Category Archives: Celebrity Engagements

The Krupp Jewel Heist

The Krupp Diamond was recovered by the FBI in 1959, in a Las Vegas heist carried out by four gunmen. This is a photo of a replica of the famous diamond from the FBI's website.
The Krupp Diamond was recovered by the FBI in 1959, in a Las Vegas heist carried out by four gunmen. This is a photo of a replica of the famous diamond from the FBI’s website.

The Krupp Jewel Heist was big news in Nevada in the 1950s. In early April 1959, Vera Krupp heard a knock at her door.

“Who is it?” she called.

“Ma’am, I’m here with my  crew. We’d like to offer a good price for paving your driveway,” he answered.

Paving her long drive made some sense. It would certainly be less upkeep, and money certainly wasn’t a huge issue. Perhaps she turned to her foreman, with whom she had been enjoying an afternoon drink {4}. Might he have nodded his approval?

Whatever transpired in those minutes between the knock and what happened next, Vera could not have been prepared for the four gunmen that forced their way in after she opened the door {4}. All her self-assurance must have leaked out as she watched them handcuff her foreman while they tied her up.

She must have cried out in pain and anguish as they forcibly ripped the Krupp jewel off her finger, causing her to bleed. It was this prize that had alerted one James George Reves, to the potential score he might be able to make off the Baroness Krupp.

A Gambler Makes His Move

He is reported to have taken notice of the ring during one of Ms. Krupp’s visits to town. Being a gambler, Reves decided to take a chance and get some boys together to make a move. Their efforts paid off. After blindfolding their victims and tying them back to back with the cord of a nearby lamp, the crooks walked away with $700,00 in cash and $340,000 in jewels {2; 4}.

After a huge struggle, Vera and her foreman broke free and attempted to call for help. Unfortunately, a dead battery in the phone stopped them in their tracks. Their only option was to drive 24 miles to the airport for help. The FBI was brought in on the case immediately {2}.

Meanwhile, the crooks reconvened in Las Vegas, where it was decided that Mr. Reves would attempt to sale the jewel intact. He and his wife set out on a trip across the States, looking for a dealer willing to take such a huge risk .

The Krupp Jewel Winds Up in New Jersey

A tip in Miami set Mr. Reves on a course toward Newark, New Jersey. Apparently to fund this leg of his journey, Mr. Reves had fenced the baguette diamond accent stones in Chicago {4}. To keep a low profile, Mr. Reves and his wife checked into a motel in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where they made arrangements to meet a man named Julius Berger.

The FBI had already nabbed one of Reves’ partners, a fugitive named John William Hagenson {2}. It took another six weeks for word to reach the agents in Newark about a local grocer trying to pawn a large diamond in Elizabeth. A raid of the Cadillac Motel, where Reves and his wife were staying, was arranged, six weeks after the initial theft, by Special Agent in Charge William Simon of the Newark FBI {4}.

The Krupp Jewel is Recovered

According to Special Agent Bert Stickler, a thorough search was made of the hotel room without any luck. He writes that he decided to search a closet filled with clothes one last time. Since the pockets had already been searched, Agent Stickler decided to run his hands over every inch of material he could get his hands on. He found the diamond sewn into the lining of a sports jacket and turned it over to the agent in charge {4}.

A trial was held in November 1959, during which Mr. Hagenson, Mr. Reves, and several other suspects were tried before a jury {2}. By December, all the suspects were convicted, though Hagenson was released after winning an appeal {2}. The diamond was returned to Vera Krupp, who appears to have changed her habits after her harrowing experience.

First, she had a secret bedroom and bathroom added at the end of a long corridor.  The access to this safety zone was hidden behind a few of the wood panels on her bedroom wall. According to one report, though she continued to wear the Krupp Diamond almost daily, when she went to town she pinned it to her bra strap to keep it out of the public eye {1}. She also paid for the right to become a starred deputy of the Red Rock Canyon area {3}.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

References

  1. Clarke, Norm. “DJ finds out popularity doesn’t translate to job security,” Las Vegas Review, January 4, 2002.
  2. FBI, The. “A Byte Out of History: The Case of the Disappearing Diamond.” Last updated November 17, 2006.
  3. Papa, Paul W. Discovering Vintage Las Vegas: A Guide to the City’s Timeless Shops, Restaurants, Casinos and More. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2014.
  4. Stickler, Bert P. “The Krupp Diamond Case.” Published in Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, INC. Turner Publishing Company Staff, 1996.

Cartier Turban Ornament for the Maharajah of Kapurthala

The Maharajah Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala wears the Cartier Turban Ornament fashioned in 1926. The largest hexagonal emerald weighs 117.40 carats.
The Maharajah Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala wears the Cartier Turban Ornament fashioned in 1926. The largest hexagonal emerald weighs 117.40 carats.

The Cartier Turban Ornament, made in 1926 for the Maharajah Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala, has been called by Newsweek “one of the most famous pieces Cartier has made” {2}.

Designed by Royalty?

 

According to the Maharajah’s great-grandson, Tikkaraja Shatrujit Singh, the ornament was drawn by Jagatjit Singh himself {2}. It features nineteen emeralds in varying sizes and shapes and numerous pearls and white diamonds for accent. The emeralds belonged to the vast treasury of the Maharajah, who commissioned Cartier to reset them in this exquisite modernized turban ornament.

According to Hans Nadelhoffer, former president of Christie’s in Geneva, who wrote Cartier, the definitive work on the jewelry maison’s legendary history, notes that the design was pure Orientalism, a sure departure from the Art Deco style Cartier was known for during the 1920s. This may serve as further proof that Jagatjit Singh did indeed design the ornament himself.

The Cartier Turban Ornament

Nadelhoffer calls it a “pagoda-style tiara,” an apt description indeed {p. 166-67}. The large central emerald, a hexagonal cabochon, weighs 117.40 carats. It is surrounded by round and rose-cut diamonds with six white pearls at each point.

Just below it rests a smaller emerald cabochon with two wing-type clusters of diamonds set on either side. Beneath this stone hangs a cluster of pearls. Above the central stone rises a top knot of three more emeralds, one smaller hexagonal cabochon, one crescent-shaped, and one pear-shaped. Diamonds serve as accents between and atop these stones.

Symmetrical swags of diamonds, emeralds, and pearls round out the piece on either side of this central display of opulence. Three oval-shaped cabochon emeralds form the foundation of these swags. Each one is surrounded by pave-set diamonds, and each has a round-cut diamond perched atop it.

Placed in between are two faceted, oval-shaped emeralds with a small emerald bead and a pearl mounted atop each one. A curving arch of diamonds holds everything in place, and a final diamond flourish in the shape of a crescent, with a single pearl resting in its shadow, finishes off the piece.

Upon the Brow of a Great Prince

In his book Cartier, Hans Nadelhoffer included a photograph of an ad taken out in Star Magazine in 1931. The ad included a full-spread photograph of the exquisite turban ornament along with the following caption: “For the Brow of a Great Prince” {1}.

Indeed, the Maharajah of Kapurthala was a great prince, and he loved the opulence his position and wealth afforded him. He commissioned the piece for his Golden Jubilee in 1926, and sat for the above portrait before the painter Marcel Baschet {1}. He wore the ornament throughout his jubilee celebrations and perhaps on other state occasions over the next ten years.

These occasions, if they happened, do not appear to have been recorded. There are only two other occasions Jagatjit Singh was known to have worn his Cartier Turban Ornament. One was during the Silver Jubilee of King George V of England in 1935 and two years later at the coronation of King George VI {3}.

References

  1. Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier. Chronicle Books, 2007, p. 162.
  2. Reddy, Sameer. “There’s Nothing Else Like it in the World,” Newsweek, May 26, 2008.
  3. Traveler’s India. “Lives of Indian Royalty in Europe: The heyday of European jewelers.” Zeno Marketing Communications, Inc., 2004.

What’s So Special About Orange Diamonds?

Capture the Essence! of Orange Diamonds with this Colored Diamond Cocktail Cluster Ring with Orange Diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Orange Diamonds with this Colored Diamond Cocktail Cluster Ring with Orange Diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

A fancy orange diamond mingles with fancy yellow, fancy green, blue, champagne, and white diamonds to form this gorgeous cluster cocktail ring set in 18k yellow gold.  Colored diamonds enjoy a special status in the world of jewels.

Not only are they rare, but they take the exquisite fire of a diamond to a whole new level. As demonstrated by this magnificent ring, colored diamonds come in nearly every color, but it is the orange diamond with which we are concerned today.

Orange Diamonds

Orange diamonds come in a variety of shades, ranging from faint orange to deep, vivid orange. It has long been believed that the color is a result of a nitrogen impurity in the carbon crystal structure. However, experts disagree about what causes the orange in diamonds.

Gemologists at William Goldberg cite nitrogen as the element responsible {2}. However, Harry Winston believes hydrogen is the culprit. Perhaps it is a combination of the two that really comes into play. For now, the true source of orange in diamonds remains a mystery {2}.

These orange beauties are found primarily in the mines of South Africa and Western Australia. Orange diamonds are counted among those other hard-to-find colors, such as blue, pink, red, and green.

The most desirable would be a Fancy Vivid Orange, which is an orange diamond without a hint of brown.  As you might expect, most of these rare beauties have become historically famous and now reside in the collections of some of the world’s most celebrated jewelry collectors.

Famous Orange Diamonds

Two of the most famous orange diamonds are the Pumpkin Diamond, owned as recently as 2003 by Harry Winston {7}, and the Koi Diamond, owned as recently as 2013 by the Rawstone Business Holding {1}.

The Pumpkin Diamond is a Fancy Vivid Orange which weighs 5.54 carats. It was mounted in a pinky ring designed by Harry Winston in 1997/98. It was worn by Halle Berry on her left hand during the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony. If you haven’t seen her acceptance speech, I highly recommend giving it a viewing. It remains one of Hollywood’s most moving moments.

The Koi Diamond is a multi-hued orange and white diamond weighing 32 carats, which has been cut in the shape of Japan’s celebrated Koi fish {1}. The pattern of colors adds to the resemblance and makes the Koi Diamond one of the most unique fancy-colored diamonds in the world.

Rare and Wonderful

Orange diamonds are the second rarest colored diamonds, with red being the rarest. According to William Goldberg, less than 1% of all diamonds are orange, with pure orange coming in at an even lower rate {8}. The grading of an orange diamond is based on tint and undertones. The Pumpkin Diamond has been classified with the rare distinction of pure vivid orange without a hint of brown, making it among the rarest of the rare.

What do you think of orange diamonds? Would you wear a fancy vivid orange diamond?

Perhaps your style would lead you away from the rarest of the rare and more toward a yellow-orange stone, or a browner orange, like the one pictured in the cocktail ring.

What about it? Which shade of orange do you prefer?

References

  1. Butler, Phil. “Sparkling Koi Diamond, the ultimate embodiment of Japanese legend and tradition,” Japan Today, May 19, 2013.
  2. Genis, Robert. “Collecting Orange Diamonds,” Gem Forecaster, November 2003.
  3. Natural Color Diamond Association (NCDA). “Orange Diamonds.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  4. Naturally Colored. “Orange Diamonds.” Accessed January 30, 2015. http://www.naturallycolored.com/diamond-education/orange-diamonds-wiki.
  5. Rachminov Diamonds, 1891. “Fancy Color.” PDF accessed January 30, 2015.
  6. Rare Colored Diamonds. “FAQs.” Accessed January 30, 2015. http://www.rarecoloreddiamonds.com/faqs.html.
  7. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The Splendor of Diamonds.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  8. William Goldberg. “Orange Diamonds: Colors of the Fall,” October 24, 2012.

Nina Dyer’s Black Pearl Necklace

Black pearls comprise one of the world's most celebrated jewels, Nina Dyer's Black Pearl Necklace. Celebrate the allure and mystery of Black Pearls with this Tahitian Black Pearl and Diamond Cocktail Ring. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Black pearls comprise one of the world’s most celebrated jewels, Nina Dyer’s Black Pearl Necklace. Celebrate the allure and mystery of Black Pearls with this Tahitian Black Pearl and Diamond Cocktail Ring. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

Nina Dyer’s Black Pearl Necklace is among the world’s most important black pearl jewels {Christie’s 1997}. It was commissioned by Baron Heinrich von Thyssen for his then-wife, a former model named Nina Dyer.

Fashioned by Cartier circa 1955, the necklace features an astounding 151 natural black pearls mounted in three strands with a diamond clasp. The largest strand features 53 pearls weighing a total of 979.52 grains {3}. The smaller strands feature 49 pearls each, weighing in at 644.72 grains and 787.44 grains {4}.

On May 1, 1969, four years after Ms. Dyer tragically killed herself at the age of 35, Christie’s brought the necklace to the attention of some of jewelry world’s most elite collectors and dealers. It was sold to an undisclosed buyer for 580,000 Swiss Francs ($607,648 in today’s dollars) {1}.

For nearly thirty years, Nina Dyer’s Black Pearl Necklace remained free from public scrutiny. That is until, in 1997, again under the hammer at Christie’s in Geneva, the magnificent necklace again made headlines with a realized price of $913,320.

After making this small splash in the news, one of the world’s most celebrated jewels has once again receded below the radar. Perhaps its on display in the library of a wealthy businessman. Or perhaps the European elite have seen it ’round the neck of a princess or countess at a charity ball.

Wherever it may be, I’m certain it’s enchanting those around it. If you wish to be enchanted by the mystery of the black pearl, please allow us the opportunity to introduce you to our collection of Tahitian black pear jewels.

References

  1. Christie’s. “Lot 88/Sale 1237: A Superb Three-Strand Black Pearl Necklace.” November 17, 1997.
  2. Jennifer. “The Black Panther Queen,” Jennifer Fabulous Blog, August 14, 2012.
  3. Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary. New York: Henry N. Abrams, Inc., 1984.
  4. Veysey, Arthur. “Love, Tragedy, and a Fabulous Collection of Jewels,” Chicago Tribune, No. 117, April 27, 1969, Features p. 1.

Nina Dyer’s Jewels Fetch $2.9 Million in 1969

This pink and blue sapphire panther cocktail ring evokes the mystique of Nina Dyer's Cartier Panther jewels. Nina's panthers were embodied in white diamonds with blue sapphire spots and green garnet eyes. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
This pink and blue sapphire panther cocktail ring evokes the mystique of Nina Dyer’s Cartier Panther jewels. Nina’s panthers were embodied in white diamonds with blue sapphire spots and green garnet eyes. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Nina Dyer’s Jewels went under the block on Thursday, May 1, 1969, during Christie’s first jewelry auction in Geneva, Switzerland. According to Hans Nadelhoffer, as quoted in The New York Times (1985), Geneva was the 1960s hot spot for jewelry. The Swiss banks were booming, and Geneva’s tax laws favored a seller’s market, with few tariffs applied to jewelry sales {4}.

Christie’s Auctions Nina Dyer’s Jewels

Christie’s opened their offices in Geneva in the summer of 1968, and six months later, auctioned the jewelry collection of Nina Dyer. This collection carried an estimated value of $1.25 million {4; 6}. On the day of the auction, according Alan McGregor, who wrote in 1969 for the Chicago Times, eight hundred of “the world’s richest people on earth” packed themselves into the ballroom of the Geneva Hotel Richmond {3}.

McGregor reported that the sale featured “some 40 lots,” most of which belonged to Ms. Nina Dyer. Her collection had been amassed over the course of approximately five years and two divorce settlements. Her first marriage took place in 1954. Her husband, the Baron Hans Heinrich ‘Heini’ von Thyssen-Bornemiza made his millions in the German steel industry.

Baron von Thyssen

According to Arthur Vevsey, reporter for the Chicago Tribune in 1969, in Germany, the Thyssen family’s wealth came second only to the illustrious Krupp dynasty {7}. Nina became the Baron’s mistress when she was 17 years old {2}. It seems that one of von Thyssen’s favorite gestures was to give lavish gifts to those who captured his heart.

As his mistress, she received two sports cars with gold-plated keys, a Caribbean island, and at least one baby black panther {2}. After several months together, the Baron left his wife and married the young and ambitious model. Ten months later, he divorced her after catching her with another man. As a settlement, Nina received nearly $3 million in cash, almost $400,000 in jewelry, and a chateau {2}.

Nina Dyer’s Cats

By this time, she had acquired a second black panther. Her cats were everything to her. She took them on trips, during which they would destroy her hotel rooms {2}. She was said to have developed a taste for panther-skin clothing and became well known for her signature panther jewels {5}.

Most of these pieces were made by Cartier, by commission from Nina Dyer’s second husband, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. The prince married Nina on August 27, 1957. The first piece he commissioned was made that same year–a Panther Cliquet Pin.

This stick pin features a geometrical diamond clasp on one end and a white diamond panther on the other end. The white diamond-bodied panther lifts itself languidly on its front legs. Blue sapphire “spots” cover its entire body, and its green garnet eyes shine brightly from its alert face {1}.

In 1958, the prince asked Cartier to fashion two more pieces, a two-headed panther bangle and a crouching panther clip brooch. Both were fashioned from the same white diamonds and blue sapphires, with green garnets for eyes and onyx for the noses {1}.

During the Christie’s auction in 1969, these panther pieces were purchased by Cartier and are now kept in Cartier’s vast historical jewelry collection.

Top Dealers Purchase Ms. Dyer’s Jewels

 

According to Mr. McGregor, dealers from New York, London, and Paris attended the auction on behalf of their clients. The majority of Ms. Dyer’s pearls, emeralds, and diamonds were purchased by these esteemed dealers. One of these was a diamond solitaire ring crafted for Nina by Harry Winston in New York. Mr. Winston purchased the ring during the auction for $276,000 {3}.

At the end of the sale, Nina Dyer’s jewels fetched a staggering $2.96 million, more than twice the initial estimates. In her will, Ms. Dyer stipulated that she wished the proceeds from the sale of her jewels to benefit animals in Africa, Asia, and Europe {7}.

Unfortunately, Swiss law precluded the fulfillment of her last wishes. As a resident of Switzerland, her lawyers were forced to place an advertisement for living relatives. According to Arthur Veysey, fifty potential claimants answered the ad.

Only one appeared to have a viable claim, a man named William Aldrich. His elaborate story of a double-crossing wife (Nina’s mother), failed to convince the courts in November 1967. However, by 1969, it appears as though his appeals granted him access to the fortune of his alleged late daughter. In the Montreal Gazette a report dated February 26, 1969, states that Mr. Aldrich, after 3-1/2 years was legally declared Nina Dyer’s father {6}.

In the same report, the writer states that in honor of Ms. Dyer’s final bequest, Christie’s staged a champagne reception two nights before the auction. Tickets cost $7.50, and visitors were able to view Ms. Dyer’s collection of jewels while sipping champagne and mingling with Geneva’s elite patrons. Proceeds went directly to the World Wildlife fund {6}.

References

  1. Cartier. “The Cartier Collection: Panther.” Accessed February 23, 2015.
  2. Jennifer. “The Black Panther Queen,” Jennifer Fabulous Blog, August 14, 2012.
  3. McGregor, Alan. “Single Diamond Ring Brings $276,000 at Auction in Geneva,” Chicago Tribune, No. 22, May 2, 1969, p. 1.
  4. Reif, Rita. “Auctions.” The New York Times, July 5, 1985.
  5. Ross-Simons. “Celebrity Jewelry: Famous Jewels.” Accessed February 23, 2015.
  6. “Suzy Knickerbocker,” The Montreal Gazette, February 26, 1969, p. 10.
  7. Veysey, Arthur. “Love, Tragedy, and a Fabulous Collection of Jewels,” Chicago Tribune, No. 117, April 27, 1969, Features p. 1.

Tiffany’s Picasso Kunzite Necklace

In 1989 Tiffany & Co. donated the gorgeous Picasso Kunzite Necklace made by Paloma Picasso. This gorgeous 22.96-carat cushion-cut pink kunzite cocktail demonstrates the luminous quality of kunzite. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
In 1989 Tiffany & Co. donated the gorgeous Picasso Kunzite Necklace made by Paloma Picasso. This gorgeous 22.96-carat cushion-cut pink kunzite cocktail ring demonstrates the luminous quality of kunzite. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

The Picasso Kunzite Necklace is on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. It was donated by Tiffany & Co. to the prestigious museum in 1989. Nearly ten years into her career as a jewelry designer, Paloma Picasso (1949-present), who designed this exquisite necklace, had become an internationally respected jewelry designer.

Gemstone Bikinis & YSL

Ms. Picasso first entered the world of jewels and gemstones in the late 1970s, after a stroke of imagination inspired her to craft necklaces out of the gemstone bikinis worn by the cabaret performers in the Folies Bergeres. At this time, she worked as a stylist for the shows {2}.

However, having discovered her passion in styling those flashy necklaces, she soon enrolled in jewelry design school {1}. Around that time, Ms. Picasso had become a chic fashionista. Currently, her name can be found in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame {1}.

In the 1970s, Paloma’s penchant for vintage flea market clothes caught the eye of her friend and legendary designer, Yves Saint Laurent {4}. His “Scandal Collection” debunked the traditions of haute couture with its nod to the French Occupation, drag queens, and theatrical mixture of new and old {4}.

By the time Paloma graduated from design school, Mr. Laurent had been captivated by her sense of style for a number of years. Naturally, he was one of the first people to whom Paloma showed her first collection of jewels {1}. YSL immediately commissioned her to design a collection for his clothing lines.

Tiffany & Co.

Sometime later, Paloma went on to work for the House of Zolotas, where she refined her skills in gold and gemstones {1}. In 1979, after staging a window display for Tiffany’s, Ms. Picasso was invited by Tiffany’s design director, John Loring, to join the Tiffany design team {1}. Today, Paloma Picasso is one of a small handful of designers given their own signature collections at Tiffany’s.

In 1986, Paloma Picasso was well known for her signature use of large semiprecious stones in bold colors. John Loring is reported to have described the hallmark of her designs as “X’s, scribbles and zigzags, all sculpted in gold” {1}.

Four years later, the editors at Gems & Gemology credited her with “helping to broaden consumers’ acceptance of colored stones other than the ubiquitous ruby, emerald, and sapphire in high-fashion jewelry” {p. 87}. One of her favorite colored stones was kunzite, a pink-to-lilac colored form of spodumene.

The Picasso Kunzite Necklace

True to form, Paloma fashioned what has become one of the world’s most famous kunzite jewels. A marvelous cushion-cut, deep pink kunzite stone, which weighs an astonishing 393-60 carats, appears to float within the embrace of an 18k yellow gold and diamond ribbon. A Picasso X crosses beneath the gem’s base.

This exquisite pendant hangs from a string of 30 South Sea baroque pearls. The clasp is hidden within another ribbon X made of yellow gold and white diamonds. Ms. Picasso designed the necklace to commemorate Tiffany & Co.’s 100th anniversary.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

References

  1. About Tiffany & Co. “Paloma Picasso.” Accessed February 24, 2015.
  2. From the stage to the garden: Paloma Picasso talks inspiration with Vogue,” Vogue Australia, September 5, 2013.
  3. “Jewelry in the 1980s: A Retrospective,” Gems & Gemology, Spring 1990, p. 76-93.
  4. “Paloma Picasso, the seventies IT girl inspired YSL ‘Scandal Collection’.” A. G. Nauta Couture blog, June 29, 2014.
  5. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “Picasso Kunzite Necklace,” Mineral Gallery. Accessed February 24, 2015.

Vera’s Spring Mountain Ranch

Spring Mountain Ranch, Nevada. Photo ©2013 Billy Kerr.
Spring Mountain Ranch, Nevada. Photo ©2013 Billy Kerr.

Vera Krupp moved to Las Vegas, where her large 33.19-carat Asscher cut diamond was seen whenever she visited town. Much like the diamond’s later owner, Elizabeth Taylor, Vera Krupp was a glamorous and ostentatious woman who thought nothing of wearing such a large glittering diamond wherever she went. Finally free of the doldrums of Germany and her listless marriage, she set to work reinventing herself as a rancher.

Spring Mountain Ranch

With her settlement from Alfried Krupp, Vera purchased a spread of 500 acres situated 26 miles outside Las Vegas proper. She set up for cattle ranching and took to country living like a fish to water. The land she purchased has a fascinating history dating back to 1829, when Antonio Armijo forged a trade route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles {7}.

Known as the Old Spanish Trail (now the Mormon Trail), this route ran east from Santa Fe, New Mexico, until it reached the Mojave Desert. Not daring to cut through Death Valley, Armijo jogged south to the San Gabriel Mission. This turning point was located right where Vera’s property now sits {7}. For decades, the site in Nevada served as a hideout to bandits who preyed upon those traveling the Old Spanish Trail {5}.

However, by 1860, according to Paul Papa, author of Discovering Vintage Las Vegas, the land had become a stopping off point for weary travelers. A one-room cabin and blacksmith shop were built on the land. The first real claim was made on the acreage in 1864, by Bill Williams, an outlaw who used the land to service his horses {5}.

In 1876, ranchers James Wilson and George Anderson filed a legal claim for property and established Sand Stone Ranch {6}. At some point, Anderson took his leave, entrusting the care of the land, and his two sons (reputed to have been born to a Paiute Indian woman {3}), to James Wilson.

In 1906, Wilson passed away and deeded the land to his stepsons. In 1929, Wilson’s stepsons sold the ranch to Willard George, who allowed them to remain on the ranch until their deaths. The tombstones of all three settlers, James Wilson, Jim Wilson, Jr., and Tweed, can be seen in the small cemetery that remains on the land today.

From Chinchillas to Diamonds

From 1929 to 1944, Willard George, a notable furrier, raised chinchillas on the property. He also raised cattle on the ranch. In 1944, Chester Lauck (‘Lum’ from the Lum and Abner radio show), leased the ranch from Mr. George. In 1948, Lauck bought it outright and added a ranch house constructed from sandstone and redwood.

Lauck renamed it the Bar Nothing Ranch and continued to raise cattle. In 1955, Vera Krupp came along and bought the 500-acre estate. She moved in and increased cattle operations to support the Herefords and Brahma bulls she raised. Adopting the Diamond V brand, she renamed her estate Spring Mountain Ranch {7}.

Among her regular habits was to ride her horse Sweetheart around the ranch and to wear her favorite Harry Winston diamond ring at all times, including when she went to town. This habit ended April 10, 1959, after which time, an “in-the-know source” told journalist Norm Clarke that she “kept the massive diamond safety-pinned to her bra at all times” {2}.

A Harrowing Encounter

The reason for this change? A harrowing encounter with armed robbers. Vera was never quite the same after this experience. Before this, the ranch offered luxurious privacy. After, a frightening sense of isolation. To ward off the fear, she ordered an addition for her home and a star-shaped badge with her name on it {7}.

The addition was a secret passageway and bedroom camouflaged “behind pine panels in Krupp’s boudoir” {4}.  The badge represented her newly purchased status as a deputy sheriff. She was not one to mess around {7}. For the next 8 years, Vera continued to tend to the duties of ranch life.

For reasons unknown to this writer, Vera sold Spring Mountain Ranch in 1967. Not wanting to see her estate land in the hands of developers, Vera attempted to sell to the parks department. Unfortunately, the state was unable to afford the $1.1 million asking price {6}.

Instead, in July 1967, Vera sold Spring Mountain Ranch to the Hughes Tool Company, a subsidiary owned by Howard Hughes. She took her Russian art collection and her massive Harry Winston diamond and moved off the property. She passed away three months later, and the diamond ring went to auction the next year at Sotheby’s New York, where it was purchased by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor.

A Park for All

Hughes Tool maintained Spring Mountain Ranch as a working cattle ranch, changing only the brand. Cows and bulls leaving the property were now stamped with a capital T over a capital H {7}. Howard Hughes never lived at the ranch. It’s possible that Mr. Hughes never set foot on the property after her purchased it {4}.

In 1972, for $1.5 million, Hughes sold the property to Nevada developers, Fletcher Jones and William Murphy, purchased the estate. Public protests against their plans to raze the land and build a large housing development led to their eventual decision to sell the land to the Nevada Division of State Parks.

Today, the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park plays host to visitors from all over the world. Regular tours of the ranch house and grounds afford tourists an up-close look at many of the original furnishings, photos of former owners, and a peek into the secret boudoir of Vera Krupp.

References

  1. Burbank, Jeff. Las vegas Babylon: Tales of Glitter, Glamour, and Greed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
  2. Clarke, Norm. “DJ finds out popularity doesn’t translate into job security,” Las Vegas Review, January 4, 2002.
  3. Collier, Lynn. “Rustic ranch house, park lure visitors,” Las Vegas Review, September 18, 1996.
  4. Jones, Jay. “Vestiges of Las Vegas’ glory days,” Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2011.
  5. Moreno, Richard. Nevada Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff. Guildford, CT: Morris Book Publishing, LLC, 2009.
  6. Oberding, Janice. The Haunting of Las Vegas. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., 2008.
  7. Papa, Paul W. Discovering Vintage Las Vegas: A Guide to the City’s Timeless Shops Restaurants, Casinos, & More. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Vera Krupp and Her Diamond

Vera Krupp. Image credit: Alamy Images.
Vera Krupp.

We’ve been following the legacy of Elizabeth Taylor’s famous Krupp Diamond, now called the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. This gorgeous stone is a 33.19-carat Asscher cut diamond mounted in a Harry Winston platinum band. On its shoulders rest two baguette diamonds set horizontally.

Vera Krupp

The Krupp Diamond began its public journey on the finger of Vera Krupp sometime between 1952 and 1956. By 1956, we find Frau Krupp growing weary of life with her husband in Essen, Germany, where the average temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees (F) and the rain falls fairly steadily year-round.

There are many who write of Alfried Krupp’s love for his wife. Several authors, including Jeff Burbank, quote historian William Manchester, who wrote the book The Arms of Krupp in 1968. According to Burbank, Manchester described Herr Krupp as “defenseless against such a woman” {2, p. 117}.

Apparently, Vera was an assertive woman with few inhibitions who was one of the only people who could make Alfried, generally a straight-faced man, smile {Burbank}. Her beauty, ambition, and intriguing ways served Alfried well during high-powered business dinners {1} .

However, Alfried was a driven man on a mission to restore his family’s company to its former glory. As true as his love for Vera may have been, it is well documented that Alfried Krupp owed his prime allegiance to the business.

Krupp Steel Works

The notorious Krupp steel works, which supplied Germany, and many other countries, with weapons and armor for nearly all the European wars of the 21st century, were in dire straits after the Nuremberg trials. Alfried alone could set things right and bring Krupp back to life.

This took nearly all of his time, and after a few years of neglect, the cultured and sophisticated Vera hungered for warmth and excitement. Burbank writes that she eventually abandoned the “hideous, provincial, joyless city” of Essen in 1955, and purchased a ranch in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Though the couple’s parting appears as a mere blip in the history of Krupp, as described by the majority of its various biographers, it doesn’t take a lot of guess work to realize that Vera was done, not only with Essen, but with Alfried Krupp.

Divorce & Alimony

In October 1956, Vera filed for divorce. According to Peter Batty, who wrote The House of Krupp, Vera claimed that Alfried refused to have marital relations with her, pressured her to rescind her American citizenship, and “refused her a home life” {1, p. 305}.

Whether he wanted to contest the divorce or not, Alfried was unable to attend the hearing scheduled on American soil due to his convictions in 1948. The divorce was made final in January 1957, and a sum of ₤1,800,00 was requested immediately, followed by a request for annual alimony payments of ₤90,000 per year {1}.

According to Mr. Batty, the actual amounts settled upon by the two parties are undisclosed to public record due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding Mr. Krupp’s inability to be present for the divorce proceedings. To be sure the settlement was sizable. Given her regular visits into town sporting diamonds and platinum, most prominently the Krupp Diamond, Vera appears to have lived more than comfortably after her marriage ended.

References

  1. Batty, Peter. The House of Krupp. New York: Stein and Day, 1966.
  2. Burbank, Jeff. Las vegas Babylon: Tales of Glitter, Glamour, and Greed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

Halle Berry Wears The Pumpkin Diamond

Halle Berry at the 2013 Golden Globes. Photo ©2013 Jenn Deering Davis.
Halle Berry at the 2013 Golden Globes. Photo ©2013 Jenn Deering Davis.

On March 24, 2002, the Pumpkin Diamond graced the left pinky finger of one of America’s most celebrated actresses. If you haven’t seen Halle Berry’s acceptance speech for the Oscar she won for best actress in Monster’s Ball, you have missed out on a moment of authentic beauty.

Authentic Beauty

The clip begins with Russell Crowe, wearing a knee-length black wool-crepe tux by Armani {People}, saying, “And the Oscar goes to….” Behind him a large screen features live insets of the five nominees: Renée Zellweger for Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sissy Spacek for In the Bedroom, Nicole Kidman for Moulin Rouge!, Judi Dench for Iris, and Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball.

After that momentous pause, Russell Crowe says: “…Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball.” His announcement is immediately followed by a roar from the crowd. The insets now show a combination of expressions: Ms. Zellweger does not appear surprised, Sissy Spacek smiles and claps her hands in front of her face, Nicole Kidman appears satisfied, Judi Dench is thoroughly pleased, and Halle Berry appears so shocked she almost looks horrified.

As the camera zooms in on her, Halle’s stunned look of surprise remains frozen on her face for a few more seconds. Then she begins exclaiming, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” over and over again, as her smiling mother embraces her.

So Much Bigger

Imagine what it must have been like. Her first Oscar win, and against some of America’s most astounding actresses. She is so overcome, she can hardly walk up the stairs. The audience is on its feet as Russell Crowe hugs her and helps her gain her composure. She accepts the Oscar and simply stands there crying wide-mouthed sobs, before she manages to say it one more time: “Oh, my God!”

It is one of Hollywood’s most historic moments, as the crowd cheers for her again. She finds her breath and a small amount of composure before declaring: “This moment is so much bigger than me!

“This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” Her composure shatters, and she begins to sob again.

Halle Berry Thanks Everyone

In the moments that follow, Halle Berry thanks everyone she can think of who spurred her on, gave her a chance, and helped her make history with her art.

With tears streaming down my face, it dawns on me that in 2002, Halle Barry shattered the colored woman’s ceiling. She did so by trusting those who believed in her. And by allowing them take her deeper into her craft than she had ever been before.

I also understand the importance of telling a jewel’s story, for in telling the story of one piece of jewelry, we tell the story of the world one person at a time.

This Time, Notice the Diamond

This moment in history deserves to be celebrated over and over again. If you can, I encourage you to watch it again. And this time, I ask you to allow your eyes to find the beautiful orange diamond ring Halle wears on her left pinky finger.

Our first real glimpse of it comes after she’s taken the stage. As she walks toward Russell Crowe, she covers her face with both hands. There it is, shimmering in the stage lights. It’s there for only a moment, before the two actors share their brief moment of privacy.

Then, Ms. Berry steps to the microphone, still speechless. In a gesture of pure gratitude, she blows her peers a kiss as she sobs. The Pumpkin Diamond radiates warmth and vibrancy as she extends her left hand toward the cameras.

She’s weeping so hard that all she can do then is stand facing her audience, right hand clutching her Oscar, left hand squeezed tightly into a fist. It’s the first time we can see the orange tint of the diamond.

As she finds her composure, she grips the Oscar in her left hand. The astonishing beauty of one of the rarest, most notable orange diamonds is nearly lost in the pathos of the moment. Its orange color nearly matches that shine of her golden Oscar.

Do you think the Winstons knew the gorgeous 5.54-carat fancy vivid orange diamond would play such a significant role in history only six years after they purchased it?

by Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

References

  1. Famous Diamonds. “The Pumpkin.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  2. Harry Winston. “Our Story: Jeweler to the Stars.” Accessed January 30, 2015. http://www.harrywinston.com/our-story/stars.
  3. Oscars YouTube Channel. Video: “Halle Berry Wins Best Actress: 2002 Oscars. Published by Oscars on May 23, 2014.
  4. “Oscars Fashion: A Beautiful Time,” People, Vol. 57, No. 13, April 8, 2002.
  5. William Goldberg. “Orange Diamonds: Colors of the Fall,” October 24, 2012. http://www.williamgoldberg.com/diamond-jewelry/2012/10/orange-diamonds-colors-of-the-fall/.

The Pumpkin Diamond

Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange Diamond by Leibish & Co. Photo Credit: Flickr under CC License.
Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange Diamond by Leibish & Co. Photo Credit: Flickr under CC License.

 

On March 24, 2002, when Halle Berry, wearing the celebrated Pumpkin Diamond on her left pinky finger, made her landmark Oscars acceptance speech at the 74th Academy Awards, history was made. Forever forward, the rare orange diamond will be linked to the year that the first African American woman held in her hands the golden statue that honors those men and women who have distinguished themselves in the film industry.

Ms. Berry won the award for her role as Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball. The film tells the story of a poor colored woman who falls in love with a white correctional officer who, she finds out perhaps too late, played a major part in her husband’s execution. While the tale is most definitely about the racial divide, it is also about the dividing lines of poverty, family, gender, and our judicial system.

In her acceptance speech, Berry hints at the depths to which she had to go to nail the role: “…my husband, who is just the joy of my life, and India [her husband’s daughter], thank you for giving me peace, because only with the peace that you’ve brought me have I been allowed to go to places that I never even knew I could go. Thank you. I love you and India with all my heart.

“Our director, Marc Forester, you’re a genius. You’re a genius. This movie-making experience was magical for me because of you. You believed in me, you trusted me, and you gently guided me to very scary places. So thank you.” Ms. Berry went on to thank as many people as she could remember in that shell-shocked moment.

The Pumpkin Diamond

While Halle Berry is on stage making her gut-wrenching speech, she wears on her left pinky the Pumpkin Diamond. It radiates with warmth and energy as she throws a silent, sobbing kiss to her peers in the audience. It glows with golden light as she grips the Oscar in her left hand as she honors all the people who made her moment possible, going back a hundred years. It shimmers elegantly in the stage lights as she covers her face in disbelief.

Could Ronald Winston have possibly known the role that his rare orange-colored Pumpkin Diamond would play in American history that night?

No Thought of Winning

 

For reasons known only to him, he graciously lent the 5.54-carat fancy vivid orange diamond to Halle Berry for her night at the Oscars. She was nominated, but even she had no thought of winning. She told Libby Brooks, writer for The Guardian, that she had not even planned an acceptance speech.

During the interview, she laments her missed opportunity to thank many more people, most importantly Billy Bob Thornton, without whom her win would have proven impossible. It seems like it was just like any other Oscars night for the House of Harry Winston.

The practice of lending pieces to celebrities for red carpet events may have even been invented by the firm’s founding father, Harry Winston. He was always carrying large diamonds on his person, slipping them onto potential clients’ fingers when they least expected it. Nothing sells a diamond like seeing it in person, feeling the weight of it, falling in love with its mesmerizing qualities.

And nothing captures the interest of collectors like seeing a diamond make history. It would be pure conjecture to guess at the motives behind the Winstons’ choice to slip the brilliant orange diamond on the actress’s finger. She had a one-in-six chance to win, up against America’s most celebrated actresses, Nicole Kidman, Sissy Spacek, Judi Dench, Renee Zelwegger. No wonder she hadn’t planned an acceptance speech.

Making History

But the odds played well for Ronald Winston. His diamond was now making history, as it should. Nearly as rare as Halle Berry’s breakthrough win, this diamond deserved recognition. It was found in 1997, in the Central African Republic. William Goldberg purchased the stone and then had it fashioned into a cushion cut before selling it at auction the next year.

In 1998, during an auction hosted by Sotheby’s, Ronald Winston, representing the House of Harry Winston, purchased the phenomenal orange diamond for $1.3 million {6}. According to Robert Genis, writer for The Gemstone Forecaster, Ronald Winston expressed a desire to name the stone The Tangerine. However, since the stone was purchased the day before Halloween, his staff urged him to connect the stone to the autumn holiday {2}.

Rare Vivid Orange

Ronald Winston and Phillip Bloch set to work right away to design a classic platinum setting for the stone {1}. They mounted it between two specially cut white diamonds. The resulting jewel resembles many antique rings from the late 1800s.

Following the 2002 Oscars, the House of Winston loaned the Pumpkin Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. For three months, the jewel remained on public display in a special exhibit called The Splendor of Diamonds. This exhibition was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, The Steinmetz Group, and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The Splendor of Diamonds exhibition showcased seven of the world’s most rare and valuable colored diamonds. The Pumpkin was the only orange diamond included. What makes this orange diamond so special, according to the Smithsonian Institution, is that the majority of orange diamonds manifest with a brown undertone.

The Pumpkin Diamond does no such thing. It is pure vivid orange, catapulting it into diamond history as one of the largest fancy vivid natural orange diamonds in the world {6}.

And that is how diamonds make history.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

References

  1. Famous Diamonds. “The Pumpkin.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  2. Genis, Robert. “Collecting Orange Diamonds,” The Gemstone Forecaster, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 2003.
  3. Oscars YouTube Channel. Video: “Halle Berry Wins Best Actress: 2002 Oscars. Published by Oscars on May 23, 2014.
  4. “Oscars Fashion: A Beautiful Time,” People, Vol. 57, No. 13, April 8, 2002.
  5. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The Splendor of Diamonds.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  6. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The Splendor of Diamonds: The Pumpkin Diamond.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  7. William Goldberg. “Orange Diamonds: Colors of the Fall,” October 24, 2012.