If you have a coffee habit, you may revel in having something in common with Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. The Hollywood icons, too, enjoyed their coffee–except theirs was not a regular flat white, but Cartier’s Grain de Café collection.
First launched in 1938 under the creative direction of the ingenious Jeanne Toussaint, the collection catapulted into popularity in the 1950s and ’60s on the good taste of Hepburn and Kelly, who were often spotted wearing its pieces. As may be intuited from its name, the line takes inspiration from the humble coffee bean, elevating its simple oblong form into a recurring motif in precious jewellery.
Now, decades later, the Grain de Café is getting a contemporary revival. With current Hollywood darling, Elle Fanning, as its face, the collection relaunches this month with six dazzling new pieces in the local market.
Crafted in 18k yellow, white, and rose gold, the new additions involved the talents of 30 craftsmen. Like their mid-century predecessors, the coffee bean motifs are adorned with a gemstone on their tips. Toussaint often experimented with coloured stones, but in 2023’s versions, it’s all diamonds. Designed to be mobile in many of the pieces, the beans rustle gently with the wearer’s movements to give a multi-sensory wearing experience while catching the light to allude to the warmth of the summer sun on bare skin.
The definite standouts are the ring and necklace in rose gold with obsidian coffee beans scattered among the gold ones. The voluminous forms of these designs already catch the eye, but the additional contrast of the dark obsidian against bright gold transforms them into the de facto statement pieces of the collection.
Grain de Café is not a collection for a wallflower; every item is a statement maker, even the most pared-down designs with a single row of coffee beans mounted on a chain. We see this in two pieces: a ring and a necklace, the former like a crown for the finger, and the latter, a collar to jazz up any neckline. To double the glamour, the ring and bracelet featuring two rows of bean motifs are to chunky jewellery lovers what double shot espressos are to caffeine addicts.
The star item, however, has to be the reissue of a 1955 Grain de Café necklace, which is not officially available in Singapore. It was released as a tribute to the collection’s long history and Toussaint, its original creator. Elle Fanning wore it first at the Met Gala this year.
In creating the Grain de Café collection, Toussaint exemplified Cartier’s knack for making the ordinary precious—just the like bean that inspired it, which holds the energy to power up an ordinary day.