“Today, we have a responsibility towards beauty”

Entitled Sixième sens, the Cartier high jewellery collection was presented to its clients last June. An opportunity for Cyrille Vigneron, Chairman and CEO of the brand, to explain that high jewellery only makes sense today if it is seen, accessible, and inclusive to all genders. Men could in fact be excellent clients.

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino16 août 2021

The large Parhelia ring covers three fingers and can be detached to become a brooch. In the centre, a 21.51-carat cabochon sapphire. Around it, five parentheses of diamonds and emeralds (DR)
Cyrille Vigneron, Chairman and CEO of Cartier International (DR)

Maison Cartier presented last June its high jewellery collection. Clients and journalists from Europe and the Middle East were welcomed on the shores of Lake Como to dive into the heart of nature’s evocative mysteries, where figurative shapes and abstractions paid it tribute. Suggested panther fur, floral motives on a Tutti Frutti necklace, diamond necklaces with labyrinth-like designs, all of Cartier’s greatest classics were there to enlighten the guests’ senses, including the sixth and most intimate one. Entitled Sixième sens (sixth sense), Cartier’s 2021 high jewellery collection is a development of the brand’s entire savoir-faire range, thus clearly pursuing its strategy: position Cartier as the jeweller able to offer both timeless and unique style icons, able to speak to all communities and genders. But nowadays, what has become the meaning and the implied responsibilities of such a high jewellery collection? Cyrille Vigneron, Chairman and CEO of Cartier International answers our questions in an exclusive interview.

Why name this collection Sixième sens?

The word sense encompasses several meanings and its etymology stems from two aspects: feeling and reason. That which is reasonable does not necessarily make sense. It’s the accepted choice of a constraint, but there can be no meaning. It’s how we feel that tells us what is right. The Shakespeare play The Twelfth Night speaks of this very well. He narrates what the senses tell us and what we hear through reason. Feelings are stronger than appearances, and go beyond gender, and social barriers. Our reason disrupts us. Our anger blinds us. Appearances deceive us, but feelings save us. What feels right carries us.

Pixelage necklace. Faithful to the original stylisation, the motifs here compose the spots of the panther. While polished onyxes evoke the marbling, white, yellow and orange diamonds represent the thickness of the fur with its golden reflections, underlined by three captivating golden topazes, for a total of 27.34 carats (DR)

What meaning, what responsibility conveys high jewellery at Cartier today?

High jewellery should be a milestone over the longest period and the furthest from instant gratification. It takes about two years to create a high jewellery piece. Precious stones were born from this eternity in time, at the heart of the earth. By working with stones, we accept that we are but a portion of time which outgrows us.

High jewellery is exclusive to (too) few people, therefore how can we talk about inclusiveness?

High jewellery is both exclusive, as it can only be acquired by some, but also paradoxically the most inclusive as it is what touches us the most as well. Therefore, Cartier organizes exhibitions and has been buying back historic pieces for a hundred years. They need to be freely accessible to all. Whether we wear or not high jewellery, it has the power to create emotion, to change us. But it needs to be shared and not remain secret and reserved for unknown clients. The danger in high jewellery is to lock it up in a private circle.

Emblematic of Cartier's style, fauna is a source of inspiration for the brand. Here, a set imitating the scales of a reptile (François GOIZE)

Which vision do you wish to give high jewellery?

To open it to the world, while being aware that private clients will want to keep jewels in their intimate circle. We apply the same approach towards the Cartier Foundation for contemporary art. At least one piece per exhibition is commissioned to the artists to keep and exhibit it. This is what we currently offer at the Milan Triennale through our exhibition Les Citoyens. They are works from the Cartier collection which the artist Guillermo Kuitca chose and which he looks at for a universal vision. With the Sixième Sens collection, we share an intimate relationship with light. The jewel takes in and gives light away. It is about sharing energy, in a symbolic beauty enhancement.

What does it mean for a female client to buy high jewellery today?

Generally speaking, it’s about mobile art. But it’s also about transfiguration. It offers a better version of oneself. High Jewellery is a beauty accelerator, which men also feel as well. In the past, high jewellery was a sign of power, it offered a status. It is still true today.

The presentation of one of the Cartier sets on the shores of Lake Como. (Alfonso Catalano / SGPItalia)

You are wearing a diamond brooch on the lapel of your jacket. Do you think about having your high jewellery collections worn by men?

Yes. It is already the case. Our brooches, earrings and rings are worn by men. High jewellery and jewellery have too long existed through gender stereotypes for women. But it needs to be thought for the pleasure of all.

Are men reclaiming this power?

They are not reclaiming it but rediscovering it. And wearing it. Many men dress their wrists with paved bracelets or diamond-set watches. It is a sign of elegance and power. Jewellery has the power to express who you are deep down, your charisma, it activates your sixth sense, as long as you are fair, and aligned with yourself. This goes for men as well as for women.

Sapphires, rubies, engraved emeralds - Tutti Frutti creations are emblematic of Cartier's style. (Alfonso Catalano / SGPItalia)

About fairness, what does jewellery need to offer between ethical and aesthetical?

Ethical and aesthetical are symbolically related. The diamond is a symbol of purity, but if it is a blood diamond, it loses its purity, and becomes dark. The environmental question is fundamental as well. Meaning must be brought to jewellery, which cannot be tainted by darkness. We cannot buy with our eyes closed. The question is: up to which point should we proceed when it comes to knowing what is going on. We have an obligation to do so as much as possible. We have, for example, ceased to buy stones in Myanmar. The organizations close to Cartier Philanthropy in this region have alerted us on an unbearable humanitarian situation imposed to the Rohingyas by the military. We have also launched a new surveillance council further to the Responsible Jewellery Council: the Coloured Gemstone Working Group, which gathers professionals around any questions regarding coloured stones, which are sourced from very fragmented networks.

Does high jewellery lead the way to jewellery?

In a world where copies are the norm, the design’s strength, the complexity of execution and style must be conjugated to reach singularity, the immediate recognition of the Maison. The Cartier style is about a rich know-how, which one should be able to master. One can find inspiration in it, but not know how to make it. High jewellery makes sense if it highlights this level of savoir-faire. Cartier plays its role when it creates jewellery collections that enable awakenings.

What meaning does Cartier give to beauty?

Beauty is everywhere. It can be in a nail or a screw. The role of Cartier is to see it and to translate it to all. But always in the right way, respecting proportions, purity, and excess, in simplicity and in universality, in Apollonian or Dionysian beauty. The jeweller must know how to detect the superfluous element. We experienced this phenomenon in men’s watches that were too large. To be appealing we ended up losing ourselves. Cartier’s responsibility is to make the world more beautiful, a constant on which we also follow up through our philanthropic actions. Beauty needs to be found anywhere it is and sustain. There is a moral obligation to take action. That’s what I call our beauty responsibility.

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