The Jewellery maker

Xavier Gargat calls himself an artisan. His process is very much about concept and commentary on what should be done. He relies on talented people. Has a vision that the final object should be the result of many different talents working together, inspired by a specific heart, a specific eye — his eye and his vision.

By Raziqueh Hussain

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Fri 19 Nov 2010, 10:03 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:27 PM

Having worked with some of the prominent High Jewellery Maisons on the Place Vendome in Paris, Gargat has been in charge of Cartier’s High Jewellery workshops for the last 12 years, directing Cartier’s master jewellers to create some of the most exclusive creations that we see today, reflecting the true know-how and creativity which Cartier has become renowned for.

“My father was also a jewellery maker and used to tell me to be very careful when people call themselves artists — that means they are masters of the know-how, but as an artisan you create masterpieces and there’s a thin line that divides the two,” he says, on his first visit to Dubai as part of the Festival Colbert where Cartier presented some of its creations.

When you think Cartier, you think of jewellery. But many of the incredible items are clocks or boxes, odd custom pieces. “Jewellery is the heart and essence of Cartier. When Louis Cartier started the business way back in 1847, he started with jewellery and the other pieces took after that,” says Gargat adding, “A Cartier piece has a sense of proportions, a philosophy, an eye for colours. It’s very recognisable because there is a grammar to it, and an aesthetic vocabulary. There’s a graphic design that can be recognised and also a philosophy. And the richness of that style is that it can evolve. It’s open to new influences.”

The Panther collection, started in 1910, has evolved and is more realistic today. Made from the finest gold, diamonds, ruby and sapphires, this collection is constantly updating and innovating with the fashion times.

At Cartier, jewellery creations are born of a meeting between the designer and the stone, the jeweller and precious metals. It all starts with an idea, a desire for colour, a material, a shape or a special fascination with a particular stone and the will of an explorer and a magician of the impossible. “Jewellery is about and around the gem; it’s really not about the value of the gem, but it’s beauty sometimes; there are also its flaws that makes it feel alive. We try to bring out the beauty of the gem with our craftsmanship while working on the piece,” he adds.

A sketch is first drawn and is centred around the stone, the true star of the jewel. The original idea recorded in the sketch becomes more refined during a and meticulous study with the designers. Setting out the stones on a wax foundation sheet allows the jeweller to study how well they work together: what colours to combine, what kind of resonance to send vibrating between them, what angle to place each stone at…

Whether a traditional jewel or one inspired by the Cartier bestiary, the piece is then entrusted to the jeweller. It is the jeweller who completes the openwork on the metal. Boring holes, he prepares the cavities in which the stones are to be placed and arranges the layout of the gems. This stage, under the hand of the jeweller, is essential, as it imprints the artisan’s personality on the piece, creating its unique character.

“When I’m working on one piece, I give all my attention to it,” says Gargat. “I’m spontaneous, punctual and immediate, it’s kind of weird but it’s when I’m sleeping — that’s when I hit upon many ideas. No, it’s not really a dream, it’s just that when I wake up I have a solution, it may not be a technique. It could be a management decision but it’s all there.”

With over 40 years in the field, the most memorable pieces that he’s created are those for royalty. “Before I joined Cartier I had made just one tiara, but here I create at least two pieces yearly,” he says. Apart from creating them with his own hands, Gargat loves to try on earrings himself! “I mean just to see if they balance well, need fine-tuning or some more craftsmanship. Those need to be clipped, by the way, because how ever much I love trying them on, I can’t get my ears pierced, it’s too painful,” he laughs.

Being in the trade for far too long, Gargat is very patient with his craftsmen. “I started when at 16 years old, a complete novice, so these days when a lad makes a mistake I tend to forgive and explain the art to him. After all, in this field it takes years of experience to master the art. A flower doesn’t grow overnight. You need to nurture it for it to blossom into a beautiful rose,” he explains.

For every woman who is out to buy jewellery, he advices, “While picking up a piece, never think that this jewel will add value to me. It’s always the ‘me’ who will add value to the piece,” says the jewellery maker whose pieces are extremely detailed and truly a treasure to own.

More news from