As we have come to expect in recent years, Cartier treats us to an annual high jewellery collection, each one a brand new journey to an unexpected destination. The new collection is called L'Odyssée de Cartier Parcours d'un Style and the theme is travel, bringing us a range of jewels as diverse as the world itself.
We shared a preview in July of some of the pieces I saw in Paris during Couture Week, but now the complete L'Odyssée de Cartier Parcours d'un Style collection has been launched - a total of 100 spectacular haute joaillerie pieces that were revealed to private clients and press over the weekend in Lisbon at the Convento do Beato.
The capital city of Portugal, which perches on the very tip of Europe and was the departure point for famous journeys of discovery such as those of Vasco da Gama and Magellan, is a fitting location to set off on Cartier's latest journey.
Like the explorers of old, this collection, which literally spans the globe, takes us to uncharted territories and returns laden with objects of unimaginable splendour - as well as a new vocabulary, a challenging aesthetic and possibilities never before imagined.
Most exciting, I think, is the Africa-inspired collection. The searing golden brown heatwaves of an African sunset, its tribal jewels and bold geometric patterns have rarely been interpreted in high jewellery and the results are breathtaking.
The 'Solar' jewels are a riff on African tribal jewels and what Cartier describes as 'art brut'. Diamonds accentuate the rich colours of orange tourmaline beads that glow like warmed earth, and the central rutilated quartz, with its strands of golden fire, is alive with the fiery splendour of the setting sun.
With its rows of beads, there is no doubt that the form of the necklace is reminiscent of primitive African tribal jewels, but its apparent familiarity belies a complex construction of precious materials, woven into an entirely new story.
Cartier is not afraid of strong and unusual styles. The 'Solar' bracelet, with a central brown tourmaline, ripples with life like an exotic reptile with diamond scales. But the genius of Cartier shines through most clearly in the long drop earrings with mandarin garnet beads, obsidian and diamonds. Jazz meets Africa in these elegant and alluring earrings that so effortlessly bring together tribal art and Art Deco glamour.
More abstract is the 'Zebra' bracelet, in the form of a traditional African bangle with undulating bands of brilliant white against irregular black onyx stripes. A rim of skin-pink garnets peep through the edge: a hint of the life inside the animal or just an arresting contrast? As explorer, you must decide for yourself.
Looking at the sorbet-pink rubellite disc at the centre of the 'China' bracelet immediately induces a Zen-like mood with its rippling concentric carved circles creating a pool of infinity, disturbed only by diamond splashes. Guarding this ethereal pool are two imperious diamond and onyx dragons.
Perhaps the jewel most characteristic of the house style is the 'India' necklace. The combination of blue and green - so very, very Cartier - along with the carved stones and the bold geometric patterns instantly bring to mind the adventurous Cartier brothers in the early 20th century. They came back from India with brightly coloured carved stones and set them in a joyous clash of colour to create the maison's iconic Tutti Frutti jewels. A 67.94ct carved sapphire sits magnificently amid a cascade of melon-cut emeralds, soft sapphire beads and curling diamond-set platinum leaves in this fabulous necklace.
Capturing all they see on their travels, the Cartier designers have not ignored the reality of the modern world, and the city proves to be as rich a source of inspiration as the wilderness. The strong geometry of city skylines, the melding of cultures and the frenzy of the big city are captured in diamonds and platinum. In two Art Deco style bracelets, lattices and grids race around the wrist, and diamonds shine out like lights in a darkened cityscape.
Like one of the daring Portuguese explorers, Cartier's L'Odyssée Parcours d'un Style has opened our mind to exciting new design possibilities that fuse the sophistication of Parisian haute joaillerie with heady and unexpected influences from around the world.