Inside Cartier's Crystallization Of Time Exhibition In Tokyo

BY Salma Awwad / Oct 30 2019 / 14:36 PM

Unequivocal brilliance and a collection of privately owned pieces usually hidden from the public eye; Cartier’s Crystallization of Time exhibition is on until 16 December The National Art Center in Tokyo

Inside Cartier's Crystallization Of Time Exhibition In Tokyo
At the beginning of the exhibition a mystery clock that rewinds the time welcomes visitors

In the magical city of Tokyo, an unexpected journey begins. Imagine having the splendour of Cartier laid out before you in three chapters, each weaving a tale of legacy and all placed in a single exhibition space. What would that space look like? And how would you feel walking through its timeless vaults?

Necklace, Cartier , 2016. Platinum, white gold, two pear-shaped emeralds from Colombia totalling 60.32 carats, emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds, Private Collection

I was invited to a private viewing of this world – one that emanates sheer luxury at every turn through its eternal quest for ultimate beauty. In an exhibition fittingly titled Crystallization of Time, Cartier had, for the first time ever, put a selection of privately owned masterpieces on display. As I walked through each chapter, navigated by Cartier’s Director of Heritage and Style, Pierre Rainero, more and more of the story began to unfold…

Chapter one took us through the transformation of materials and colours. The maison insisted on the use of platinum as a way of accentuating diamonds. Alongside these, bird feathers and other organic materials made an appearance. An explosion of colourful gemstones – dubbed Tutti Frutti – revealed a more playful side of the French jewellery house.  

Fern-spray Brooches, Cartier Paris, 1903. Platinum and diamonds, Cartier Collection

“Platinum was chosen by Cartier and imposed into the world of jewellery, not just because it was more expensive than gold, but because of its resistance to time and capacity to enhance the stones. In fact, the philosophy behind the choice is to play with light as much as possible. That way, everything is in favour of the stones. “Stones are really the centre of attraction for jewellery at Cartier,” explained Pierre.  

Bracelet, 2014. White gold, onyx, emerald and diamonds, Private Collection

Chapter two offered a different retrospective on forms and design. A large scroll with an image of Buddha wearing a golden cloak ushered us into a narrow passway. “Now to announce the next chapter…” said Pierre, as we crowded in front of the vitrines. The scroll belonged to Hiroshi Sugimoto, who designed the layout of the venue along with architect Tomoyuki Sakakida. Mr Sugimoto’s vision for the space fused traditional artisanal techniques with the latest technologies to create details that whisked us freely between different eras.

He designed the scroll himself, exaggerating the rays of light protruding out of Buddha’s head as he gazes upon a gemstone in his palm. “This is an interesting chapter based on the beauty of an accident. An accident can come from the stones themselves, or we can create the illusion of an accident by design.”

Pierre shared a discussion that he had with the legendary designer as we walked through the third and final rendition of the venue, Chapter three: Universal Curiosity. “To him, it’s just like the eye of God; the world seen from above with all its beautiful differences. We have a section on nature, then animals, flora and fauna, and finally we focus on all the different cultures.”

Pendant, Cartier Paris, special order, 1923. Platinum, sapphire from Ceylon, one 32.20-carat carved emerald, one emerald, one sapphire, and diamonds, Cartier Collection

Brooch, Cartier, New York, special order, 1925. Platinum, emerald, diamonds, coral and black enamel, Cartier Collection

From Egypt to Africa, Latin America and the Middle East; a large section dedicated to Japan and all of Asia, it was indeed a global celebration of ultimate enchantment.

Scarab brooch, Cartier, London, 1925. Platinum, yellow gold, antique blue faience, citrines, onyx, rubies, emeralds and diamonds, Cartier Collection

As I watched the metamorphosis of Cartier’s heritage through the pieces on display, one thing always remained constant – a spirit of openness and timeless sensibility was infused in everything around me, and that, undoubtedly, is what keeps that iconic Guirlande box so universally captivating.


From the November Issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia