Cartier: A look at his dazzling brilliance

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The song says “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” And to become best friend, many women of means go straight to the jeweler that’s the star of a current museum show. Jane Pauley is our guide:

The Denver Art Museum calls its Cartier exhibition “Brilliant.” Amidst the diamonds and emeralds and sapphires, Marc Henderson had his own brilliant idea …

“When we first found out about the exhibit, I was thinking, ‘This is perfect,'” he told Pauley.

Perfect because Henderson was looking for THE spot to pop the question to his girlfriend, Annie Seperich.

According to Seperich, he got very serious: “Just got very solemn. And, ‘I have to ask you a question.’ ‘Okay, that’s fine!'”

So Henderson got down on one knee: “I said, ‘Annie, I wanna spend the rest of 2015 with the woman I wanna spend the rest of my life with.’ And then she said, ‘Yes, yes, yes!'”

The happy couple made it official in front of a panther bracelet and brooch once owned by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, whose own love story scandalized and captivated the world when King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry her.

Simpson, according to curator Margaret Young-Sanchez, aspired to be the most fashionable woman in the world. Her particular signature?

“She really liked strong colors and very sculptural, bold jewelry,” said Young-Sanchez. “It wasn’t subtle, but it also was not overpowering or tasteless in any way.”

he Duchess achieved her goal with one-of-a-kind pieces like a flamingo brooch, and a necklace of amethyst, turquoise and gold designed in collaboration with Cartier.

Pauley asked, “What is the fascination that brings people pouring into your art museum to see these jewels?”

“The jewelry is extravagant and gorgeous and incredibly meticulously made,” said Young-Sanchez. “So you’re dazzled by both the beauty and then the intricacy.”

Cartier has been dazzling customers since 1847, catering to European aristocrats and royalty, like King Ferdinand of Romania. He asked the Parisian jeweler to fashion a pendant out of a 478-carat sapphire for his wife, Queen Marie.

“He gave this to his wife not just because he loved her and he wanted to give her some jewelry, but because she had actually lost all of her jewelry during the Russian Revolution,” said Young-Sanchez.

In 1917, the third generation — Pierre, Louis and Jacques — made Cartier more than a royal household name.

“They were the ones who had the ambition and the vision to say, ‘”We don’t want to be one of many jewelry houses in Paris; we want to be the preeminent jewelry house in the world,'” said Young-Sanchez.

And the name became nearly as famous in the 20th century as the glamorous women who wore Cartier: like Princess Grace of Monaco; and Hollywood royalty like Elizabeth Taylor.

“She had a lifelong love of jewelry,” said Young-Sanchez of Taylor. “Some of it was given to her by people she loved, and then other things she purchased for herself.”

Mexican movie star Maria Felix commissioned a 178-carat diamond snake necklace, and gold, emerald and diamond crocodiles.

“According to the story, she actually brought a little baby crocodile into the Cartier store and said, ‘I’d like you to make me a crocodile out of gold,'” said Young-Sanchez. “And so this is the design that they came up with. Those are really accurate versions of little crocodiles.”

Even maharajahs adorned themselves with jewels from Cartier.

But as the saying goes, diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

“At the end of the day, it’s a love affair between the woman and her jewels,” said Pauley.

“Well, I would say that that’s true,” said Young-Sanchez. “And of course sometimes it’s the jewelry that endures when the love does not.”