The famed French poet, novelist, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau was often photographed wearing two distinctive rings on his pinkie finger: tri-bands of overlapping hoops. Characterized by a Saturnian form involving three movable bands, the Trinity ring was designed in 1924 by Cocteau’s friend Louis Cartier (1875–1942), documented heartbreaker and grandson of Louis-François Cartier, who founded the renowned French luxury house. Cartier soon afterward debuted the distinctive “Trinity de Cartier” design to consumers, which, inspired by the ring, included the Trinity bracelet, a still-popular accessory in its classic simplicity for both men and women.
Notably, the Trinity bracelet was understated in its dearth of embellishments when it was introduced, and the collection offered an alternative to the Art Deco decadence that was then so pervasive in jewelry, including at Cartier. Each of the Trinity bracelet’s interlaced loops were a different color, with yellow, white and pink 18-karat gold representing the entwining of fidelity, friendship and love. The three materials can also be interpreted as the stages of a relationship — from friendship to love’s passion and, finally, to the loyalty of fidelity. The Trinity design referenced a deep history of iconography related to close bonds, such as the “triquetra,” or “trinity knot,” a traditional symbol consisting of three interconnected leaves. The trinity knot was adopted long ago by the Celts and is incorporated frequently in Irish jewelry.
A model photographed for Vogue in 1925 donned a Trinity bracelet, while the image’s accompanying text celebrated jewelry that its editors deemed “amazingly chic and very moderate in price,” especially compared to Cartier’s elaborate diamond confections. Like the ring, the Trinity bracelet reflects Cartier’s technical skill in the way its three bands of precious metal elegantly overlap and rest smoothly on the skin like an embrace.
The Trinity collection was not the only collaboration between Cocteau and Cartier: When Belle weeps in Cocteau’s 1946 film Beauty and the Beast, her tears become diamonds, which were provided by Cartier during production. The luxury house paid tribute to Cocteau with the Trinity Sauvage bracelet, which incorporated a band with leopard spots that referenced the wallpaper in the study of the filmmaker’s Milly-la-Forêt home. There have been many variations over the years — featuring diamonds, ceramic, pearls and more — and all maintain the harmonious balance that makes the Trinity designs timeless. Almost a century after Cartier designed the ring for his friend, the Trinity bracelet endures as a classic expression of everlasting friendship and love.