Although Louis-Francois, the founder of Cartier, did not have the resources to fill his store with ropes of pearls, and could not afford a showroom in the prestigious Palais Royal area, he chose one way in which his firm could distinguish itself. “Be very kind,” he would advise his son, Alfred. Do you feel that this was the reason why Cartier grew to be such a popular enterprise in the trade?

“In the very early days of Cartier, the firm did not make much of its own jewellery: it tended to buy in pieces from other workshops and sell them on. In those days (mid to late 19th century), Cartier’s product offering was not unique so, in order to attract clients, it had to differentiate itself in other ways. One of these ways was superior client service. Always treating everyone who walked through the door with utmost respect. But that same idea of ‘being kind’ applied also to their suppliers. My grandfather said his grandfather Alfred made a point of paying the gem dealers fairly and immediately (compared to some other jewellers who paid their suppliers at the end of the month or quarter). Knowing that a transaction with Monsieur Cartier was risk-free, they then tended to offer him their best gems or jewels first. So that ‘being kind’ philosophy stood the firm in good stead in terms of both buyers and sellers.

Later, when the founder’s three grandsons – Louis, Pierre and my great-grandfather Jacques – came on the scene and Cartier spread beyond Paris, they started to make far more important and unique jewels in the Cartier style but this ‘be very kind’ philosophy stayed fundamental to the way they did business. In fact, when Pierre Cartier saw that his salesman were ignoring a lady who had taken refuge from a storm in the 13 Rue de la Paix store because

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