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The Little Red Box

“The little red box”, was the title given to a television documentary several years ago which traced the 160 year history of this illustrious Jewellery House. If luxury brands are immediately recognisable by their logo, colour or initials, there are few in the world similar to Cartier which are as associated to the boxes which contain their creations.

The red box with gold embossed decoration is known throughout the world to contain treasures made by expert hands. To the point, still today, that a jewel, an object, a Cartier clock sees its value increase in the art market if it is still in its original box. If red is systematically used today to cover the House’s boxes, it was not always so in the past.

Materials and colors

In the XIXth century the boxes came in a variety of materials and colours, blue, black, brown, leather, shagreen, velvet were invariably used to present their precious pieces. After settling at rue de la Paix, a uniformity was brought to bear. Not so much for the colour but in the general presentation. The leather was in one colour, in general red or green which was stuck to a wooden base. The House’s address was printed in gold on white silk, placed on the inside of the cover, in a rectangular cartouche surmounted with hanging laurel garlands and resting on six small triangular feet.

CASE Cartier Paris, c. 1910 At the beginning of the XXth century, many pieces were presented in green cases such as this one, which was designed to hold a pendant watch and its chain with enamel batonets.

The suede interior on which the object rested, depended on the use of the object and depending on its period was black, brown, cream or yellow-orange.
As often with Cartier, we must be careful of established rules and for boxes, as with the pieces, it was never a definitive rule. Thus, if the boxes were in their majority red and green, they also came in blue, brown, black, pink and sometimes white, even though, especially for the latter, they were probably used for special commissions.


PERFUME BOTTLE Cartier Paris, 1875 Yellow gold, rose gold, green gold, rock crystal. Fitted green shagreen case with the address, 9 Bd des Italiens stamped inside. Unsigned. Eagle’s head French hallmark for gold. Maker: Marret fr res & Jarry. L: 12 cm. Private collection.


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