Category Archives: Celebrity Jewelry

Maggie Grace’s Engagement Ring

A rare Georgian Era diamond engagement ring similar. This ring is similar in style to the antique engagement ring Maggie Grace received from Matthew Cooke in February 2015. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
A rare Georgian Era diamond engagement ring. This ring is similar in style to the antique engagement ring Maggie Grace received from Matthew Cooke in February 2015. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Maggie Grace received a gorgeous antique engagement ring from writer/director Matthew Cooke this past February. The actress told USA Today that her stunning halo ring is from 1810.

antique-diamonds

Photographs of her ring confirm that Matthew Cooke located a rare Georgian Era finger ring for Maggie Grace. All the diamonds appear to be white in color. If they are original to the mounting, then they would most likely be rose cut, as they are in the ring featured in this article. Also, they would likely be backed by silver foil, which granted Georgian Era diamonds significant fire under the glow of candlelight.

Maggie Grace’s central diamond is surrounded by a halo of moderately sized round cut diamonds set in tarnished silver flutes. Its thin band is fashioned from yellow gold. Every one of these characteristics marks it as a Georgian Era jewel.

While modern halo rings feature tiny pave diamonds, Georgian Era halos featured much larger accent stones to surround the stone. This gives them a royal feel, and adds far more fire to the overall appearance of the stones. The tarnished silver behind the diamonds also marks this ring as clearly Georgian. In all likelihood, the underside of the mounting is made of yellow gold (to protect the skin from traces of tarnished silver).

According to Lang Antiques, the gold band on Maggie Smith’s engagement ring would have been fashioned by first melting an 18k gold alloy and pouring it into a mold shaped as a bar. An apprentice goldsmith would then employ a rolling mill, invented in the mid 1750s, to roll out the gold to the desired thickness.

It is truly remarkable that Matthew Cooke was able to find such a rare and precious ring for Maggie Grace. These Georgian Era rings are truly hard to find. Beginning in 1804, wealthy Europeans were encouraged to donate their gold and silver jewels to the cause of war. In exchange, jewelers would fashion exact copies in iron, resetting these imitations with the original stones.

Furthermore, the Georgian Era spans between 1714 and 1830 (approximately), a time when jewels were refashioned from season to season. Diamonds and gemstones were removed from unfashionable pieces and reset in “new” settings which were fitting for wear on the streets and at court. Indeed, it is rare to find an original piece without some kind of alteration.

It appears that Matthew Cooke has done just that. We applaud him on his choice of a rare gift for his rare and beautiful sweetheart.

Sophie Hunter’s Tiffany Engagement Ring

For Sophie Hunter's engagement ring, Benedict Cumberbatch chose timeless Tiffany. While Ms. Hunter's halo ring is a dainty pairing of diamonds and blue sapphires, this modern Tiffany Lucida Diamond Engagement Ring is no less timeless in its interpretation of white diamonds and platinum. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
For Sophie Hunter’s engagement ring, Benedict Cumberbatch chose timeless Tiffany. While Ms. Hunter’s halo ring is a dainty pairing of diamonds and blue sapphires, this modern Tiffany Lucida Diamond Engagement Ring is no less timeless in its interpretation of white diamonds and platinum. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Sophie Hunter’s engagement ring is a timeless Tiffany halo setting with what looks to be a white cushion-cut diamond surrounded by a square halo of small blue sapphires. According to Vogue, Benedict Cumberbatch picked it out himself. The delicate band, made of either platinum or white gold, is encrusted with tiny pavé white diamonds.

vintage-rings-1

Mr. Cumberbatch, who presented Ms. Hunter’s engagement ring to her in November 2014, appears to be one of those gallant British men who has remained largely unaffected by his fame. His decision to publicly announce his engagement in black-and-white in The Times, adds considerable weight to this assessment.

“It’s what I would have done if I wasn’t famous….It’s a normal thing to do in my country. It was a way of telling our friends who we hadn’t been able to tell before (they saw) some grainy shot of a ring on her finger,” he is said to have told USA Today.

The two have kept their relationship largely beneath the radar, and though the couple is so popularly supposed to have met in 2009 on the set of Burlesque Fairytales, the actress, singer, and director told Vogue that she and Mr. Cumberbatch have known each other for 17 years. Theirs appears to be a love that will go the distance.

“To have Sophie in my life is something I am incredibly grateful for and very excited about. It’s a bit of a golden moment for me right now and I am loving it,” Mr. Cumberbatch told reporters {cited}.

In Vogue, Ms. Hunter speaks to Annie Leibovitz, who photographed her exclusive wedding dress fitting, about the centering she has experienced since investing in her relationship with Mr. Cumberbatch. “When two people meet and it’s the right combination, it does ground you suddenly,” she says.

Grounding is the right word for strong relationships. And what better way to express this grounding than with a timeless Tiffany halo engagement ring?

Which do you prefer: colored stones surrounding a white diamond like Ms. Hunter’s engagement ring? Or white diamonds surrounding a colored stone?

Lady Gaga’s Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Lady Gaga's Engagement Ring with this 1-Carat Heart-Shaped Diamond and Platinum Engagement Band. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Lady Gaga’s Engagement Ring with this 1-Carat Heart-Shaped Diamond and Platinum Engagement Band. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Lady Gaga’s engagement ring is a stunning vision in platinum and diamonds. Designed by esteemed jewelry designer, Lorraine Schwartz, it has all the bespoke elements one would expect from the celebrity designer.

From the top, it dazzles in over 6 carats of white diamond brilliance in a perfect heart shape. The only metal visible takes shape as three dainty platinum prongs which are attached to a rim of metal hidden out of sight beneath the girdle of the impeccable diamond.

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True to form, Ms. Schwartz placed the most intimate personal touches on the backside of the ring. First, a delicate framework of diamonds and platinum effortlessly cradles the large diamond.

A view from beneath shows the four spokes of platinum encrusted with tiny white diamonds radiating out from a diamond-lined, heart-shaped center. These spokes rise like ribbons to meet a larger heart-shaped rim of diamonds which gently, but firmly cups the large central diamond.

Not only does this delicate cradle add support, but like a beautiful silk chemise or a pair of lacy panties, it imparts a touch of personal glamour worn intimately against the skin of Lady Gaga’s finger.

Also emerging from this central heart-shaped gallery are the shoulders of the platinum band. From the very top to the very bottom, this delicate band is completely iced in diamonds so that none of the metal is seen. This is a Lorraine Schwartz signature feature.

One final detail, and Lady Gaga’s favorite, by her own admission, is ‘T♥S ‘ shaped into platinum at the very base of the band. The symbols stand for ‘Taylor loves Stefani’, and as must be expected, the whole thing is sugarcoated in teensy white diamonds.

Heart-shaped diamonds are both iconic and romantic. Lady Gaga’s engagement ring is a tribute to both the icon and the romance of love!

Are you in search of a diamond and platinum wonder that holds in its very nature the essence of adoration, devotion, and affection?

If you answered yes to this question, then may we recommend the above diamond and platinum engagement ring?

It features a beautiful 1-carat, heart-cut diamond mounted on a twisting platinum band with its own sugarcoating of diamonds. Click here to read more about how to make it yours!

Holly Madison’s Wedding Rings

Capture the Essence! of Holly Madison's eternity wedding bands with this Marquise Diamond Eternity Ring. This gorgeous ring features over 5 carats of brilliant white diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Holly Madison’s eternity wedding bands with this Marquise Diamond Eternity Ring. This gorgeous ring features over 5 carats of brilliant white diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Holly Madison’s wedding rings are absolutely stunning. Because more is always better, the reality TV star and reigning queen of Insomniac Events’ Electric Daisy Carnival, received two stunners from husband Pasquale Rotella. Working closely with Layna and Alan Friedman to design the absolutely gorgeous eternity bands.

One is crafted from either white gold or platinum and features 15 carats of emerald-cut white diamonds nestled side by side. The second is crafted of 18k yellow gold and features 14 fancy intense yellow diamonds, totaling 12 carats, cut in the cushion style.

For Pasquale, Holly asked the Friedmans to design a magnificent matte rhodium wedding band. At a casual glance, its a simple affair. However, snugly nestled between the band and his finger are 300 black pavé diamonds. A plaque featuring a carved “Night Owl” is the only interruption in a sea of black.

In addition to Rotella and Madison’s wedding rings, the Friedmans created the extravagant diamond tiara that Holly Madison wore during her Disneyland wedding on September 10, 2013. The exquisite floral crown features three large iris-type flowers paved entirely in white diamonds. Each flower features a single prong-set diamond in its center.

A smattering of round brilliants add a touch of decorative elegance, and two smaller flowers serve as anchor points on either end. Crafted in white gold, this exquisite tiara features over 2,400 white diamonds. With nearly 47 carats of sparkling diamonds, it must have glittered like the electric sky that is so celebrated at the Pasquale’s most celebrated Electric Daisy Carnival.

Holly Madison’s Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Holly Madison's EDC engagement ring with this Vintage Diamond Owl Cocktail Ring. The Night Owl is the mascot of Electric Daisy Carnival, over which Holly Madison reigns as Queen Supreme. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Holly Madison’s EDC engagement ring with this Vintage Diamond Owl Cocktail Ring. The Night Owl is the mascot of Electric Daisy Carnival, over which Holly Madison reigns as Queen Supreme. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

 

Holly Madison’s engagement ring features a showstopping 18-carat, cushion-cut yellow diamond. This huge diamond is mounted in what looks like rose gold in a bezel-style setting decorated with milgrain details. Further security is added by four claw-like platinum prongs.

The body of the ring is fashioned out of what looks like platinum, though it could be white gold. The shank and shoulders are deeply carved, giving them a tree-branch appearance. A collection of pink, yellow, and blue daisies made of gold and colored gemstones provide the cathedral support for the diamond center stone.

These gorgeous daisies, fashioned out of pink, yellow, and blue diamonds and mounted in what looks like rose gold, are clustered together on the sides, top, and bottom of the diamond. The bezel setting extends far down the pavilion, allowing a stylized owl to peek out from behind these side daisies. The daisies and owls are completely symbolic of the Electric Daisy Carnival.

Indeed, the entire ring is a tribute to the EDC, as its known by fans and participants. Holly Madison and her now-husband Pasquale Rotella are the queen and king of the EDC, a festival that calls itself a movement.

Mr. Rotella, whom Forbes calls a “live events entrepreneur,” created the festival as a way to celebrate electronic dance music culture in an atmosphere that stands for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. The electric daisy represents the umbrella of love and unity under which a collection of misfits can come together to experience a true sense of family.

The festival’s mascot, a giant “Night Owl”, signifies the nocturnal nature of the ravers as it calls its followers to spread their wings and fly as they enjoy the nocturnal wonderland of the EDC. It is with this huge, theatrical family that Pasquale and Madison went to for one of their most memorable nights.

It was at EDC Las Vegas, on June 22, 2014, that Pasquelle Rotella proposed to his sweetheart, Holly Madison. He slipped this exquisite ring on her finger, a ring he designed himself, with the help of jewelers Layna and Alan Friedman of Premier Beverly Hills Jewelry Designers. Under the magic of an electric daisy sky, the couple “rode around the festival on the art car until the sun came up” {cited}. All the while Ms. Madison wore this wondrous ring on her finger!

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.

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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.