A jeweller's archives are carefully preserved treasures that perpetuate an often prestigious past. Cartier's archives are shared between three centres: one in Paris, one in London and one in New York. Jealously guarded, they are kept and consulted according to the jeweller's golden rule: strict confidentiality. Cartier's archives are a methodical and accurate record of production, classified in accordance with a seamless yet rigorous system.
They also bear witness to everyday life at a jewellery company. Each item of jewellery has its pedigree, from the initial sketches to its manufacture in the jewellery workshops to the moment of its sale. Cartier has occupied the same premises on rue de la Paix since 1899, on the very site chosen by Alfred Cartier and his son Louis who had recently joined the firm. This documentary heritage has lasted through the ages, a record of virtually every piece that Cartier has created since the turn of the century. In addition, an important collection of registers dating back to the nineteenth century retraces Cartier’s activity at its premises on boulevard des Italiens. Even the Second Empire, a significant era in Cartier’s history, has left its trace. These written records are combined with a rich collection of photographs, as each item of jewellery was photographed, life-size, before leaving the workshops. Begun in 1906 and preserved in Paris, this collection contains some 40,000 negatives. 30,000 of these negatives are preserved on glass plates in gelatino-bromide. Photograph albums, updated each day, captured production in a precise visual record.
The archive departments are also the guardians of a number of manuscript documents – sketches, preparatory drawings and production drawings – each using the highly specific technique of gouache on tracing paper. In Paris, a collection of plaster casts from 1905 to 1915 remains a touching reminder of life in the jewellery workshops and a unique three-dimensional record of their work.
The certificate that Cartier issues with an object is its identity card, and is essential when insuring the item.
Certain stones can be sold with a certificate that specifies the commercial name, colour (whenever the nomenclature states "all colours"), dimensions, weight in carats, form and (for diamonds) clarity of the stone. This certificate can only be delivered by a recognised gemmological laboratory.
These are the marks that are stamped on a precious metal object. Their role is, for example, to identify the maker of the object, guarantee the standard of fineness of the precious metals used and attest that the duties owed to the assay office for control of the objects have been paid. A single item can therefore be stamped with several hallmarks. Two hallmarks are obligatory in France: the standard mark and the sponsor’s mark. The standard mark only appears on objects that have been proven to contain the legally required proportion of gold, silver or platinum. The sponsor’s mark, the second obligatory hallmark for gold, silver and platinum objects, was introduced in France in 1355 by King John the Good. A jeweller must register its mark with the assay office by inscribing it on a plate of copper. The assay office ensures that no two jewellers use the same mark.
All Cartier jewellery and watches are engraved with a recorded individual number that identifies the item in question. No two items bear the same serial number.
An unsealed deed granted by a sovereign, authorising its holder to sell his wares at the royal court. A warrant was also granted and still is in countries with a monarchy - a means of informing the public, with the sovereign’s permission, that a supplier worked for a royal court. Cartier was granted warrants by the following monarchies: Great Britain and Spain (1904), Portugal (1905), Russia (1907), Siam (1908), Greece (1909), Serbia (1913), France (the Comte de Paris, 1914), Belgium (1919), Italy (1920), Romania (1925), Egypt (1929) and Albania (1939).