How the Cartier brothers divided and conquered the world’s richest women

Discussion in 'Luxury and Lifestyle' started by dealmaker, Nov 30, 2019.

  1. dealmaker


    How the Cartier brothers divided and conquered the world’s richest women
    By Rachelle Bergstein

    November 30, 2019 | 7:57am | Updated

    Enlarge Image
    The three Cartier brothers Pierre (far left), Louis (second from left) and Jacques (far right) inherited a small jewelry store in Paris from their father, Alfred (second from right). They divvied up Europe, the US and the UK when they were kids, and later built the brand into a world-renowned empire. Cartier Family Archives
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    In the late 1890s, three brothers — Louis, Pierre and Jacques Cartier — sat hunched over a world map at their modest home in Paris.

    The boys, then ages 18, 15 and 9, carefully split it into three key regions: Europe, the Americas and Great Britain. Louis, the eldest, assigned one area to each brother. Then, they joined together in a pledge “to create the leading jewelry firm in the world!”

    The brothers knew that they would one day inherit the family business: a Paris-based jewelry store founded by their grandfather, Louis-Francois Cartier, in 1847. And they were already plotting to transform the shop from a local destination spot into an international luxury powerhouse, as detailed in the book “The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire” (Ballantine), out now.

    Francesca Cartier Brickell, Jacques’ great-granddaughter and a former financial analyst, wrote the book after stumbling on a trunk full of hand-written letters while searching for a bottle of vintage champagne in her grandfather’s basement.

    The treasure trove of correspondence sent her on a decade-long journey of discovery about her legacy.

    Louis-Francois, Cartier’s founder, was a humble jewelry-store apprentice from a working-class background. As a young man, he scraped together the money to buy out his mentors when he learned they were moving on to a chicer part of town. For a generation, the family skated by, selling original jewelry designs as well as other fineries including porcelain dishware and vases.

    But as the three grandsons came of age, they foresaw bigger opportunities for Cartier.

    Enlarge Image

    Jacques Cartier — the youngest brother, who was the least interested in jewelry at first — ultimately forged his own lasting contributions to the family business, too.

    Growing up, Jacques had aspired to be a Catholic priest. But that changed when he met Nelly Harjes, an heiress whose father worked with J.P. Morgan. The Cartiers were thrilled with the match, but Nelly’s family was underwhelmed, to say the least. They regarded the Cartiers “as shopkeepers, or ‘mere trade,’ ” Brickell writes. Nelly begged her father to sanction the marriage, but he remained doubtful of Jacques’ suitability.

    Ultimately, John Harjes proposed a plan: If Nelly and Jacques could go a year without seeing each other, and still wanted to be together at the end, he would allow it. To distract himself during their prolonged separation, Jacques — who joined Cartier in 1906 — became utterly devoted to his work. His piece of the global puzzle was England and the colonies, and he traveled to India, making connections with gem-loving maharajas and immersing himself in the jewelry there, which ultimately informed Cartier’s signature, Eastern-inflected aesthetic.

    After Jacques and Nelly reunited, they were happily married, with her father’s blessing, and the pair made a substantial impact on the Cartier legacy in 1919.

    That year, they had a son: the first boy of his generation to carry on the family name. Pierre was delighted, and sent a cheerful, congratulatory letter to his brother.

    “At last a boy!” he wrote. “Love to Nelly, must write news in social column.”
  2. Banjo


    The message here is to marry wealth, power and increase distribution, well done boys!
  3. newwurldmn


    Cartier might have made one of the greatest real estate investments in history. They bought their giant 5th ave building for a necklace.
  4. I really don't believe the story that their ancestors "barely scraped by" selling luxury goods. You need money for investment into that kind of stuff.
  5. Overnight


  6. elderado