Professional Jeweler Archive: Remodeling a Mansion

August 2000


Remodeling a Mansion

Cartier undertakes an overhaul of its New York City flagship

Being an old-fashioned jeweler to the ultrarich has certain benefits, and one of them is it’s cheaper. For one thing, you don’t face the expense of overhauling your retail space twice a decade like a mall store. This year, for example, Cartier is remodeling its landmark Manhattan store for the first time since 1917.

By New York City standards, it’s a relatively modest overhaul.

For 83 years, Cartier has occupied an Italian Renaissance-style mansion completed in 1905 for financier Morton Plant. At the time, the building at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street was beyond New York City’s business district, though commercial activity was moving closer. Now, of course, it’s a prime spot.

The New York Times reports the remodel will restore features lost in the 1917 conversion to retail space. Workers will re-create a long-lost main entrance on 52nd Street that Cartier converted to a display window when it took over. Other modifications include larger display windows, the addition of bronze window grills and installation of retractable awnings.

“The project is like a Cartier product that you redesign as it was before and make it contemporary at the same time,” said Alain Viot, president/CEO.

Company founder Pierre Cartier bought the mansion from Plant for $100 cash plus a double-strand natural pearl necklace his wife admired at Pierre Cartier’s workrooms several blocks north on Fifth Avenue. The necklace was valued at $1 million. Which leads to one of those ironies that can’t be good for the image of any jeweler. While the value of New York real estate jumped many times over the past century, the worth of Mrs. Plant’s necklace plummeted after the introduction of cultured pearls. The piece was sold at auction in 1957 for a mere $151,000.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Cartier is renovating its flagship after 83 years, adding larger windows and re-creating the original grand main entrance on the 52nd Street side (on left).

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications