Cartier continues to build collection with purchase of its own antique necklace


French Maison Cartier recently acquired a rare jade necklace at auction, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 7th April. Cartier bought the necklace for $27.44 million, setting a world record price of jadeite jewel. The necklace is made of 27 Qing jadeite beads of valuable quality and dimensions.

After a prolific biddling war, Cartier achieves a world record after buying back it’s Hutton-Mdivani necklace.

The spectacular necklace, which is a majestic green colour, originally belonged to American socialite Barbara Hutton. It was first seen in public at the 1933 wedding of Hutton to Prince Alexis Mdivani (the first of Hutton’s seven marriages), as a wedding gift from the father of the bride.


Barbara Hutton wearing the Hutton-Mdivani necklace at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 1933, accompanied by her first husband Prince Alexis Mdivani.

At the time, Barbara Hutton was unusual among fashionable westerners in her love of jadeite, but her attitude towards jewellery generally was positively Elizabeth Taylor-esque. Heiress to the retail tycoon Frank Winfield Woolworth and one of the richest women in the world from the age of 21, she established an enormous jewellery collection, including not only specially commissioned pieces from the major jewellers of the day, like Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet and Cartier, but also important royal and noble jewels, including a pearl necklace that had once belonged to Marie Antoinette. But jadeite was more popular among the glamorous Chinese elite: its fans included the Empress Dowager Cixi of China, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and Madame Wellington Koo, wife of the famous Chinese diplomat VK Wellington Koo.

Its 27 gigantic Qing jadeite beads, which reportedly originally belonged to a member of the Qing imperial court in the 18th century, passed into the hands of Cartier, which set it for the Huttons in 1933, adding an innovative clasp (second picture) made of rubies and diamonds in a geometric design.

Passionate about jade, Hutton commissioned from Cartier the current clasp of the necklace. They crafted a clasp set with yellow-gold, calibre-cut rubies and navette-cut diamonds. The necklace represents Cartier’s pioneering interest in Chinese culture and jade at the start of the 20th century, jadeite having symbolised supreme status and ultimate wealth for hundreds of years. It is believed that jade is a spiritual gemstone that transfers positive energy to the wearer if worn close to the skin, which then improves the colour and transparency of the gemstone.


The quality of the beads is quite exceptional. Translucent and of perfectly matched colour, they range from 15.4mm to 19.2mm in diameter. Such huge stones signify that they were worn by a senior member of the Qing imperial court – indeed, only the ruling class was allowed to wear them. In their current incarnation they are equally impressive: the necklace featured in the recently released publication 20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style by Alexandra Rhodes and Stefano Papi.

Heiress to the retail tycoon Frank Winfield Woolworth, Barbara Hutton earned the nickname ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ when she was given an extravagant debutante ball in 1930 during the Great Depression. As one of the wealthiest women in the world, she was publicly envied for her possessions, beauty and indulgent lifestyle.

After an intense bidding against seven others in the room and on the phone, each competing for the necklace, the Cartier Collection doubled the estimate set by Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction. The necklace last appeared at Christie’s 1994 auction in Hong Kong, selling for $4.27 million, however it is not known who the previous seller was this year. Sotheby’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Spring Sale brought in $106.6 million dollars in total.


Established in 1983, the Cartier Collection received official status, led by jewellery expert Eric Nussbaum. It marked the start of the on-going creation of an exquisite selection of jewellery, watchmaking, clocks and accessories, all signed Cartier. The Cartier Collection represents the changing style of the Parisian jeweller, from the oldest piece in 1860 to the most recent of the late 20th century. Since 1989, the Cartier Collection has mounted twenty-five major exhibitions in the most prestigious museums on five continents.

Today, the collection holds over fifteen hundred stunning pieces acquired from both public sales and individuals. Three major publications have been devoted to it; editions Flammarion: La Collection Cartier- Joaillerie, 2004, La Collection Cartier- Horlogerie, 2006 and La Collection Cartier- Accessoires, 2012. The mission of the Cartier Collection remains, to present the historic Cartier heritage to the largest audience in the world.