Obituary: Hampstead’s Barbara Cartlidge, who revolutionised jewellery – and stole Einstein’s apples

PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:15 10 March 2017

Babara Cartlidge                                   Picture: Cartlidge family

Babara Cartlidge Picture: Cartlidge family


She escaped Nazi persecution just before the the Second World War began, was at the forefront of a revolution in jewellery, was reprimanded for stealing Albert Einstein’s apples and spent seven decades in Hampstead.

Barbara Cartlidge                                         Picture: Cartlidge family Barbara Cartlidge Picture: Cartlidge family

Barbara Cartlidge (née Feistmann) was born to Jewish parents in Berlin in 1922 but managed to flee to London with her mother in 1938 after members of the Gestapo appeared at the family home and ominously explained they were “waiting for further orders”.

She had enjoyed a progressive boarding school education and a stint at the Riemann School of Art and Design before studying fashion and life drawing at St Martin’s School of Art and shorthand and typing at Pitman’s College while a refugee in London.

In time she got a job at London Films Productions, where she met Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh – not quite her first encounter with major figures of the 20th century, having once been gently scolded by an amused Albert Einstein for taking apples from his Caputh orchard.

In 1944, she met and married Derrick Cartlidge – the love of her life – and moved into a house in South Hill Park Gardens, where she remained until her death.

Albert Einstein, who was amused by Barbara's apple thefts.                        Picture: PA Albert Einstein, who was amused by Barbara's apple thefts. Picture: PA

She had three children – Tony, a wine-grower now living in California; Michelle, a writer living in Cornwall; and Katrin, an actress who died in 2002 – and spent time cultivating her love of jewellery by studying at the Central School of Arts and Crafts.

In the 1960s, she achieved huge success in the industry, with her work appearing at exhibitions in London, Paris and Durham.

Around this time she engaged in anti-war activities and helped transport donated blood to Vietnam.

She opened the soon-to-be internationally renowned jewellery gallery Electrum in 1971, which remained a centre for design until it closed in 2007.

In 1973, she published her only book, Twentieth-Century Jewelry, and became a sought-after lecturer and teacher throughout the 1980s and ‘90s.

Her son, Tony, said she was a “leader in the movement” of modern jewellery design.

“The ‘60s was a revolutionary period in everything – and she was central to the jewellery revolution,” he said.

“There are more than 100 jewellers who attribute their success to her. She was a remarkable woman.”

He added: “She was a young Jewish refugee escaping from Germany under difficult circumstances and she made a creative life for herself despite having nothing.”

Mrs Cartlidge died on February 27, aged 94, from Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband, Derrick, died in 2010. As well as her two children, she is also survived by her four grandchildren.

She has already been cremated, but a Hampstead service is being planned to celebrate her life in May.

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