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Who is Jeanne Toussaint?

Today we want to introduce you to Jeanne Toussaint, the artistic director for Cartier during the 20th century.

Born in Belgium in 1887, Toussaint is credited with establishing Cartier’s timeless style. She took on the role of artistic director in 1933, ushering in a renaissance of sorts for the famed jewelry house, by using obscure gemstones and multi-dimensional pieces that were inspired by animals and plants.

This was a departure from the traditional pieces that were being crafted by other well-known jewelers. In fact, it was Toussaint who expanded upon Cartier’s Panthére collection, which featured wild large cats, like the panther and tiger in three-dimensional form, encrusted with jewels. This line would come to symbolize fearlessness and confidence that Toussaint wanted all women to embody.

This Art Deco style helped make the panther synonymous with Cartier, and the use of exotic gemstones even drew the attention of royalty. The Kashmire Sapphire Panther was purchased by the Duchess of Windsor in 1949 which was comprised of a three-dimensional diamond encrusted panther perched on top of a 153-carat sapphire cabochon. She would own this piece until 1987, when Cartier would buy it back for its own private collection.

Toussaint was heavily influenced by India and her experience in Paris. She wanted to merge the two worlds together through her jewelry. The wild cats are considered an ode to South Asia, and the opulent gemstones are a sonnet to Paris.

We featured Toussaint because she paved the way for her own career in the jewelry industry, during a time when women were expected to marry and have children. She circumvented these social norms, not only by pursuing her professional passion, but also by doing it with her own vision and personality.

Among all the ways that Toussaint stood apart from her peers was the 1941 commission that she designed in protest against the German occupation of Paris. It was a brooch of a caged nightingale. She put this on display in her shop window and was arrested by the Gestapo. In 1945, after the Germans left France, she designed the same brooch, except the cage door was open and the nightingale appeared to take flight.

Her creativity and social commentary are the epitome of strength. She not only brought forth beauty into the world, but she used it to elevate the injustices that she and many other were also experiencing.

The Cartier panther is a classic and with good reason. Today, the panthére collection has been reimagined in the line of Cartier watches which are a staple for fine jewelry enthusiasts. The line features, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold watches that pay tribute to Toussaint’s original design. Proving that timeless style can last generations.

Toussaint died May 7, 1976 in Paris at 89 years old. Her legacy continues to inspire us each and every day. We too feel that jewelry should embody the characteristics of the wearer, which is why we create elaborate designs using sapphires, diamonds, and amethyst.

If we don’t have the gemstone you are looking for, we will find it, and much like Toussaint, we will create a piece that speaks to the world of your strength and determination.


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