At a 1973 auction in Geneva, for the first time in its history Cartier bought a piece it had made itself half a century earlier: a Portique Mystery clock. It was the start of putting together a fabulous selection of jewelry, watchmaking and precious accessories, all signed Cartier. They represent its changing style from the oldest piece, dating from 1860, to the most recent from the late 20th century.
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Started in a spirit of enthusiasm, the project received official status in 1983 as the Cartier Collection, led by jewelry expert Eric Nussbaum.
Its mission is to assemble and present
the historic Cartier heritage
to the largest possible number of people.
In the 1970s, Cartier began to gather together pieces that had been produced in its earlier years; jewellery, timepieces and other precious accessories were collected for conservation, leading to the foundation of the Cartier Collection in 1983.
Today, the Cartier Collection includes pieces dating back as far as the 1860s until the 2000s. These pieces act as material records of Cartier’s 170 plus years of history, style and creativity and additionally provide a wider historical account of evolutions within the decorative arts and society since the end of the 19th century.
With approximately 3,000 pieces to date, and still growing, the Cartier Collection has sparked the attention of museums worldwide. Since its first major exhibition in 1989 at the Petit Palais in Paris, the Cartier Collection has shown selections of its pieces at some of the world’s most renowned institutions. These include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1997), the British Museum in London (1998), the Kremlin Museums in Moscow (2007), the Palace Museum inside the Forbidden City in Beijing (2009 and 2019), the Grand Palais in Paris (2013-14), the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra (2018) and the National Art Center in Tokyo (2019).