Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to visit the ‘Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity’ Exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art with my mother, sister and a friend. A version of the “Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity” Exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris from 21 October 2021 to 20 February 2022, this exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas is from 14 May 2022 to 18 September 2022, and features some of the most spectacular Cartier Jewels!

The exhibition began with a display of Islamic Antiques from the Cartier Collection and an overview of the Ballets Russes’ Scheherazade Performance in Paris in 1910, which began Cartier’s relationship with the Islamic Art and Design that continues to this day. Notable early objects included a Persian Turquoise Tiara and a splendid Diamond Tiara as well as a Rock Crystal Tiara.

The display then featured the Belle Epoque jewels that defined Cartier in that era, with jewels including Mary Scott Townsend’s Cartier Tiara, a Diamond Wave Tiara, a Belle Epoque Choker and a Sapphire and Diamond Stomacher, before transiting to the Islamic-inspired style with a spectacular Diamond Bazuband created for Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji in 1922. The next display featured jewels created with geometric patterns, a big feature in Islamic Art, which became popular in the 1910s and 1920s. There was also a series of cigarette cases inspired by the folios of Islamic manuscripts.

The next section was the main display of the exhibit, featuring the most Tiaras and Jewels alongside the original sketches and molds. Highlights included the Marchioness of Cholmondeley’s Cartier Emerald Brooch, the Countess of Granville’s Emerald Necklace, a Steel, Ruby and Diamond Kokoshnik, a Cartier Aquamarine Tiara and a Topaz Tiara alongside other jewels including Cigarette Cases, Jabot Pins, and some of the legendary Cartier Clocks.

The following display featured an Art Deco Diamond Bracelet as well as a splendid Art Deco Diamond Bib Necklace, a Diamond Tassel, and Queen Victoria Eugenie’s Art Deco Diamond Earrings, alongside objects in the ‘Arabesque’ style. The highlight of this section was Doris Duke’s Tiara and the Duchess of Windsor’s Bib Necklace.

My favourite section looked at the Cartier Tutti Frutti Jewels and the spectacular pieces of Jewellery from India and in the Cartier Indian Style, mostly for the Maharajas. There were two splendid Tutti Frutti Necklaces, including one which belonged to Daisy Fellows, alongside bracelets and diamond clip brooches. On the opposite end were the Indian jewels in the traditional style, acquired by Cartier for research or pieces traded by Indian clients for Cartier creations. Beside them were the spectacular carved emerald creations, which included Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Emerald Stomacher and Merle Oberon’s breathtaking Cartier Necklace.

The final portion of the exhibition looked at Islamic-inspired Jewels in more recent years, including a Diamond and Ruby Necklace from Elizabeth Taylor, a modern rendition of a Tutti Frutti necklace, and some contemporary jewels, the highlight of which was a bracelet with inscribed Quranic verse and a very flexible diamond bib necklace.


While I was disappointed not to see Cartier India Tiara and the Maharani Gayatri Devi’s Cartier Emerald Suite (which were both in Paris), the Cartier Exhibition was absolutely spectacular. I have been regaling my family by discussing Cartier styles and jewels for years (I even featured Cartier jewels for my final university projects) my mother and sister did not get any depth of admiration for Cartier until they saw the jewels in person and were suitably impressed. What I especially enjoyed was seeing the Islamic objects and designs that inspired the design of the jewels, and how the Cartier brothers were able to take inspiration from the most mundane objects to create pieces of extraordinary beauty. My mother’s comments are:

I loved how the jewels reflected the religion and culture of Islamic civilisation and honoured them by taking influences in the most respectful manner, not only from carved stones or manuscripts but also taking inspiration from monuments and small mundane objects. I have never been interested in history or museums like my son but this exhibition inspired me to broaden my mind and I’d love to go another exhibition, without much coercion.


One thought on “Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity

  1. Gosh! Reading your descriptions and looking at the photos was so delightful! I’m not surprised at all that your mother was so impressed by this exhibit. It must have been quite an experience to see these outstanding jewels in person. Such artistry and beauty can’t help but amaze the viewer. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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