Artistic expression and innovation have been the driving force behind many of the world’s most beloved and celebrated luxury brands.
Many famous houses have histories mixed with legends and myths, eliciting feelings of wonder and amazement at the human ability to create spectacular things. Taking raw materials and fashioning them into exquisite, iconic collections of jewellery that last a lifetime is an extraordinary talent. Yet, this seems to have come naturally for one of the most celebrated jewellery designers of our time, Jeanne Toussaint, former director of the luxury jewellery department at Cartier.
Arriving to Paris in the early 1900s, she forged a friendship with Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, namesake of the iconic Chanel fashion house. Jeanne and Coco formed an inseparable bond, supporting to one another in both their personal and professional lives. After a chance meeting with Louis-Francois Cartier, Jeanne found herself being taught the meticulous and remarkably exquisite aspects of jewellery design, from crafting raw materials into stunningly flawless designs, recognizing the best jewels, and understanding how jewellery settings can accentuate and crown a design. As the director of the luxury jewellery department, Jeanne applied her artistic vision and ardent dedication, experimenting with various themes of which her most memorable were the Cartier birds and the house’s most iconic design and her namesake, la panthere.
Although the panther had been used in Cartier pieces since 1914, la panthere de Cartier soared to supreme heights and imagery during Jeanne’s tenure. [pullquote]She was “la panthere” in every way, from her exacting process of approving designs and creating innovative jewellery trends, to her collection of panther pelts for fashion and decor. Throughout her career with Cartier, Jeanne is recognized as being the influential guide to the expansion and innovation of the house’s jewellery collections.[/pullquote] She crafted their Art Deco styles of the 30s and the Cartier ‘Tutti Fruitti’ collection, which was inspired by Mughal carved precious and semi-precious gemstones and the brightly-coloured jewels of the Maharajah. Jeanne’s designs have been worn by royals and some of the most influential dignitaries of the twentieth century, such as Queen Alexandra of Denmark, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Mrs. Daisy Fellowes, former Paris editor of Harper’s Bazaar, and Barbara Hutton.
In 1955, the French government paid tribute to her work and innovation with Cartier and her influence on the luxury jewellery industry by awarding her the prestigious Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. With a historic career defined by creations of innovative designs and jewellery trends that have established the prominence and illustrious status of one of the world’s most celebrated luxury jewellers, Jeanne Toussaint will always be remembered as “la panthere” that forever solidified Cartier’s place within the luxury jewellery industry, enchanting the hearts and minds of all who make Cartier a part of their beloved jewellery collections.
by Aamaal Abdul-Malik