Merging flora and fauna with whimsical designs and a variety of gemstones, many of Cartier’s jewellery pieces are a fabulous take on the animal kingdom. So it is with the latest Indomptables de Cartier (French for untameable) collection, which sees the French luxury house putting an unprecedentedly bold spin on its double-headed tête-à-tête bracelets.
Inspired by ancient motifs, the bracelet design, which often brings two panthers face to face, first gained prominence at Cartier in the 1930s. Two decades later, it was revived by then creative director Jeanne Toussaint, who encouraged the brand’s artisans to achieve utmost levels of realism along with an emphasis on volume and dimensionality.
With 10 pieces to choose from — five bracelets, two torque necklaces and three watches — Indomptables de Cartier marks the latest evolution of this classic design. Each piece features the heads of two different animals from the house’s well-established menagerie, while some designs take things a step further by transforming the bodies of the creatures.
On one bracelet, for instance, the zebra has the scales of a crocodile and the crocodile has its stripes. On a necklace, a giraffe and a tiger swap bodily patterns. These surrealistic switches are so well done that, at a glance, an unsuspecting viewer might not even realise there’s something amiss. The bracelets are available in white gold paved with diamonds or full yellow gold.
The mix of creatures also provides an intriguing tension in these naturalistic pieces of jewellery. In the torque necklaces, predator and prey come together. One version in yellow gold brings together a zebra and panther while the spots on their bodies are reversed. The other, fully paved in diamonds, sees a giraffe and tiger facing off.
Don’t let the whimsical aesthetic distract you from the technical skill that brings these pieces to life: Onyx, for example, is cut in unusual shapes to form the nose of a zebra or panther, and an illusion diamond setting on a crocodile bracelet blurs the boundaries between diamonds and metal.
A trio of timepieces rounds off this bejewelled jungle. Diamond-set dials are framed by two bars, one of which is bitten by a panther and the other by a crocodile, zebra or tiger.
Two heads — different ones — are certainly better than one in this collection.