Gems & Jewellery News

Grain de Café by Cartier: high carat, zero caffeine

“To surprise was important to me,” said Marie-Laure Cérède. The jewellery and watchmaking creative director of Cartier is video-calling from Paris; on her finger, a tiered ring gives off a gentle golden glow. And it’s this jewel – alongside a number of necklaces and bracelets – that Cérède dreamt up to surprise many with. Because Grain de Café, the heritage brand’s second fine jewellery collection devoted to a naturalistic theme following the successful Cactus de Cartier, is centred on the coffee bean. 

At Cartier, casting everyday items from prestige materials has history – Juste Un Clou designs come to mind, as do the screws that detail the Love bracelet – and so has the coffee bean. It was Cartier’s genre-defining creative director Jeanne Toussaint who first added the coffee bean to the house’s stylistic vocabulary in 1938. Many gems followed, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s; among them, a suite of necklace and matching earrings beloved by Princess Grace of Monaco. 

Anchored in Cartier’s biography, Cérède’s Grain de Café however is anything but nostalgic. “We didn’t want it to be literal, we wanted it to be modern, contemporary,” she said. “And we wanted this to be a multisensory collection.” Finished by the brand’s skilled makers, there is technical virtuosity to Grain de Café gems. In rings and bracelets, clusters and rows of oblong shapes – the beans – are mounted on a fully braided chain cast from two types of gold. The effect is both tactile and auditory, as each shape follows movement. The result is a musical, rattling sound, one Cérède today likens to the “rustling of leafs in the autumn”. 

While some pieces are worked with diamonds and sculpted obsidian, Grain de Café is a gold collection first. Yellow, white and rose gold features. “One of the challenges we have – and that I want us to have – is to introduce what I call ‘a new preciousness’,” Cérède explained. “What I mean is that we have been creating with just one material, gold. It’s much more complex than working with different stones, a variation of colours. Here, you have only gold and we play with light, with engraving, with volume and with different finishes to create something very precious.” 

On my laptop screen, Cérède now moves on to one of her new bracelets, turning the jewel around and moving it closer to her camera lens. “From every angle, everything in this collection is beautiful,” she said. “I call it the luxury of invisible details. It’s not only what you are able to see, it’s also about what you feel.”

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