Last updateWed, 25 Mar 2020 1pm

The Story Behind the Stone: Priceless time; mesmeric Cartier clocks

Not all Cartier objects are jewelry. The century old jeweler to nobility and the famous turned out an enormous array of luxury goods over the years. Each object became a window into the times and lifestyle of the era in which it was produced. The venerable house of Cartier created lavish rare jewelry including tiaras for their aristocratic clientele, which were plenteous. During the Art Deco period they were considered to be the dominant jeweler of high society around the world. At auction one can still find Cartier’s cocktail and smoking accessories, which were wildly popular in the 1920s.

Jarrett 1925Perhaps the most precious of all Cartier’s output are their legendary clocks. The mystery clocks as they were called have jeweled arms within crystal dials, yet seemingly there was no mechanism creating the movement. Crystal dials powered by gears hidden in the frame worked with mechanical movements concealed within the base. The transparent crystal dials which had actually been expertly cut in half, allowed for two serrated edge crystal discs with floating clock hands to be inserted. The dazzling timepieces took up to a year of patient intense labor to create.

These are true rarities owing to the expert craftsmanship used in their ingenious design, and because of the rare and valuable jeweled embellishments. Several clocks were produced, but it’s difficult to know how many survived.

Today one can find these artful timepieces in private collections or sneak a peek at them when they are offered up for auction. A rare Cartier mystery clock earned almost $900,000 US in a 2014 Sotheby’s Geneva auction; a testament to how collectible they are worldwide.

Jarrett March 1926The luxury items Cartier began creating over one hundred years ago to feed the demands of an elite aristocracy still resonate with those who appreciate the skillful art of handmade items. Cartier played an enormously influential role as tastemaker to high society then and now. Today the sumptuous clocks are still regarded as the most expensive of any of Cartier’s items.

Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and www.jewelrywebsitedesigners.com. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit her website at www.dianajarrett.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).