Cartier Revives One Of Its Most Underrated Creations: Grain de Café

In with the old.

Cartier’s latest release, more than a masterclass in laidback luxury, is a poignant life lesson that we should all sometimes hop off the hamster wheel and smell the coffee. The Parisian jeweller who is known to make the ordinary precious—it’s the same visionary that fashioned the now-iconic Juste un Clou design from a simple nail—is sending us that timely reminder with Grain de Café.

A boldly inventive visualisation of a coffee bean, Grain de Café is a solar collection of absolute elegance that first appeared in the Cartier catalogue in 1938 before reaching the pinnacle of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. The upsurge in prominence was attributed to two extraordinary women in particular: Jeanne Toussaint and Grace Kelly.

The former, who was the creative director of the brand at the time, imparted her brilliance to the collection by way of using precious and noble materials such as diamonds and corals. The award-winning actress-turned-princess, on the other hand, gave a boost to the collection’s star meter upon receiving a Grain de Café set for her wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

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Her radiant beauty—along with that 1950s French Riviera glamour she emanated—left an indelible mark on the jewellery house and it has become a guiding principle in the making of today’s Grain de Café. And as one would expect, Cartier leads the undertaking not with the postmodern insouciance but the learned thoughtfulness of an experienced master.

“Grain de Café creates a new preciousness by playing with light, finishes, and volumes. The result is a versatile collection with added spirit. A symbol of the creative freedom of the Maison, Grain de Café transcends a literal translation of nature and results in a multi-sensory design,” says creative director of jewellery and watchmaking Marie-Laure Cérède.

Staying faithful to the source material, the new slate of rings, pendants, earrings, and brooches are crafted in yellow gold, with a trace of white, and studded with diamonds. A select few stand out from the crowd for they have been decked out with coloured stones. A ring and a bracelet, for instance, radiate a unique personality through the rubellite bead embellishment.

But the aesthetics, as is often the case with Cartier creations, are only prefacing the technical savoir-faire the house is oh-so revered for. Here, the clusters of the Coffea plant’s dark seeds stir with the slightest touch. To achieve the said effect is no mean feat: No less than 30 craftsmen participated in the conception of the pieces and more than 60 prototypes were required.

The artisans at work had to create hollow grains composed of two parts, assembled to avoid impact between them: one part is curved and the other is arched, while the surface is smooth or gadrooned. Having successfully combined mobility and sensuality, all the elements were then polished one by one using a steel brush to enhance the finish.

To elucidate this achievement of jewellery design, Cartier enlisted American photographer and filmmaker Alex Prager for an audio-visual campaign and she did not disappoint. The 45-second clip is a rip-roaring cinematic adventure, a gorgeously shot daydream of a trailer that pays tribute to the collection’s royal muse: Princess Grace of Monaco.

Bringing the vision to life is none other than the global ambassador of the Maison and the face of the Grain de Café collection, Elle Fanning. The The Great and The Neon Demon actress lends her 21st-century-woman dynamism to the glamorous spirit of the 1950s the video is going for, enriching the Grain de Café’s story with new nuances for the next generation of jewellery wearers.

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