Mysterious Indian culture has inspired a number of luxury goods houses this season. Hermes, for example, launched a new "Indian Pink" campaign featuring Indian model Lakshmi Men and gigantic painted elephants. In Shanghai, Cartier recently flew in more than 100 high jewelry pieces from its latest "Inde Mysterieuse" collection.
The Shanghai International Passenger Terminal on the Bund was transformed into an Indian palace with a sumptuous and decadent interior, where a grand jewelry show was held. Like a mysterious gift box glistening by the riverside, a huge tent was set up, in which Indian flair was everywhere - from the miniature Taj Mahal to the water flow that represented the Ganges.
Music morphed through Indian songs to arias, piano concertos to modern pop tunes. Models in elegant voile dresses showcased the flamboyant creations which were an immaculate fusion of splendid stones and fine craftsmanship.
Inspired by the paisley pattern, Apsara and Surya from the Indian myths, cobras, the Bengal tiger and even the precious stones themselves, the collection captures the essence of the brilliant Indian culture and is encrypted with symbols of the past.
Cartier's close ties with India date back to the beginning of the last century, the Cartier brothers first landed in the Oriental country in 1919. The maharajahs opened their doors to them, and placed orders for their most stunning creations. India, on the other hand, has also provided the French jewelry maker with the chance to use its myths and symbols, and its rich jewelry-making traditions.
The jewelry on display included Cartier's latest interpretation of "Tutti Frutti," the classical symbol of Indian style, an exploration of flower, fruit and anthemion motifs. The sensual piece featuring 400-carat sapphires, 100-carat rubies, 233-carat engraved emeralds, 20-carat diamonds and nearly 180-carat platinum.
A scintillating necklace revives the legendary "Patiala," a necklace commissioned by Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh in the 1920s. It is a constellation of white diamonds, a 12-carat brilliant-cut diamond as well as a one-of-a-kind 63.66-carat, pear-cut diamond. The matching ring also features a 50.41-carat huge diamond surrounded by 92 brilliant cut diamonds, displaying Cartier craftsmen's enduring and unique skills.
The Bengal tiger-shaped necklace, ring and broach are made of precious yellow diamonds, black onyx and 18-carat gold to create the head, body and claws, and engraved emerald as the eyes.
"The haute jewelry pieces are not fashionable accessories but classic pieces that should last forever," says Nicolas Roux-Alezais, business development director of high jewelry at Cartier, in France. "At Cartier, everything is about the stone. We start to think about the design only after we find the perfect stone, a stone that has a soul."
Every piece is created to fully show the wearer's sensitivity and femininity, he adds. Every tiny detail is paid the utmost attention to ensure the perfection of the jewelry.
Haute jewelry, like haute couture, used to be reserved for a select few. However, today it is accessible to many more.
"To us, every customer is unique," Roux-Alezais says when asked about his clients in China. "There are people with eminent family backgrounds; there are the newly rich; there are also those people who want to be rich enough to own a haute jewelry piece one day.
"Some of them buy out of their fondness for the particular jewelry piece, others buy as an investment," he continues.
"No matter what, we're trying our best to let more and more Chinese people appreciate the elegant beauty of Cartier's haute jewelry."