Monday, 12 October 2009

Cartier and the Maharajas

The Maharajas are in town – and so are the great and the good. The private views of the V&A Maharaja exhibition last week attracted the great and the good to the capital. Cartier marked the occasion by hosting a lunch in their boardroom in Lower Bond Street for a small group of senior journalists: fabulous white flowers, fine wines (as you would expect from a French standard bearer) and some of the best roast beef I can remember eating. Cartier's London boss, Arnaud Bamberger, and the director of international style and heritage director, Pierre Rainero, were the hosts. Arnaud made a witty speech highlighting the differences between the British and the French – in an affectionate way, of course. Cartier made a huge amount of the jewellery commissioned by Indian princes, especially in the years between the wars, using diamonds, rubies and pearls sent to Paris from India for the purpose. The Cartier people told us that, at the exclusive private dinner earlier in the week for the descendants of the maharajas who loaned pieces to the exhibition, some guests were wearing Cartier pieces that no-one from the firm had seen for many decades.

As for the Maharajas itself, the exhibition is full of fabulous things, from golden thrones and magnificent panoply for elephants to vast diamond and pearl necklaces anchored with rubies, which were worn by men - often to go into battle. The collection is unique, and such treasures will probably not be seen again in London for many years, if ever. But, call me a philistine, what I fell in love with most was a thirties Rolls Royce - as long as a bus, and painted a subtle green-grey. It made today's heavily Teutonic Rollers look as vulgar and unstylish as a dust cart.