by Emily Baxter-Priest
  • 4 minute read
  • June 21, 2024
Cartier’s Trinity collection: A century of iconic design and craftsmanship

Cartier’s Trinity collection is truly the icon of all icons. One of the most recognisable jewellery designs of the past 100 years, its list of wearers is a roll-call of stage stars and royalty, from Gary Cooper, Jean Cocteau, and Grace Kelly to Nicole Kidman, Labrinth, and Kate Middleton.

First created in 1924, a ring born Jean Cocteau wearing two Trinity rings on his little finger, photographed by Boris Lipnitzki in Milly-la-Forêt in 1951 from Louis Cartier’s own imagination, the Trinity broke with convention. It dared to focus more on pushing design boundaries than on precious stones, as was customary at the time. Its three bands are a poetic yet technical enigma, sliding over each other, overlapping, merging – a ring that infused modernity into jewellery and gave Cartier its first design icon.

Cartier Trinity ring. Image: Cartier

From the day Louis first put pen to sketching paper, three has always been the Trinity’s magic number. Three bands in yellow, rose and white gold; Louis, Pierre and Jacques, the three Cartier brothers; and, subsequently, Cartier’s three historic boutiques in Paris, London and New York. Worn on a little ring finger, a ring finger, stacked, on him, on her, or as a pendant, the bands are intertwined. To this day, the cult ring symbolises the Maison’s most cherished values of diversity and love. But what makes Trinity so iconic is its art of reinvention. Its design has been honed, modified,recreated multiple times to stay au courant, its endless iterations allowing the piece to transcend eras and trends, never wavering from Louis’ primary intention: for it to be a ring for everyone.

Over the years, Cartier has flexed the collection’s creative capabilities to include fine rings and wider bands, bands multiplied in number, stylised to include fluted, faceted and gadrooned rings, and crafted in everything from precious metals to black ceramic. In the name of creative evolution, Trinity has tried it all. This year, to celebrate Trinity’s centenary, Cartier has introduced new designs – an XL version of the iconic ring, a reissued version of the cult XL bracelet from 2000, and the Trinity bracelet – but in a maximalist version. The person tasked with the job of creating these centenary icons was Cartier’s Director of Watchmaking and Jewellery design, Marie-Laure Cérède. “The idea of redesigning Cartier Trinity, an icon ‘par excellence’ seemed almost laughable, an impossible feat,” she shares.

Cartier Trinity collection. Image: Cartier

“But the challenge intrigued us. We forged ahead but freed ourselves from the obligation to produce a result at all costs. If a new design sparked inspiration, we would fully embrace it. But if didn’t resonate, we agreed we would not push it any further.” This freedom allowed Marie-Laure to start at the beginning when redesigning Trinity: three golds, made into three independent bands, yet joined inseparably. “Three from one, and one from three,” she explains, of the magic number. “The emotion that emanates from their rolling dance… Anchored by its sacred values, we aimed to capture the absolute essence of the original, but with a unique and incremental creative recipe.”

A daring exercise in style and a new geometric design approach brings a change in shape and distortion of the Trinity bands. A new cushion-shaped version features the same naturalness and fluidity as the round version, and is part of a collection of classic or large gold rings, pavéd with diamonds, a bracelet and a pendant. Marie-Laure says the design process called for a bespoke approach – one in which they worked the volume by hand, kneading the material, rolling it, and compressing it to isolate a creative direction.

Cartier Trinity ring. Image: Cartier

“To our surprise, an unexpected new shape began to emerge: a cushion,” she says. “After unlocking the shape, we had to pinpoint its ideal proportions. With the finesse of a stone sculptor, we stripped away the layers, little by little, a tenth of a millimetre at a time. It was a work of utmost precision.” Another addition is a singularly multiple version, modular in design that allows it to be worn as one wide, large band, or as three, with the three bands unfolding like a ‘construction game’, revealing diamonds as they move. 

The modular Trinity takes a counter-intuitive design approach, explains Marie-Laure: first construction, then deconstruction. “Like a Kumiki puzzle, we envisioned the Trinity bands interlocked as one structure, and then designed in reverse to deconstruct them into three,” she explains. This modular approach offers different ways to wear the same ring, adding to its universality. “Wear the ring fused together for a discreet day look, then unravel the bands to reveal the diamonds at night,” Marie-Laure suggests. Whichever way you decide to wear the new Trinity ring designs, or indeed any of the pieces from its family, one thing remains true: whether in 1924 or 2024, Cartier’s codes never go out of style.

Next In