As I stepped off the plane in the capital of Spain, Madrid, it felt strangely cathartic. It was the final leg of my month-long sojourn in Europe to experience the very best in haute joaillerie, and the continent was in the throes of an unprecedented onslaught of revenge tourism since the opening of global borders. Everyone was everywhere but home. Plane, trains and automobiles were whizzing around the world, carrying tourists and holidaymakers keen to travel again after being cooped up for nearly three years. I, on the other hand, having experienced flight delays, missing luggage and heaving airports, was relieved to set foot in a country where life takes on a slower pace and where siestas are still de riguer.

The city seemed bathed in a constant golden light and the skies the bluest of blue. I was here to experience a voyage with Cartier: The launch of the Beautés du Monde high jewellery collection, which would be showcased at the former British embassy, restored for the occasion and an apt setting for a collection that celebrates beauty in its diverse forms. Cyrille Vigneron, President and CEO of Cartier, put it best: “Housed in a unique venue in Madrid called The Embassy, this Sixties building’s shape and modern style, imitating a bullring, stands out among the surrounding palaces—much like how Madrid’s tree-lined avenues, which are bordered by exquisite architecture, contrast with the narrow streets of the old city, which are paved with arcades and ancient street signs. Madrid is one of those cities whose beauty shines through its diversity.”

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Golshifteh Farahani Cartier Recif necklace
Friend of the Maison Golshifteh Farahani wears the Recif necklace with a 17.20-carat cabochon-cut emerald surrounded by coral beads, amethysts and diamonds. Photo: Cartier

What was truly special to me, was his intent to make everyone feel comfortable. In Vigneron’s personalised message to the editors who attended the launch, he said, “Despite the challenging times we are still facing, you have found the time to travel and join us to celebrate the international launch of our new collection. Rest assured that we have done everything we can, to make sure that the next few days you spend with us are as enjoyable and as safe as they possibly can.” Indeed, he made good on this promise by holding as many of the events out in the open, with large cooling machines and beautiful Spanish wooden crafted fans given out to every guest to disperse the heat.

Palacio de Liria
Palacio de Liria, the venue for Cartier’s gala dinner and party. Photo: François Goizé

The gala celebration was held at Palacio de Liria, one of the largest private residences in Madrid and home to the Dukes of Berwick and Alba and their families. Held outside in the French parterre garden, it culminated in dinner under an archway with freesias and overhanging ivy. Despite the balmy weather, I felt immensely relieved that I could partake in most of the activities without being in cramped, enclosed spaces.

Now, this was just the setting—what about the jewellery? In Vigneron’s words: “Cartier recognises the beauty of the world wherever it may be. The Maison inherited this vision from the Cartier brothers, who travelled the world, observing it, drawing inspiration from it and reinventing it. The collection shows the extent to which Cartier knows how to admire and further enhance beauty through design, tension of lines, geometry and abstraction.” Observe: A coral reef that snakes along a flamboyant necklace; the textured skin of an iguana interpreted as a geometric matrix; a Chinese puzzle that unravels to reveal a kaleidoscopic ring. These and many other marvels from Cartier’s Beautés du Monde collection are discussed in depth with Jacqueline Karachi-Langane, Creative Director for Cartier Prestige.

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Cartier Jacqueline Karachi
Jacqueline Karachi-Langane, Creative Director for Cartier Prestige. Photo: Cartier

What do you think is the easiest entry into the world of high jewellery as a customer?

A ring. Because all day long, we are playing with our fingers. You can look at your ring and have a lot of interaction with it. Especially if you speak with your hand, and you touch them. It’s very important to touch your stones because they give you a lot of energy. So rings could be the first piece of high jewellery you buy.

Did you make it a point to introduce more colour in this collection?

Yes, because we need a lot of hope. Colour is life. We embarked on a very optimistic, colourful and playful collection for this journey with Cartier.

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Cartier Iwana necklace
The Iwana necklace in platinum with emeralds, diamonds and three Columbian hexagonal-shaped cabochon-cut emeralds totalling 43.31 carats. Photo: Cartier

Are there any standout stones in this collection?

The Iwana necklace with cabochon-cut emeralds. They are of exceptional quality and also very rare. The designer imagined the necklace to fit like a second skin, and it invites you to touch it because it’s really like that. The shape of the cabochons mixed with the smaller stones and the whole skirt of diamonds is exactly like the matrix of an iguana’s skin. The necklace is completely articulated and flexible. It’s technically very tricky but the result is truly magnificent.

You talk about innovation. You have the Panthère Erindi necklace with onyx set into rock crystals. It’s such a stunning and unusual piece. How did you come up with this technique?

We always try to push the limit of creativity with the panther, which is very Cartier. We played with the spots and skin of the panther because these are the most interesting to work with. Because the spots are set behind, it’s a play on volume. This was an experiment and the results were so interesting. It has opened up a whole new way to use this pattern.

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Cartier Sand Aspis necklace
The Sand Aspis necklace in rose gold with a 3.63-carat triangular-shaped rose-cut diamond, petrified wood and diamonds Photo: Cartier

Can you tell us more about the Sand Aspis necklace? It is an unusual mix of yellow diamonds and gold with petrified wood, and the way that the diamonds are used on top and underneath gives a fascinating 3D effect.

The colours are interesting as we used yellow gold, yellow diamonds and petrified wood which together, forms a new sensation. When you see it worn, it looks completely different again. It’s also about transparency. You can almost see inside the stone because of this transparency and thus, the motif seems to never end. We wanted to create an interaction between the triangular pattern and the matrix of the necklace.

When you complete the pieces, do you try them on yourself?

I prefer to see them on other people. At most, I wear them only twice. Once, when we are working in the workshop, because we need to see its functionality, when worn on the neck or collarbone for instance. It must suit everybody because it may be bought and worn by people from all over the world, and we all have different body shapes. We try to imagine it shorter or longer and think about the comfort. It’s more complicated with rings because of the finger size.

What are you most proud of in the process of creating this collection?

The ability to realise this collection without the ability to travel. We have been so adaptable, which is really driven by a passion to create. There are no boundaries or limits in the creation of high jewellery. I’m very proud that collection after collection, we keep introducing new ways of interpreting the Cartier style. Our job is to successfully evoke an emotion in you when you see Cartier’s interpretation of beauty. When you fall in love with it, that’s true satisfaction and pleasure for us.