From figurative to abstract, full-pavé to skeletonised, Cartier’s panther motif might come in different shapes and forms, but the DNA of the French high jeweller remains essential in the designs. “Tradition is not the enemy of evolution,” says Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director of image, style and heritage. “Evolution is part of our tradition.”
The balance of tradition and innovation is a continuing exploration for many of the heritage high jewellers, especially when it comes to the houses’ classic motifs. Similar cases of Cartier’s panther also include Bulgari’s serpenti, Van Cleef & Arpels’ fairies, Chaumet’s Josephine crown and Boucheron’s Quatre ring.
The evolution of such classic motifs has been constant. Cartier’s panther, for example, has been rendered in different precious materials, crafted with several of métiers d’art and applied to different categories from watch dials to eyewear. “[The panther] was a creative atomic bomb in the windows of Cartier when it first launched,” Rainero says. “We cannot measure how amazing it was to produce that sculpture as a piece of jewellery at that time.”
Bulgari too has launched a high-jewellery collection this year, paying tribute to its iconic serpenti motif, which not only includes the traditional figurative rendition, but also a more abstract twist that reinterprets other parts of the serpenti, such as its head and scales.
The graphic potential of these iconic motifs is endless figuratively and symbolically, allowing high jewellers to explore new possibilities throughout the years.
“The panther is a beautiful animal and also very interesting aesthetically,” Rainero says. “It’s been a modern and audacious symbol for women to show their independence.”
The excitement of new interpretations obviously sparks interest among loyal customers and also appeals to new customer bases.
“Not every woman likes to wear the [entire bold serpenti]. Sometimes it’s easier to wear maybe just the head of the serpenti,” says Lucia Silvestri, Bulgari’s jewellery creative director. “And even for people who don’t like the serpenti, they might find it interesting to wear something more abstract, such as the serpenti scales, which represent more of a geometric aspect of our design DNA.”
Bulgari, for example, has for the first time incorporated wood into the serpenti high-jewellery collection and the feedback has been surprisingly good, according to Silvestri.
“The wood creation is well received among our high jewellery collectors,” she says. “They want [to add] the special novelties to their serpenti collection.”
The frequency of updating the looks of iconic house motifs is something of great concern for the decision-makers from high-jewellery maisons. It holds the key to how the creative spirit of the maison is perceived – forward-thinking yet timeless and without risking the dilution of the brand’s iconic motif.