A jeweller’s archives are carefully preserved treasures that perpetuate an often prestigious past. Cartier’s archives are shared between three centres: one in Paris, one in London and one in New York. Jealously guarded, they are kept and consulted according to the jeweller’s golden rule… that of strict confidentiality. Cartier’s archives are a methodical and accurate record of production, classified in accordance with a seamless yet rigorous system.
They also bear witness to everyday life at a jewellery company. Each item of jewellery has its pedigree, from the initial sketches to its manufacture in the jewellery workshops to the moment of its sale. Cartier has occupied the same premises on rue de la Paix since 1899, on the very site chosen by Alfred Cartier and his son Louis who had recently joined the firm. This documentary heritage has lasted through the ages, a record of virtually every piece that Cartier has created since the turn of the century. In addition, an important collection of registers dating back to the nineteenth century retraces Cartier’s activity at its premises on boulevard des Italiens. Even the Second Empire, a significant era in Cartier’s history, has left its trace. These written records are combined with a rich collection of photographs, as each item of jewellery was photographed, life-size, before leaving the workshops. Begun in 1906 and preserved in Paris, this collection contains some 40,000 negatives.
30,000 of these negatives are preserved on glass plates in gelatino-bromide. Photograph albums, updated each day, captured production in a precise visual record. The archive departments are also the guardians of a number of manuscript documents – sketches, preparatory drawings and production drawings – each using the highly specific technique of gouache on tracing paper. In Paris, a collection of plaster casts from 1905 to 1915 remains a touching reminder of life in the jewellery workshops and a unique three-dimensional record of their work.