jewelry agency Cartier in 1847 that designed, manufactured and distributed luxurious items until 1964, when the enterprise handed into different fingers, discovered sufficient materials to analysis for a decade.

 The story of Cartier and its well-known jewelry worn by European and Indian royalty, American tycoons and Hollywood A-listers, is now instructed in her recently-released guide The Cartiers: The Untold Story of The Family Behind the Jewelry Empire (revealed by Ballantine Books).

The travels for the guide introduced her to Vadodara, India, and gave her an introduction to Radhikaraje Gaekwad of its erstwhile royal household. Francesca and Radhikaraje, a heritage conservationist, historical past narrator and textile revivalist, made the gem-rich legacy of their ancestors the topic of their latest webinar, The Cartiers and The Maharajahs: At Home with the Maharani of Baroda.

Radhikaraje Gaekwad

 The hour-long occasion hosted from the research of Francesca’s grandfather’s home close to Nice, and Radhikaraje’s residence, the Indo-Saracenic Lukshmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, drew a world-wide viewers.

Back in time

Louis-Francois Cartier, the watchmaker who established the enterprise, was succeeded by Alfred who arrange Alfred Cartier & Fils along with his three sons, Louis, Pierre and Jacques. He inspired Louis to helm the shop in Paris, despatched Pierre to check Faberge’s strategies in Russia and arrange enterprise in New York, and made Jacques head the agency in London. The divided sons, conquered.

Jacques Cartier at the Delhi Durbar of 1911


“My great-grandfather Jacques Cartier travelled many times in the early 20th Century. As well as looking after clients in Britain, he also looked after clients of the British Empire. These included some of the maharajas in India, some of the wealthiest and bejewelled men in the world. Wanting to keep up with the fashions of the West, they would give him their family heirlooms to be remodelled into creations in the Cartier style,” says Francesca. “I travelled around Sri Lanka and India following in Jacques’ footsteps, using his diaries and letters as a guide.”

As nicely as visiting erstwhile royal households in the identical palaces that patronised Cartier, Francesca additionally adopted the gem shopping for path in Sri Lanka that gave the model its well-known sapphires. “I watched those murky blue stones being washed, polished and cut into gems worthy of the Cartier name. They were used in the bold Tutti Frutti designs, where coloured stones were set side by side.”

Sayajirao Gaekwad III wearing the Baroda Diamond Necklace


Radhikaraje launched into the webinar by conducting a fast tour of the palace mentioned to be 4 occasions the scale of Buckingham Palace. “Built by Sayajirao Gaekwad III, Lukshmi Vilas is one of the largest private residences in the world, encircled by a golf course. We are only three adults, two children and two dogs here and its grounds have deer and crocodiles,” says Radhikaraje in regards to the 1890-built edifice that has modified little since Jacques Cartier visited it.

“Sayaji Rao and his wife Chimnabai II did much to modernise Baroda by encouraging education of girls, widow remarriage and the abolition of child marriage. They also patronised painter Raja Ravi Varma,” says Radhikaraje. Sayajirao constructed the State greater than he constructed the treasury, and was a delicate nationalist — he additionally funded BR Ambedkar’s schooling at Columbia University. His daughter Indiraraje and granddaughter Gayatri Devi of Jaipur had been Cartier loyalists.

The cover of the book The Cartiers


The assortment

The audio system picked three items of jewelry that stood out as examples of a magnificent marriage between japanese grandeur and western design. The first is the Baroda Diamond Necklace, a three-row piece with the Akbarshahi from the Peacock throne, Princess Eugenie and Star of the South diamonds; the seven-tier Baroda Pearl Necklace comprising 350 pearls of extraordinary lustre that Jacques selected spending days on a boat in the Persian Gulf; and the Moon Of Baroda, a yellow diamond that actor Marilyn Monroe sported in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. “Nearly 10,000 clams were opened to find the pearls,” says Radhikaraje.

Another extraordinary piece that was mentioned was the Khanderao II-commissioned Baroda Pearl Carpet embellished with a staggering 2.2 million pearls, diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Later, Maharani Sitadevi additionally commissioned many items of jewelry, together with “gold tongue scrapers”.

Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala sporting the Patiala diamond necklace designed by Cartier in 1928

Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala sporting the Patiala diamond necklace designed by Cartier in 1928  
| Photo Credit:
Wikimedia Commons


The webinar touched upon the baubles that went from Cartier vitrines to turn out to be a part of the Maharaja of Patiala’s opulent necklace, Marjorie Post’s bracelet, the Duchess of Windsor’s flamingo brooch — each Francesca and Radhikaraje had been carrying Cartier brooches for the occasion — and Queen Elizabeth and Kate Middleton’s tiaras.

“Cartier’s survived revolutions, World Wars and the Depression to break records at auctions,” says Francesca. “The story of the brand is not just the story of its jewels but also of the people at its heart. It is the story of how a small workshop next to an oyster market in Paris went on to become ‘the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers’.”

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