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Diamond Anniversary

... And then some! Looking back on a century of Cartier jewels.

Author Sarah Horne Photography Nick Welsh / Courtesy of Cartier

IT’S BEEN 100 YEARS SINCE the Frenchman Pierre Cartier brought dad Alfred’s storied jewelry concern to America, but the company, famed for whimsical designs like its rock star panther ring, is still partying like it’s 1909.

To wrap up Cartier’s yearlong centennial celebrations, the exhibition “Cartier and America” will open on December 19 at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor. You might want to bundle up, because it will be icy: There’s the “Star of South Africa,” an 83-carat rock found in 1869 along the banks of South Africa’s Orange River, a discovery that set off the South African diamond rush. (The bauble was later whittled down to a mere 47-carat pear-shape, lest you fear it all sounds a bit Dow 14,000.) Then there’s Grace Kelly’s diamond engagement ring, a hefty sparkler that’s equal parts movie star, European princess and prizefighter.

But if cut, color and clarity don’t dazzle you, some of Cartier’s more quirky amusements are also on display. Space nerds will cheer at the miniature 1969 Lunar Landing Module, rendered in yellow and white gold. Unfortunately, it’s not available as a stocking stuffer. And for your inner crocodile hunter, there’s a hefty 1975 necklace on view featuring an emerald beast taking a bite out of a yellow-diamond rival; the piece comprises a total of 2,087 jewels. Now, that’s fierce.

If you’re looking for your own piece of the rock, check out Cartier’s newest collection, Secrets & Merveilles, which will have four themes: peacocks, pearls, snakes and, of course, diamonds—something for everyone on your holiday list.

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