Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Art of Cartier

It's not often you see men sporting two-hundred-carat diamonds and a turban.

One of the most intriguing pieces at The Art of Cartier exhibition is a heavy multi-strand necklace created in 1928 for the Maharajah of Patiala, Sir Bhupinder Singh. The 960-carat necklace was crafted from a trunk full of jewels, and topped off with the majestic 234.69 carat De Beers diamond.

In 1948, the necklace disappeared and eventually turned up in London fifty years later, stripped of all the larger stones. Appalled, Cartier immediately bought the skeleton of the necklace and embarked on a quest to restore it to its former glory.

Several rare jewels, including the one-of-a-kind De Beers diamond, have been substituted with synthetic gems - a first in Cartier's history - to enable Cartier's jewelers to recapture the original design of the necklace. A short film at the exhibition shows the intricate restoration process, with jewelers setting aside modern technique and putting themselves in the shoes of their 1928 counterparts. In the meantime, Cartier continues the search for the missing gems.

The recently renovated National Museum of Singapore is hosting The Art of Cartier exhibition as part of its preview season, before the museum formally opens to the public in December 2006. This is the first time the exhibition has been displayed in Southeast Asia.

The building is a beautiful mix of the historic and the modern, with extensive glass panels letting sunlight into the airy corridors.


The National Museum is at 93 Stamford Road, across the street from the YMCA. It's a short walk from either Dhoby Ghaut or City Hall MRT stations (map to the museum from StreetDirectory.com)

Tours and Admission

The Art of Cartier runs from September 30 to October 17. The exhibit is open from 10 AM to 6 PM. Guided tours are available from Monday to Friday at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm.

Admission is free... but don't touch the glass jewelry cases, or you may not make it back out.

Further reading and key pieces

  • Evolution of a Fabled Necklace by Suzy Menkes, International Herald Tribune
  • A Chance To Ogle, Covet And Dream by Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times
  • Jean Cocteau's sword
  • The mystery clock and its history
  • Cartier history and trivia at FashionTribes

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    At October 10, 2006 8:12 PM, Blogger Venitha said...

    Other than this necklace, I was disappointed with the exhibition. But maybe it was all the security guards who felt the need to stand directly in front of the displays. When oh when is the rest of the museum going to open?

    At October 10, 2006 8:24 PM, Blogger Ching said...

    Oh no... when did you go?

    We took the guided tour last Saturday and it was all right. Probably due to the large crowd (20+ in our tour), the security guards stayed at the fringes instead of blocking our view.
    Although the crowd did that for them...

    Thankfully, about 15 minutes after our tour started another tour guide arrived and started a second tour, which split up the crowd.

    I do have to admit I enjoyed the tour guide's stories a lot more than just seeing the pieces.

    Looking forward to seeing the rest of the museum open up!


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