A Cartier century

New classics from the 100-year-old jeweler

It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when Cartier wasn’t well received. But in 1909, when the French jewelry house first landed on U.S. soil, American consumers gave it a lukewarm reception. They weren’t used to companies crossing borders.

Pierre Cartier, who pioneered the U.S. expansion, persisted. One year later, after the company sold the famous Hope Diamond, he began building relationships with some of the wealthiest families in the country. The brand, already a certified success in France, soon achieved the same status stateside for its classic, yet innovative fine jewelry.

To celebrate the brand’s 100th anniversary in America, the company has launched a collection of special items available in its 36 boutiques nationwide.

“Cartier I Love You” (teNeues, $95), a compilation of drawings, photographs, illustrations and collages that convey the spirit of Cartier, was assembled for the occasion by photographer Bruce Weber.

In addition, some of the brand’s most iconic jewelry and watches have been reimagined for the anniversary. The Trinity ring first appeared in 1924 as three interlocking bands of platinum, rose gold and yellow gold that symbolize friendship, love and fidelity, respectively. A $13,000 limited-edition Trinity ring with 100 diamonds (1.2 carats) and a Trinity Charity bracelet on a red, white or blue cord for $1,700 are among the items available for the American centennial.

Blair Bartell, a spokeswoman for Cartier, said the Trinity collection has been especially popular in Atlanta.

The Cartier boutique arrived at Lenox Square in 1991 in the midst of a recession, but that didn’t stop the celebration. For the opening party, the company flew in from Los Angeles actress Dixie Carter, who starred as Julia Sugarbaker on the TV series “Designing Women.”

Over the years, Atlantans, famous and not, have developed a strong relationship with the store. Elton John, a longtime fan of Cartier, has loaned several items from his collection for touring exhibitions. Other Atlanta-based celebrities, including Usher and Janet Jackson, have partnered with Cartier’s Love Charity.

Thirty years ago, the Love bracelet, which is locked on the wrist with a key meant to be held by the wearer’s significant other, became the ultimate symbol of love. In June, the company issued a version of the bracelet with a miniature gold and diamond Love bracelet knotted into a silk cord. The $700 bracelets come in various colors, each designating support for a different charity. The charity receives $150 for each sale. Usher’s gold bracelet benefits his New Look Foundation, while Jackson’s gunmetal bracelet benefits the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Candace Smith, 41, of Buckhead has several Love Charity bracelets and a strong affinity for Cartier. Last year when she wanted to treat herself to a special 40th birthday gift, she headed straight to the Lenox Square store. She visited several times before falling in love with the Roadster watch. Weeks later at a fund-raiser for the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (Smith is a board member), she spotted a silver Roadster for auction.

“It was fated that it was going to be mine,” said Smith, who hovered at the table until the auction closed and she owned the watch.

“On one hand when you see one, you say of course that is a Cartier. At the same time, it has a feeling of being unique,” Smith said. “At this point, I feel like when I look at my watch it’s about me as much as it’s about the brand.”

Pierre Cartier would be proud.