The house of Cartier is regarded as one of the most prestigious jewellery and watch manufacturers in the world and is well known for its many spectacular collections. In 1977 one of those collections arrived with us here at Stanley Gibbons, but it was not jewellery on this occasion, it was the philatelic collection of Claude Cartier...
Photographed: Cartier store front in Paris, France. (Source: Shutterstock)
Founded by Louis-François Cartier in Paris in 1847. He was responsible for some of the company's most celebrated designs, such as the mystery clocks (a type of clock with a transparent dial and so named because its mechanism is hidden) and a collection of exotic orientalist Art Deco designs, including the colorful "Tutti Frutti" jewels.
The growing reputation of Cartier had now reached the British Royal family and, for his coronation in 1902, Edward VII ordered 27 commemorative tiaras and, shortly after, issued Cartier with his royal warrant. Edward referred to Cartier as "the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers.” Similar warrants soon followed from the courts of Spain, Portugal, Serbia, Russia and the House of Orléans.
In 1909, Pierre Cartier established the New York City branch which moved to a Neo-Renaissance mansion at 653 Fifth Avenue in 1917, Cartier bought the mansion in exchange for $100 in cash and a double-stranded natural pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million. Cartier had now established branches in London, New York and Saint Petersburg.
After the death of Pierre in 1964, Claude Cartier, Jean-Jacques Cartier and Marion Cartier Claudel (who respectively headed the Cartier affiliates in New York, London & Paris) made the decision to sell the business.
Claude Cartier was the nephew of Pierre Cartier and son of Louis J. Cartier, president of Cartier of Paris. Claude attended Yale before becoming a lieutenant in the Army Air Forces. But it was in the mid-fifties that three main subjects were to become obsessions and to remain his major hobbies and interest till the time of his death – bobsledding, trap shooting and, of course, philately.
In each he strived with all his energy and efforts to become the best. Claude raced for the French World Championship Bobsled Team and later served as the coach of the French Team in St Moritz. Following his retirement from competition, he was asked to serve on the jury of the national federation of bobsledding.
In philately, it was the beauty in the unused state, and the colour freshness, of the early classic stamps engraved and produced by Perkins Bacon & Co of London for the British Colonies in the Caribbean and Canada, which was to arouse his curiosity. As his knowledge grew, his appetite became more ravenous in acquiring only the finest of examples. This is where his great friendship with the chairman of Stanley Gibbons came to the fore and laid the foundation for both his collection and its future sale.
Photographed: Stanley Gibbons auction catalogue for the Claude Cartier collection, 21st of April 1997.
As Cartier delved deeper into philately, it was the early primitive stamps of British Guiana which intrigued and fascinated him. He was charmed by their romantic history and their crude yet primitive appearance, which was in complete contrast to the London produced stamps that he was more familiar with. From this point, the third stage of his collection was to begin and he sought out the finest examples of each of these stamps on original letters with their postmarks.
In 1976, the year before the auction at Stanley Gibbons was to take place, the complete Cartier Collection was exhibited at Italia 76 where it was placed within the Court of Honour and immortalised by these words from Robert Lowe - “by placing this exhibit on view, they (his heirs) will be passing on to a large number of other collectors, a legacy that will provide happy memories to all those philatelists who share his appreciation of the jewels of philately”. A wonderful endorsement that only increased the anticipation for the auction.
The ‘Classics from the Claude Cartier Collection’ sale took place at Stanley Gibbons Auctions in London on the 21st of April 1977 and featured a number of highlight lots including...
Lot 22: Bermuda – A 1d Black on bluish grey, dated 1849. This example is thought to have been discovered in 1904 and originally sold to Ferrari. Est £30,000
Lot 23: British Guiana – The famous ‘Miss Rose of Blankenburg’ Letter (1850-1851). Only ten examples of this rarity are known, four off-cover singles and three pairs on Individual covers, one of which is in the collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Est £65,000
Lot 56: New Brunswick – 1851 1s. Dull mauve quartered, Argenti considered this usage to be one of the great rarities amongst New Brunswick covers. Est £12,000
Lot 96: Nova Scotia – 6d. Yellow-green quartered (1851-1857), fabulous marginal example oof a quartered 6d. One of the rarest and most beautiful fractional covers in existence. Est £12,000