21 Ultimate Gifts: Scent to Treasure

  • Jill Newman

The Gift

  • An Art Deco–style perfume pendant necklace by Cartier, featuring a hand-carved morganite bottle adorned with spinels, diamonds, and platinum details.
  • A custom perfume created by Cartier’s fragrance master, Mathilde Laurent.
  • A weekend in Paris, including first-class airfare for two, luxury accommodations for three nights, and a tour of Cartier’s high-jewelry workshop.

$475,000

It began with an enormous stone: a 572-carat hunk of pink morganite nearly the size of a tennis ball. Cartier delivered this nugget to a master glyptician in Paris, one of the few remaining specialists to practice the delicate art of carving precious gems into meticulous miniature sculptures. This craftsman painstakingly transformed the stone into a smooth, rounded perfume bottle, which he then turned over to the designers in Cartier’s high-jewelry workshop. These artisans spent weeks researching the history of decorative perfume bottles, studying both ancient and modern examples, before finally deciding to set this precious flacon in a harness of round diamonds and platinum, cap it with a faceted spinel, and incorporate it into an Art Deco–style pendant gracefully draped with pear-shaped diamonds.

This unusual creation is part of the Sortilège de Cartier high-jewelry collection, whose 70 one-of-a-kind pieces evoke the world of fragrance through motifs of flowers, fruits, and herbal plants. However, this particular item was not unveiled with the rest of the collection this fall; instead, the perfume pendant was set aside to serve as the centerpiece of this imaginatively romantic gift, offered to a single Robb Report reader, which also includes a trip to Paris to consult with Cartier’s in-house perfumer, Mathilde Laurent, in creating a custom personal fragrance to fill the jeweled vessel.

Laurent has developed some of Cartier’s signature fragrances, including Roadster Cartier in 2008, Les Heures de Parfum in 2009, and this year’s Cartier de Lune. Over the years, she has also occasionally created bespoke fragrances for Cartier’s most elite clients—a fact that has been kept quiet until now. "It gives a person great pleasure when they know exactly what they like to smell, and suddenly they have it in a bottle," she says. "It is a kind of miracle."

The consultation begins with a detailed conversation that ranges far beyond perfume: Laurent seeks to understand exactly what makes her client experience deep happiness. She then translates these elusive elements into a precise, scientific formula. For instance, if being near the seashore conjures good feelings for the recipient, Laurent will ask which body of water she prefers, the Mediterranean or Black Sea, because each has a different scent, requiring ylang-ylang or perhaps Calone. If the recipient indicates that she most enjoys a sense of serenity, Laurent may reach for essences of tropical flowers or lavender.

After the initial meeting, Laurent brings her notes to the laboratory and begins experimenting. One to six months later, she will deliver the fragrance. Sometimes, she says, the client’s reaction is love at first sniff; but if not, Laurent will modify the formula until the fragrance suits the recipient’s nose. "Once you capture the scent, it is very precious," she says. "A scent is something very difficult to express. It is like finding a hidden treasure."

In the case of this particular gift, however, that treasure resides within a treasure of another kind.

 

Cartier, Debra Sloane, 212.446.3736

This gift must be purchased by December 31, 2012.

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