Posts tagged Cartier

The Cartier ruby necklace Elizabeth Taylor was given by her third husband, Mike Todd.  It was accompanied by matching earrings and a bracelet.

What could be more romantic than an impromptu gift of rubies from your husband?  This is precisely what happened to Elizabeth Taylor as she was doing laps in the pool of her rented house in the South of France when Mike Todd, her third husband, walked onto the terrace and waved a red leather case with ‘Cartier’ stamped in gold on the lid.  The contents of the case matched the red leather, containing a suite of matchless rubies and diamonds set into earrings, a necklace and bracelet.

Elizabeth recounted the episode in her book ‘My Love Affair With Jewellery’:

A still from a home movie showing Mike Todd fastening the necklace he has just given Elizabeth Taylor.

Another still from the home movie shot when Mike Todd gave a 24 year old Elizabeth Taylor the Cartier ruby suite.  Her delight is palpable.

Another still from the home movie shot when Mike Todd gave a 24 year old Elizabeth Taylor the Cartier ruby suite.  Her delight is palpable.

A youthful Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Cartier earrings and necklace to an event.  With her ususal panache, she is wearing a diamond flower in her hair.

‘When Mike gave me the rubies I was pregnant with Liza.  We had rented a villa... about three months into our marriage.  The most beautiful house you’ve ever seen... I was in the pool, swimming laps at our home, and Mike came outside to keep me company.  I got out of the pool and put my arms around him, and he said ‘’Wait a minute, don’t joggle your tiara’’.  Because I was wearing my tiara in the pool! [Why, one may ask? Because she was Elizabeth Taylor and she could].  He was holding a red leather box and inside was a ruby necklace, which glittered in the warm light.  It was like the sun, lit up and made of red fire.  First, Mike put it round my neck and smiled.  Then he bent down and put matching earrings on me.  Next came the bracelet.  Since there was no mirror I had to look in the water.  The jewelry was so glorious, rippling red and blue like a painting.  I just shrieked with joy... It was a perfect Summer day and a perfect day of love.’

Mike was Elizabeth’s third husband and she was only 24 at the time.  Although their relationship was tempestuous they were very much in love.  The ruby set was by no means the only piece he gave her- he was very fond of presenting her with beautiful things, often laden with meaning or as a gallant surprise.  During one Paris trip, Elizabeth bought an elegant pair of paste earrings.  Some months later, she noticed they felt different- Mike had taken them away and quietly replaced them with diamond copies he had had made for her.

She was utterly heartbroken when he died, just 13 months into their marriage.  When the necklace was auctioned on Elizabeth’s death in 2011 (the proceeds going to her AIDS charities) the ruby set realised over £5400,000 several times over its top estimate of $600,000.  Although Elizabeth would have been thrilled at the amount of money raised for good causes, jewellery for her was not about the material value but the stories behind it.  In her telling of the story of the ruby suite, it is clear she never lost her naive delight and pleasure she derived from her collection.


One of the very first jewels Anita received from her husband, a peacock comb by Mellerio.  The style is pure Art Nouveau.

The Kapurthala Tiara in emeralds and diamonds, by Cartier.  It was commissioned by the Maharaja in the early 1930s and is a triumph of the neo Indian jewels Cartier was creating for the Indian rulers at the time.

A long forgotten story was thrust into the spotlight again last year with the Victoria and Albert’s exhibition of Indian and Moghul jewellery in the Al Thani Collection.  This was the romantic, true tale of Anita Delgado, the humble Spanish dancer raised to the rank of maharani and showered with jewels, some of which later found their way into the Al Thani Collection, most of which have been lost forever.

Anita Delgado was a beautiful flamenco dancer, born in Malaga, Spain, in 1890.  Not much is known about her early childhood, other than her talent as a dancer and rudimentary upbringing.  In 1906, at the tender age of 16 she was seen dancing in a cafe in Madrid by Sir Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala, one of the great princely states of India.  He was in Spain to attend the wedding of Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg and he fell in love with Anita on sight.  After much protracted courting during which Anita rebuffed all advances, she agreed to marry him.  Spanish society was so appalled by this social mismatch that any signs of social climbing were met with derisory cries of ‘wanting to marry a maharaja’ for decades after.

Rock crystal and emerald necklace presented by the Maharaja of Kapurthala to his wife Anita in 1925. The cracks in the marriage were irreparable at the time this jewel was gifted, as they divorced the same year.

The magnificent and beautiful emerald that Anita Delgado was given by her husband, the Maharaja of Kapurthala, as a reward for learning Urdu. 

Anita was carried off to Paris where she was given, in modern terms, a makeover.  Not only was she taught how to eat, walk and talk but she was also showered in clothes and jewellery- and what jewels they were.  It was the start of a lifelong passion, one that she shared with her husband.  The jewels all reflect the changing tastes of the 20th century, starting with the naturalism of Art Nouveau, through the magnificent Belle Epoque and later, Art Deco.  The 1920s saw a period of great collaboration between the Indian princely families and the great European jewellery houses.  The maharajas had chests filled with ancestral stones, many of which were reset in bespoke creations in Europe in a style that successfully married the grand, Indian style with the clean, monochrome lines of Art Deco. 

Anita Delgado, Prem Kaur, Maharani of Kapurhtala wearing her famous moon shaped emerald.

Anita married the Maharaja of Kapurthala in a civil ceremony in Paris and became the Maharani when she married him again in India under Sikh rites, taking the name of Prem Kaur.  She was the maharaja’s fifth wife and it says a lot about her strength of character that she insisted on, and was given unheard of freedoms for a woman in India, being allowed to live in her own quarters outside the harem.  One of the many gems she set her cap at was a magnificent, unusual emerald cut in the shape of a crescent moon which decorated a sacred elephant.  Her husband granted it to her on condition that she learnt Urdu.  She was proficient enough to have her request fulfilled six months later.

Sadly the marriage did not bring either of them happiness and the princely couple parted ways, divorcing in 1925.  She was given a generous monthly stipend, allowed to keep all the jewels she had acquired during their marriage and allowed to keep her title, all on condition that she never remarried and never returned to India.  Anita spent the rest of her life between Malaga, Biarritz, Deauville and Paris, dying in relative obscurity in 1962.  A very considerable portion of her jewels and possessions were sunk in transport by shipping tank and the current maharaja’s family are still trying to recover them.

The Tiara That Survived the Shipwreck
The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

With so many beautiful antique pieces of jewellery to have been broken up for their stones, this one has been luckier than most.  The tiara was made in 1909 for Lady Allan, wife of the Canadian banker Sir Hugh Allan.  It is a strikingly modern piece for its time and clearly Cartier was departing from the famous Garland Style that marked jewellery at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Lady Allan included it in her luggage on her voyage on the Lusitania when the fateful ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915 during World War I.

The Lusitania

The Lusitania

Lady Allan survived the disaster, but with severe injuries.  Her ladies' maid managed to save it by putting it in her bag when they were rescued- they were lucky to survive, as of the 1989 passengers on board 1198 died on the ship. It sank in only 18 minutes.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

Having survived not only the Lusitania, but sadly her four children too, on her death Lady Allan bequeathed the tiara to Elspeth Patterson Dawes, her first cousin once removed.  Mrs. Dawes' granddaughter auctioned the tiara at Sotheby's last November, where it sold for $799,000.

The Marjorie Merriweather Post Brooch
The Marjorie Merriweather Post Emerald Cartier Brooch

The Marjorie Merriweather Post Emerald Cartier Brooch

All major jewellery collectors are defined by one piece they own, a piece that becomes inextricably linked in the public’s imagination with its owner: with the Duchess of Windsor, it was her multi-coloured flamingo brooch; it is hard to picture Elizabeth Taylor without her famous emerald necklace- Marjorie Merriweather Post was defined by her Cartier emerald brooch.

Born in 1887, the four times married Mrs. Post was one of the great heiresses of her age.  She was the only child of C.W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company and at the tender age of 27 inherited a fortune estimated then at $250 million dollars.  She was a great spender (in 1971 her clothing expenses amounted to around $250000 a year) and became a great collector and connoisseur.  Her soft spot was beautifully crafted pieces and objects of vertu.  She filled Hillwood, her principal residence, with china, Sevres porcelain, tapestries and Faberge.

It was inevitable that someone with such a fine eye for exquisite detail could fail to be enchanted by magnificent jewellery.  Mrs. Post bought it prodigiously throughout her life and often remodelled existing pieces to suit changing tastes, a testament to her open mindedness to new design concepts. 

Mrs. Post’s Cartier emerald brooch was not a special order, but it was a unique piece.  It was created in 1928, the interwar period considered to be a time when the firm was at the height of its creative powers.  The jewel is a triumph of Cartier’s art, an elegant marriage of Art Deco and the Indian style they were espousing due to the spectacular success they had re-setting stones for Maharajahs.  Cartier’s love affair with India started in 1911, when the firm was commissioned to make dazzling pieces to be worn at the Delhi Durbar.  Since then, they had been accumulating important carved Indian stones which they incorporated into spectacular unique pieces. 

First and foremost in Cartier’s mind, jewellery had to be wearable and they had always avoided extreme movements such as Art Nouveau and Modernism.  The brooch is very much Art Deco, but the lines are softened and not symmetrically harsh.  It is also articulated and lends fluidity to what could have been a rather cumbersome piece.  The geometric pentagonal central emerald, a 17th century carved Mughal stone, brings a perfect touch of exoticism to the jewel.  Exoticism played a key role in Cartier’s style during the 1920s and 30s, with influences varying from India, China and Japan.

The brooch is also a masterclass in stone setting.  The use of platinum in jewellery had been pioneered by Cartier at the beginning of the 20th century as it allowed stone setting in minimal metal- there is barely any metal visible in the calibre cut stones suspending the smaller fluted hanging emeralds.  The brooch is beautifully finished off with a hallmark of Art Deco jewellery, black onyx detailing.

Marjorie Merriweather Post left Hillwood House and its contents to the Smythsonian Institute in 1968, retaining the right to live there for the rest of her life.  However, the $10 million endowment she left did not produce sufficient income for its upkeep, so in 1976 it reverted to the Post Foundation.  On her death in 1973, she also bequeathed to the Smythsonian her fabulous collection of jewels, which apart from the Cartier brooch included Marie Antoinette’s diamond earrings and the diamond necklace Napoleon presented to his second wife, Marie Louise, to celebrate the birth of their son.

A portrait of Marjorie Merriweather Post wearing the Cartier brooch, amongst other jewels.  The brooch Is such a piece that the painter has clearly made it the focus of his attention, rather than the sitters.

The S.B. Joel Diamond Corsage

There is an impressive Cartier jewel which deserves a mention: the Solomon Barnato Joel Diamond Corsage.

It is rare to see such an important Belle Epoque jewel still intact- most like this were broken up in the 1920s and 30s in order to re-set the stones and I assumed this is what had happened to this one.  This corsage piece was last seen when it was sold at Christie’s Geneva in 1991 for 3,850,000 Swiss francs and it re-emerged at last year’s Masterpiece Fair in London, where it was reportedly sold for $20 million.

The S.B. Joel Diamond Corsage, which was sold at Masterpiece London last year for a reported $20 million.

The S.B. Joel Diamond Corsage, which was sold at Masterpiece London last year for a reported $20 million.

 It was made by Cartier in 1912 and its swags of lily of the valley are simple and highly stylised, the flowery Garland Style already giving way to something simpler.  Designed to be worn on the bodice, it must have been a gloriously ostentatious piece even in the excessive age of the Belle Epoque.  As it is a particularly strong metal, platinum is used for very fine setting work and this is very much in evidence in this brooch, where the stones seem to almost float in space.  The total carat weight of the main stones (the four central stones in the pendant element of the brooch) is 67.65 carats.

The stones were the property of Londoner Solomon Barnato Joel, who with his uncle Barney Barnato made his fortune in the South African diamond mining rush of the late 19th century.  Having made his money, he returned to Europe not only to enjoy it but also to give large amounts away in various philanthropic gestures.  He lived life to the full and these were the best diamonds in his personal possession, which he asked Cartier to set in 1912 for the woman he loved.

PEARLS (Part 2)


Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain, wearing La Peregrina Pearl in about 1606

Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain, wearing La Peregrina Pearl in about 1606

Elizabeth I, that lover of fine pearls who used their symbolic value to such great effect must certainly have envied some of the fine specimens her sister Mary wore while she was queen. As a wedding present her husband, Phillip II of Spain, gave her one of the most famous pearls in the world, known as La Peregrina (the Pilgrim). It is huge, and at the time of its discovery it was the largest symmetrical pearl found, weighing in at 55.95 carats. This gem of the highest quality almost came to a very undignified end. On Queen Mary’s death in 1558 the pearl reverted back to Phillip in Spain, where the stone remained part of the Spanish Crown Jewels for several hundred years. In 1808 Napoleon roundly defeated Spain during his attempt to dominate Europe, and installed his brother Joseph as King. Joseph raided the treasury, but after his brother Napoleon’s decisive defeat in 1815 he emigrated to America to settle permanently, taking with him several important gems, including La Peregrina. The pearl then passed on through descent to the Emperor Napoleon III, who sold it to the Marquess of Abercorn during his exile in England after his deposition. The gem was later bought by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor. The pearl nearly arrived at its undignified en when Elizabeth mislaid the pearl not long after she was given it. The couple commissioned Cartier to design necklace from which to suspend the pearl and show it off to its maximum advantage- the result was one of the more daring and unconventional pieces they produced. The necklace became truly stellar in its fame when it was sold in 2011 as part of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate. The piece achieved £10.5 million dollars.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing La Peregrina pearl in the necklace designed for it by Cartier.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing La Peregrina pearl in the necklace designed for it by Cartier.

Another pearl of incredible Royal pedigree and often confused with La Peregrina was La Pelegrina (the Incomparable). Again, it was originally part of the Spanish Crown Jewels, and again it became part of the French Crown Jewels, on this occasion bequeathed to the Infanta Maria Teresa (or Marie Therese) when she married Louis XIV of France in 1660. Her father, Phillip IV was wearing La Peregrina in his hat when he handed over his daughter to the French King. Marie Therese died in 1683, when the fate of the pearl becomes uncertain. The most likely story is that La Pelegrina remained with the French Bourbons until the Revolution. The French Crown Jewels were stolen in 1792, the thieves managing to swipe several important stones including the Sancy diamond, the Tavernier Blue (now known as the Hope diamond) and most probably La Pelegrina. La Pelegrina somehow resurfaced again in Russia in 1826, in the hands of a gem dealer named Zozima. Princess Tatiana Youssoupov, the wife of the richest man in Russia, bought the stone from him, whence it passed by descent to Prince Felix Youssoupov, murderer of Rasputin. It was one of the few fabulous possessions Prince Felix managed to smuggle out of Russia with him in the aftermath of the 1917 Revolution. In 1953 he reluctantly sold it to the Swiss jeweller Jean Lombard, who had worked with Eugene Faberge (son of Carl, of the easter eggs fame) on various jewellery collections on his exile from Russia. La Pelegrina was then sold to a private collector, and it later reappeared for auction in Christie’s Geneva in 1989, where it sold for the then record sum of $463800. It was clear that in spite of the depreciation of pearls due to the impact of cultured pearls had not dented the fascination with natural pearls, and as seen from the sale of La Peregrina, the fascination with important stones of impeccable lineage and quality the price has only risen exponentially.