This month Cartier unveiled its latest Beautés du Monde high-jewelry collection in Madrid, where its roots run deep—the maison was mandated as the official jewelry supplier to the Spanish royal family in 1904 and hosted its first local exhibition at the Hotel Ritz Madrid in 1922.
One hundred years on, Cartier has returned to the city in fine form, taking over the former British Embassy to stage a remarkable installation. Designed by W.S. Bryant and Luis Blanco-Soler to emulate a bullring, the Brutalist landmark was constructed in 1966 and had sat unused since 2009. It was ripe for reimagining in the capable hands of Spanish artist Jaime Hayon, who was brought on to design the interiors of the showrooms and private viewing salons from scratch.
The space had to be “beautiful, but cool,” says Hayon, who out of necessity was concerned with logistics as much as aesthetics: Wiring had to be concealed beneath the flooring to enable the highest level of computer security; runners had to be able to go back and forth during appointments with multimillion-dollar pieces in hand; and, of course, the jewelry had to be effectively lit and showcased. Repeated arch motifs in varying colors guide visitors through the installation, allowing for a sense of discovery as well as an emotional connection to the pieces on display.
But it should go without saying that all of this was in service to the precious stones. Jacqueline Karachi, creative director of Cartier high jewelry, describes herself as “fluent in Cartier,” having designed for the maison for more than 25 years. Her color sense and ability to synthesize abstracted ideas into a suite of high jewelry is an ongoing process of transmission and education, as she works with her team of 12 designers to continually evolve the house codes. “I never say I don’t like [a design]; I just say it could be ‘more Cartier’ if you add this detail or that one,” Karachi says. “It is just a question of knowing the Cartier vocabulary.”
It takes two full years—not to mention beaucoup carats—to craft the pieces on display, from ideation and sourcing of materials all the way up through execution. “For this collection, we wanted it to be like a cabinet of curiosities in that you find inspiration from everywhere,” Karachi says. “Sometimes it comes from the stone, sometimes from the color, sometimes it is where [the stone] comes from. You can have your own interpretation, and you are invited to embark on your own journey.” At Cartier, it turns out, all roads lead to beauty.