It's unlikely, though, that anyone expected Cartier to go back more than a century in creating its Le Baiser du Dragon collection of jewelry. The rings, bracelets and necklaces are inspired by the company's first use of Chinese art -- in 1888.
Ever since then, Chinese figures, animals, demigods and Buddha have been recurring themes in Cartier's creations, and the company frequently uses mother of pearl, jade and coral, incorporating the Asian materials and designs into its more typical Art Deco-themed pieces.
For Le Baiser du Dragon, or The Kiss of the Dragon, the jeweller turned to Chinese symbols: ribbons of silk, padlocks, wind chimes and, of course, dragons.
"Chinese art and its symbols are very artistic expressions of sentiments, and people buy jewelry for love and friendship," says Stanislas de Quercize, president and CEO of Cartier USA. "So, we're embedding these traditions -- the love and the luck -- into gifts."
While other fashion fads come and go, Asian culture has been a lasting inspiration for Western designers because of its depth, de Quercize explains. "The Asian motif in the fashion world looks nice, but you also know that there is a lot of content behind it, which is not always so in the West. It (the Asian motif) invites dialogue and discussion."
De Quercize says the dragon is particularly alluring to westerners even though it's a symbol that this culture has been trained to fear.
"Being feared and revered is sometimes two different sides of the same coin. It's like a volcano; we're both mesmerized and afraid of it," he says.
According to Cartier, the mythical rewards of the jewelry collection's themes include:
* Wind chimes ward away evil spirits. They also mimic the sound of running water, so before crossing the desert, an army general distributed wind bells to the soldiers so they wouldn't be hampered by thirst.
* The ribbons come from the story of the old man who lives on the moon and records all births with silk ribbons. He then matches two ribbons and ties them in the knot, predicting a future marriage.
* In China, the dragon represents yang (positive) energy, bringing creation, fertility and activity.
-- Associated Press