Jewelry History

Well written and referenced articles on Jewelry History.
  • Paulette Goddard's Diamond Fringe Necklace

    Paulette Goddard (left) sits with Louise Rainer on set for the film 'Dramatic School' (1938). Ms. Goddard appears to be wearing her diamond fringe necklace in the shoot. Photo in public domain. Paulette Goddard (left) sits with Louise Rainer on set for the film 'Dramatic School' (1938). Ms. Goddard appears to be wearing her diamond fringe necklace in the shoot. Photo in public domain.


    Paulette Goddard owned one of the most delectable diamond fringe necklaces of all time. Most certainly, it was the most notable in her vast collection of jewelry. Ms. Goddard, once married to Charlie Chaplin, became one of the most celebrated jewelry collectors of the 1930s and 1940s.

    She is most famous for carting around her favorite pieces in a jewelry box which she carried to all of her movie sets. She showed them off to the production crew in between takes. Like many actresses in those days, she wore most of her own jewels in the movies in which she starred.

    This particular necklace was fashioned by the prestigious firm of Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin. It is set in platinum with myriad white diamonds in all shapes and sizes. It has rounds, pendaloques, marquise, and emerald-cut diamonds, and separates into two pieces, allowing the wearer to don a portion of it as a bracelet.

    The bracelet piece is comprise of a central marquise-cut diamond centered between a set of five graduated round brilliants on one side and six on the other. The bracelet terminates on either side with three fluted flourishes paved in white diamonds, four of them iced in round brilliants and two of them in baguettes.

    Overall, the piece is blindingly beautiful. One source reports that it is comprised of 46 emerald-cut diamonds and 60 other diamonds amounting to 29 carats in accent stones {cited}.

    The same website reports that after her death on April 23, 1990, Paulette Goddard bequeathed nearly all of her assets, including her jewelry, to New York University. The estimated value of her estate at the time of her death was $20 million.

    Her jewelry and art collections were sold through Sotheby's in New York, and the estimate for Ms. Goddard's diamond fringe necklace was set at over $175,000. I'm sure it brought in far more than that, though I have not been able to secure the final bidding price for the piece, as yet.

    Ms. Goddard claims that she never once purchased a piece of her extensive jewelry collection for herself. Every gem was given to her by a friend or lover. Her list of paramours includes the aforementioned Charlie Chaplin, as well as Burgess Meredith and Erich Remarque (the famed writer of All Quiet on the Western Front, who also had a longstanding love affair with Marlene Dietrich).

    In addition to her endowment to New York University, Ms. Goddard made many contributions to the university while she was still living. The New York Times, reported in 1990  that after Erich Remarque passed away in 1970, she gave his personal library, all his manuscripts, and his diaries to the institution.

    For the last twelve years of her life, Ms. Goddard awarded 300 theater and film students $3 million dollars in scholarships to attend the university's Tisch School of the Arts.

    Her vast collection of fine art was counted as part of her $20 million estate, though she had already sold $2.9 million of Impressionist art in 1979. To her dying day, Paulette Goddard was dedicated to theater and film, and to the arts.

    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews

  • Cleopatra's Pearl Earrings

    Ruud Kahle Mabe Pearl and Pink Tourmaline Earrings


    Cleopatra's pearl earrings are credited as the first mention of pearl jewelry in the pages of history {1}. Many a woman has grown bored with power and has resorted to flirtatious bantering with the men in her company.

    This was oh so true for Cleopatra, one of the most powerful women in Egyptian history. She is said to have won the heart of Marc Antony, and he hers. Though their tale is tragic in its ending, it is lively in its beginnings.

    Their courtship began with a series of pranks. These pranks began with the two in cahoots together. They would roam the streets of Alexandria in disguise, he as a slave and she as a maid {2}. They would eavesdrop outside windows, and sometimes even fall into a brawl in the street, probably over the pretty maiden.

    In subsequent days, they played pranks on each other. On a fishing trip, Marc Antony rigged his lines with an abundance of fish. Having caught on to his antics, Cleopatra arranged for a counter-prank. On their next trip, Marc Antony pulled out of the waters a smoked fish hooked on his line {3}.

    Upping the ante, the two arranged a little bet. Marc Antony organized an outrageous banquet the likes of which had never been seen before. He bet her that his cost more than any banquet she could throw in return {4}.

    She countered his wager, betting that she could throw a feast which would cost her 60,000 pounds of gold. She began the feast in a humble fashion. Near the end, Marc Antony was sure he had won the bet. However, Cleopatra had one last surprise up her sleeve.

    "I will now consume on my own the equivalent of 60,000 pounds of gold," she said placidly.

    Upon making this statement she received at hand, from the tray of her slave, a golden goblet filled with vinegar. Holding it in one hand, she lifted her other hand to her ear and removed one of her pearl earrings, easily worth 30,000 pounds of gold.

    These earrings were rumored to be among the most delectable, most expensive pearls of their kind. Each earring was fashioned of one large pear-shaped pearl, and the pair was given to Cleopatra by the kings of the East {5}.

    She dropped the pearl earring into the goblet, savoring the look of astonishment on Marc Antony's face as she waited for the vinegar to dissolve the pearl.

    Then, she swallowed the contents of the cup, prepared to drop her other pearl into a second cup. It is noted that at this point, the judge of the wager declared Cleopatra the winner, thus sparing the second earring from its demise {6}.

    History dictates that the single famed pearl earring was later sliced in two in Rome and made into earrings for a statue of Venus in the Pantheon {7}.


    1. Rosenthal, Leonard. The Kingdom of the Pearl, London: Nisbet & Co. Ltd., 1919, p. 85.
    2. Jones, Prudence J. Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh, Haus Publishing, 2006, p. 72.
    3. Ibid., p. 72.
    4. Ibid., p. 73.
    5. Rosenthal, p. 85.
    6. Jones, p. 73.
    7. Ibid.
  • The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond

    The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond is one of the largest Fancy Brown Diamonds in the world. This Fancy Brown Diamond Brooch demonstrates the rich beauty of brown diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry. The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond is one of the largest Fancy Brown Diamonds in the world. This Fancy Brown Diamond Brooch demonstrates the rich beauty of brown diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


    The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond is a stunning 104.16-carat Fancy Brown diamond cut in a pear shape. In its rough form, discovered in 1963 in South Africa, it weighed an astonishing 198.28 carats. It was purchased that same year by prominent New York jewelry designer, Julius Cohen.

    Julius Cohen began working in the diamond business as a teen in 1929 {HAG}. For thirteen years he apprenticed with his uncles at Oscar Heyman Brothers {3}. After learning techniques in the manufacture and sale of diamonds and gemstones, he left Oscar Heyman to work for Harry Winston. He oversaw the "Court of Jewels," exhibition for Harry Winston, touring around the world with the illustrious stones in Mr. Winston's treasury {11}.

    In 1956, Julius Cohen launched his own in New York City. His was a singular approach to client services. Though he opened a salon and workshop on East 53rd, and later on Madison Avenue, Mr. Cohen primarily serviced his clients in the privacy of their own homes. In 1963, Mr. Cohen purchased the rough diamond, which was a rich honey color in its most natural state.

    He brought it to S. & M. Kaufman, who cut it into a pear shape with 189 facets. The cutting process revealed the rich browns now associated with the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond.

    I am on the hunt for information about S. & M. Kaufman. I have found several references to an S. M. Kaufman, who was a registered buyer in the Jeweler's Review in 1899 and in the Crockery and Glass Journal in 1922.

    There is also a company called S & M Kaufman registered in New York as jewelers; however, merchant directory listings claim the company was founded in 1980. New York also hosts Allison-Kaufman, which was established in 1920. I am waiting for return calls from the owners to help establish which, if any, of these firms fashioned the beautiful Chrysanthemum Diamond. When I hear back, I will update this article.

    After the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond was cut, it was mounted as the central pendant for a stunning diamond necklace designed by Julius Cohen. This necklace features 410 oval and marquise-shaped white diamonds {2}. This rich golden brown diamond pendant dazzles the eye with overtones of sienna and burnt orange, colors so reminiscent of the gorgeous blooms of chrysanthemum that they inspired its name {2}.

    In 1965, the Great Chrysanthemum was exhibited in the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Show {1}. It was included in a lavish diamond display sponsored by Newton Pfeffer. The entirety of this display, valued at upwards of $2 million, was said to have been taken by armored car to a nearby vault every night during the show  {1}.

    On a date not specified, Julius Cohen sold the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond to a private collector {10}. The diamond was also exhibited in 1971 at the Kimberley Centenary Exhibition and in 1977 at the Diamond Pavilion in Johannesburg {2}. At some point after this show, the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond became part of the collection of the esteemed British Court jewelers Garrard's of London {Khuri}.

    In 2007, Garrard's opened their United States flagship store in Beverly Hills, California. Visitors to Rodeo Drive had the supreme privilege of viewing the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond on display that summer {9}.

    Garrard's describes themselves as the oldest jewelry house in the world, having serviced the royal family of Great Britain since 1735. According to a singular website dedicated to the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond, Garrard's no longer owns the diamond.

    I have been able to verify that Garrard's no longer owns any stores in the US, though I have not received a reply from them as to whether they currently own the diamond. Their Rodeo Drive location is now occupied by esteemed jewelry designer Stephen Webster. The writers of the diamond's website claim that the original private collector reacquired the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond and maintains ownership to date {6}.


    1. Anonymous. "Mineralogical Record, suppl. 50-Year History of the Tucson Show," Tucson Gem & Mineral Society, 2004, pp. 32-34.
    2. Balfour, Ian. Famous Diamonds. London: Christie's, 2000.
    3. Burgum, Jill and Becky Dirtling and Andrea Rubenkoenig, eds. Exquisite Jewelry & Timepices. Texas: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2006.
    4. Garrard Brochure, 2013-2014.
    5. Great Chrysanthemum, The. "A Mysterious Enigma." Accessed March 2015.
    6. Great Chrysanthemum, The. "An Amazing and Significant Piece of History." Accessed March 2015.
    7. Great Chrysanthemum, The. "Mystery of the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond." Accessed March 2015.
    8. Julius Cohen. "About Our Founder." Accessed March 2015.
    9. Khuri, Elizabeth. "Shopping; The List; Blanche DuBois Fantasy," Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2007, p. 11.
    10. Leibish. "The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond," Leibish Blog, November 13, 2011.
    11. Saxon, Wolfgang. "Julius Cohen, 81; Jewelry Designer Who Won Awards," The New York Times Obituaries, July 19, 1995.
    12. Thomspon, Ryan. "The Great Chrysanthemum," Famous Diamonds website. Accessed March 2015.

    *I offer my gratitude to Peggy Tsiamis from the GIA library for her help in confirming many of the details about the early history of the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond.

  • The Koi Diamond

    The Koi Diamond The Koi Diamond is a unique multi-colored orange and white diamond weighing 32 carats. It has been cut in a pear shape to resemble the Japanese Koi fish and carries with it the symbolism of prosperity and perseverance associated with the beautiful water creatures.


    The Koi Diamond offers a perfect impression of the illustrious oriental Koi fish. According to Phil Butler, this glorious 32-carat, pear-shaped diamond holds within its unique structure the legend of the Koi fish.

    Originally, Koi fish are believed to have descended from one Chinese black carp given to Confucius by King Shoko of Ro {4}. Legend has it that the Chinese people raised them for food and passed this knowledge on to the Japanese {4}. The Japanese began breeding them and discovered that subsequent generations exhibited a gene mutation that resulted in a wide array of glorious colors {4}.

    As these beautiful fish were also particularly friendly, the Japanese soon began breeding them as pets. Legends have since arisen surrounding the Koi, and the fish became a popular motif in Japanese art. One legend in particular seems to embody the Koi best.

    It is written that a large school of Koi fish, glittering like jewels just beneath the surface of the Yellow River, once captured the imagination of surrounding villagers. According to legend, these Koi fish fought hard against the current, making it all the way to a large waterfall.

    Most of the fish, exhausted from their travels, turned away in defeat against the relentless roar of the falls. However, a fair number (360 by several accounts) persisted in their efforts. They made a valiant attempt to scale the length of the waterfall, though they failed to make much progress.

    A group of demons is said to have taken notice of the valiant struggle of these Koi fish. Celebrating an opportunity to wreak havoc, they are said to have added height to the waterfall, ensuring failure for these determined but exhausted fish. Over time, the fish grew weary, and many of them gave up. In the end, only one fish continued to persist and finally began making steady progress.

    He is said to have stayed with his task for 100 years, and at the end of his trial he made one last gigantic leap and crested the top of the waterfall. In celebration of his triumph, the gods granted the Koi transformation. He became a golden dragon who now spends his days "chasing pearls of wisdom across the skies" {6}.

    Today Koi fish represent the strength to overcome. They are a reminder to persevere in the face of great trials, and they have become an auspicious sign of good fortune and wealth.

    Like the Koi fish of legends, the Koi Diamond defied all the odds and has become in itself a representation of the possibilities that await all of us. In the early 2000s, this diamond was discovered in the Republic of Congo {3}. Because of its many inclusions and its odd coloration, it was slated for industrial use.

    However, at the last minute an artist, a diamond cutter who has chosen to remain anonymous, saw within the diamond a "glimmer of something special," as Phil Butler so eloquently wrote in 2013 {3}. He was given an opportunity to coax his vision out of the stone.

    His vision: a Japanese Koi fish. The coloring was perfect, and he shaped it brilliantly so that now it evokes the very essence the Koi are endowed with. What that diamond cutter did for this spectacular diamond has earned it a hallowed place in the diamond vaults of Antwerp.

    In its finished state, the Koi Diamond weighs an astonishing 32 carats. It is a pear shape with colored splotches of white, orange, light yellow, dark blue, and black {3}. These variations in color render this stone as exotic and beautiful as the Koi fish for which it has been named.

    It was graded for the GIA by colored diamond specialist, Eddy Elzas, who described his opportunity to classify this unique and special diamond as one of the most momentous in his life {3}. Phil Butler, who spoke to Mr. Elzas directly, wrote that the diamond specialist "marveled at just how this famous cutter...even visualized the Koi at the time" in what once was 60 carats of highly included rough {3}.

    As of 2013, the spectacular Koi Diamond belonged to Rawstone Business Holding, a precious commodities trading company with connections in Antwerp, Luxembourg, Shanghai, and Tel Aviv. When it is not on display, it resides in a secured vault in Antwerp.
    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


    1. Anonymous. "Inspired By Legend, Born of Passion, The Koi Becomes A Diamond," Luxurious Magazine, May 15, 203.
    2. Butler, Phil. "Born of Fairytale, 32-Carat Koi Diamond Becomes Legend," Argophilia Travel, May 10, 2013.
    3. Butler, Phil. "Sparkling Koi Diamond, the ultimate embodiment of Japanese legend and tradition," Japan Today, May 19, 2013.
    4. Carty, Sue Lynn. "What Do Koi Fish Symbolize?" LoveToKnow.comAccessed April 2015.
    5. Koi, Kenneth. "Koi Fish Meaning and Myth," Koi History, November 18, 2013.
    6. Koiponder. "How Koi Become Dragons," Experience Project, July 29, 2009.
    7. Rawstone Business. "About." Accessed April 2015.
  • 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.


    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.

  • Legend of the Diamond Valley

    This magnificent ravine evokes the feeling of the Diamond Valley in its immensity and heavy layers of fog. Photo ©2014 by MaxPower0815 on flickr. This magnificent ravine evokes the feeling of the Diamond Valley in its immensity and heavy layers of fog. Photo ©2014 by MaxPower0815 on flickr.


    In Diamond Valley a steep chasm stretches 1,000 feet deep. Filled with fog nearly to the brim, it evokes awe and reverent fear in all who peer over its edge. Villagers from the surrounding towns occasionally dare to approach the ravine, only to be met with the impenetrable mist that swirls from its depths. A rock thrown over the edge makes no sound as it falls without end.

    The swooping balance of the eagle's wings is the only sight visible within the swirling vapors. To the great birds alone belongs this ravine. They make their nests upon the cliff faces far above, in view of the visiting villagers. Their penetrating eyes remain ever watchful, piercing the fog, alert to shifts in air currents and sometimes to the movement of prey far below.

    On occasion, one of these magnificent kings of the air plunges into the depths. In moments or hours, depending on their whim, they'll resurface, clutching the remains of a rabbit or a fox.

    Clinging to the ravaged flesh of these small animals, opaque colorless stones sometimes catch the eyes of onlooking villagers. Not daring to spook the grand birds, they wait in hope that the bloody remains will slip from their grasp. When this happens, the villagers run to collect the unusual pebbles.

    Word reaches the king to the east that Diamond Valley holds treasure in the form of white crystals harder than any other substance on the earth. This prudent king dispatches ambassadors who arrive at the cliff's edge, only to travail at the impossibility of their task. Though they are the king's best climbers, their ropes will never reach the bottom, not even if they tie them end to end.

    They make an attempt to scale the cliff face anyway, just to see whether there might be crystals within reach of their ropes. Their attempts only prove the rumors they've heard, the crystals lie only at the bottom, attainable only through the implementation of a most gruesome method.

    As they coil their ropes at the top of the ravine, they ponder the bloody task that awaits them. First, they must negotiate with the villagers for a trio of sheep. Then, they must pay for the privilege of using the butcher's tools. Then, they must find a suitable field nearby for preparing the sheep.

    A nearby meadow opens itself to receive the blood of the docile animals, as the king's men strip off their skins and prepare large pieces of meat to toss over the edge of the cliff. Will this bizarre ritual prove effective for delivering the crystal stones to the king?

    The villagers promise it will work. Throwing caution to the wind, the men begin heaving hunks of gory sheep flesh over the edge of the ravine. They watch the eagles as the eagles watch them. After a few minutes, the eagle's catch the scent of blood and swoop down into the misty depths of the ravine.

    The men watch in silence, holding their breath. After nearly losing heart, their efforts are rewarded as several soaring eagles drop the gristle at the cliff's edge. Stuck to the gory mess are crystals of varying sizes. The men swiftly clean the stones and throw the bloody remains back over the edge, raising their hands in gratitude to the eagles before turning to take their bounty to the king, from whom they will receive their second reward in gold bullion.

    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

    *This is my own adaptation of the story of the Diamond Valley as read in Berthold Laufer's book The Diamond: A Study in Chinese and Hellenistic Folk-Lore, Volume 15 (Field Museum of Natural History, 1915).
  • Marlene Dietrich's Jarretiere Cuff

    Marlene Dietrich held onto only one piece of jewelry throughout her life: her Jarretiere Cuff Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels. Marlene Dietrich held onto only one piece of jewelry throughout her life: her Jarretiere Cuff Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels.


    Marlene Dietrich's favorite jewel, her Jarretiere Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels, was fashioned in 1937 from "all her bits of jewelry," says her grandson, literary agent Peter Riva {2}. He says it was writer Erich Maria Remarque, most famous for his novel All Quiet on the Western Front, who suggested that she deliver to Van Cleef & Arpels (VC&A) a ruby bracelet and necklace, a pair of diamond earrings and a diamond necklace, a number of brooches, and another 20-some baubles which she had lying about {2}.

    Shop Antique Bracelets

    Marlene Dietrich's Jarretiere Bracelet

    It is reported that Louis Arpels, founder of VC&A, was a close personal friend of Marlene's {6}, and it is he who is credited with the design and manufacture of what is presently called Marlene Dietrich's Jarretiere Cuff Bracelet. A smashing example of Old Hollywood 1930s Glam, this gorgeous bracelet centers on a large retro-style loop decorated in cushion-cut rubies in various sizes.

    This stunning mass of rubies is trimmed in a single row of calibre-cut white diamonds. Three rows of asymmetrical baguette and calibre-cut white diamonds intrude upon this ruby sea, forming one section of the hinge. The connecting point for the hinge is comprised of baguette and circular cut white diamonds arranged in a trapezoidal design.

    All That Remains

    Mr. Riva reported in 1992 that this ruby and diamond cuff was all that remains of his grandmother's noteworthy jewelry collection {2}. Marlene Dietrich collected delectable jewels throughout her life, most prominently at the height of her film career, which spanned the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

    Though she made two films in the 1960s and one as late as 1978, throughout the sixties she primarily performed as a singer, entertaining in her usual glamorous way until she was no longer physically able to perform.  During the 1980s, Marlene Dietrich lived a reclusive life in her Paris apartment until her death in 1992 {7}.

    Throughout the waning years of her life, she had occasion to sell (or relinquish) most of her stunning jewels in exchange for cash, or to satisfy her back taxes {2}. There went her emeralds and diamonds, jewels she wore in the movie Desire, and her platinum and gold Lily bracelet made by Fulco di Verdura. In the end, she discarded all but one of her jewels: the Jarretiere Cuff by Van Cleef & Arpels.

    Of What Significance Jewelry?

    It makes one wonder at the significance of this piece in relation to the whole of her life. It seems possible that the gemstones which comprised it were of significant importance, even if their original settings were not. Could those bits and pieces have been heirlooms of some sort, brought over from Germany?

    Her records indicate no such importance to the actual stones. What the record does indicate is that this jewel might have been closely associated with the writer previously mentioned, Erich Maria Remarque {5}. Mr. Remarque was more than a friend to Marlene Dietrich, and he was also more than a lover {4}.

    Their attraction to one another was visceral, perhaps even cultural. Like the actress, the writer was born in Germany, and during the Nazi regime his books were banned and his German citizenship was revoked. Eventually, he escaped from Germany in 1938, according to the writers at History. In order to secure his former wife's safe passage out of the country, he remarried her, thus inflaming Marlene's jealousy {4}

    Remarque and Marlene had met previously, at a luncheon in Venice, where Ms. Dietrich was dining with Josef von Sternberg, whom the New York Times described as "her director, mentor and lover" {3}. According to the article, published in 2011, the moment Mr. Remarque walked onto the scene, Mr. Sternberg made his exit stage left, recognizing a losing battle when he saw one {3}.

    For the next forty years, wherever her dalliances took her, Marlene Dietrich always seemed to remain connected to Erich Remarque {3}. Over the years, Mr. Remarque gave his friend and lover many pieces of jewelry, including the lapis lazuli bracelet by Cartier. Yet, it was this one jewel that she kept. Perhaps it embodied for her the endurance of her affection for him, or his for her.

    Whatever those reasons were, she kept them to herself. All that remains is the stark understanding that jewelry becomes far more than the sum of its parts.

    Do you have a special jewel that you would choose to keep even through economic hardships?


    1. Becker, Vivenne. "Cuff Power," Sotheby's Magazine, April 2015.
    2. Brozan, Nadine. "Chronicle," The New York Times, June 24, 1992.
    3. Gates, Anita. "4 Decades Spent Romancing Dietrich," The New York Times, March 11, 2011.
    4. Hilton, Tims. Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic. Da Capo Press, 2004.
    5. Natalie. "Marlene Dietrich's Jarretiere Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels," Jewels du Jour Blog, July 17, 2013.
    6. Van Cleef & Arpels. "Marlene Dietrich's Jarretiere Bracelet." Accessed April 4, 2015.
    7. Vickers, Hugo. Cecil Beaton Portraits & Profiles. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2014.
  • Nancy Cunard's African Ivory Bracelets

    Nancy Cunard wears her iconic African ivory bracelets in this photograph of her taken in 1928. Nancy Cunard wears her iconic African ivory bracelets in this photograph of her taken in 1928.

    Nancy Cunard's dreams of Africa began when she was six years old. Some would call it destiny, others impressionability. She describes it as a fantastic ability to visualize the Sahara Desert, with its "dunes, the huge spaces, mirages, heat and parchedness" {2, p. 162}.

    On many nights she dreamed of the desert and later of the African people on what she termed 'The Dark Continent'. She writes of these vivid dreams, describing them as "full of movement...Africans dancing and drumming around me, and I one of them, though still white, knowing, mysteriously enough, how to dance in their own manner {2, p. 162}.

    It was not as unlikely a fantasy for a British heiress as you might imagine, considering her mother's penchant for the fantastical. According to photographer Cecil Beaton, who called Nancy's mother a friend, Lady Maud "Emerald" Cunard was beyond well-read, having become as closely acquainted with her favorite characters of literature as with her real-life friends and associates {1}.

    Beaton writes in The Glass of Fashion: "Lady Cunard's genius shone in the manner in which she presided over the small, circular, green-painted dining table....If she herself performed, it was a virtuoso indulging in persiflage or heroics. She was brilliant in her sense of timing. The inflections in her husky little voice were so varied, her gestures so telling, her chuckles so effective, and her confiding manner so mock-sincere that one knew one was present at a unique occasion" {pp. 375-76}.

    Unfortunately, however fantastical Emerald Cunard remained in her life, she would, in the end, fail to lay aside her deeply entrenched prejudices to follow her daughter Nancy into the modern age. The two parted ways when Nancy, who appears to have been far more grounded in reality than her mother ever was, ran off to Australia to marry Sydney Fairbairn {5}.

    Their marriage didn't last, as most do not when escape is their primary motive. After her divorce, Nancy's attraction to the intellectual scene led her to Paris, where she immersed herself in jazz, Dadaism, Surrealism, and political activism.

    While in Paris, Nancy's childhood visions of Africa returned, though not necessarily the dreams. This revival of fascination set her on a course that would have a profound effect on what would later become the Civil Rights Movement. It began as many passionate causes begin, with a love affair.

    In 1927, she fell in love with Henry Crowder, a black jazz singer who would profoundly shape both her politics and her aesthetics. The first sign of this shift came in the adoption of her new look: a black sculptured cap covered her hair, her bright blue eyes were rimmed in dark kohl (a trend which her biographer, Lois Gordon, claims Nancy invented), and of course the cascade of broad African ivory arm cuffs.

    These she wore lining her arms from wrist to elbow, sometimes all the way to her shoulder. It would be this love affair, both with Mr. Crowder and with the Sahara Desert and its beautiful ebony people, that would lead Nancy Cunard to create what could be called the culmination of her life's work: Negro: An Anthology.

    Negro is a self-published, self-edited statement, in the form of a book, against the savage inhumanity of institutional racism in the west, primarily in America {4}. This book is an eclectic collection of firsthand accounts, journalistic writings, sociological essays, poetry, songs, speeches, statistics, proverbs, photographs, pamphlets, and more depicting and describing the scourge of racism against minorities in the Western world {4}.

    The book's contributors included men and women, artists and academics, activists and militants, from every racial group available to Nancy, including Europeans, Africans, African-Americans, and Latin Americans {4}. Perhaps among the most celebrated of those who contributed to Negro were W.E.B. DuBois and Zora Neale Hurston.

    From the late 1920s on, even after her affair with Henry Crowder ended, Nancy Cunard maintained her African-inspired aesthetic, her ivory bangles having become as much a part of her as her identity as her supreme accomplishments.

    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


    1. Beaton, Cecil. The Glass of Fashion, New York: Rizzoli ex libris, 2014.
    2. Coudert, Thierry. Cafe Society: Socialites, Patrons, and Artists 1920 to 1960. Paris: Flammarion, 2010.
    3. Gordon, Lois. Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.
    4. Nechvatal, Joseph. "Nancy Cunard's 'Black Atlantic'," Hyperallergic, May 5, 2014.
    5. Vickers, Hugo, ed. Cecil Beaton Portraits & Profiles, London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2014.
  • The Hindou Necklace by VC&A

    Capture the Essence! of India's Maharani's with this exquisite Vintage Emerald and Diamond Necklace. Featuring 12.5 carats of emeralds, this necklace is truly fit for a Queen. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry. Capture the Essence! of India's Maharan Sita Devi and her Hindou Necklace with this exquisite Vintage Emerald and Diamond Necklace. Featuring 12.5 carats of emeralds, this necklace is truly fit for royalty. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


    The Hindou Necklace, fashioned for Maharani Gayatri Devi (Sita Devi) features an astonishing 154.70 carats in Colombian emeralds. These emeralds belonged to the lavish treasury of the Crown Jewels of Baroda in India.

    VC&A Designs the Hindou Necklace

    In 1949, Sita Devi brought 13 pear-shaped Mughal emeralds, as well as a host of emerald beads and white diamonds, to the Maison of Van Cleef & Arpels (VC&A) in Paris.

    The esteemed jewelers at Van Cleef & Arpels designed an elaborate fringe and panel necklace for the Maharani which took almost a year to complete. A series of paired lotus leaves paved in white diamonds, with emerald beads placed at their centers, comprises the main panel of the necklace.

    A central lotus flower, fashioned from platinum and white diamonds, has at its center a carved cabochon emerald set in an open prong mounting with platinum claw-like prongs. Dangling from the bottom-most leaves and petals are the 13 cabochon emerald drops emerging from diamond-studded fluted caps.

    Refashioning the Crown Jewels of Baroda

    It was common practice during the mid-century for Indian rulers to commission prestigious European jewelry firms, such as Cartier and VC&A, to refashion their treasury jewels into more modern settings. This exciting fusion of East and West is still seen today in the most iconic pieces of the world's most elite jewelry houses.

    What was not common was for a ruler to take those jewels permanently out of India and transfer them into their Maharani's name. Between 1943 and 1951, Maharani Gayatri Devi, known colloquially as the Indian Wallis Simpson, frequented her favorite jewelers, Van Cleef & Arpels. Within this short time period, she converted almost 300 Baroda treasury jewels into brand new settings, and transferred a number of them into her own name.

    The Crown Jewels of Baroda in Monaco

    Her husband, Maharajah Pratap Singh Gaekwar, relocated his second wife and their son, "Princie", to Monaco in 1946. After purchasing a grand mansion in Monte Carlo, the Maharajah ordered the transfer of "cabin loads of the great treasures of Baroda state," as writer K.R.N. Swamy puts it {4}. Listed as the eighth richest man in the world, and the second richest Indian prince, it's not hard to imagine that his Maharani lived in vast splendor while in Monaco.

    While the Maharajah was emperor of his lands, he was free to do with the Crown Jewels whatever he wished. However, in 1947, India was emancipated from British rule. As such, all Indian rulers including the Maharajah of Baroda, were expected to defer to the Indian Union.

    The Lost Jewels of Baroda

    It seems that this expectation did nothing to change the Maharajah's perspective on ownership of the treasury. And it seemed that the Indian Union made very few demands that first year. However, after he and Sita Devi spent $10 million during a six-week tour of Europe and the United States, the emperors were subjected to a formal audit of the state's finances.

    With a famine in India, these claims were taken very seriously by Indian and British ministers of finance {1}. The legislature convicted the Maharajah of a misuse of finances and ordered a swift return of the money to the treasury {1}. In 1951, he was finally forced to sign over his rule of Baroda to the Indian Union.

    He and the Maharani were expected to return all the items of the treasury, most importantly the jewelry. However, very few of them were actually returned. Those that did find their way back to Baroda had been transformed. The Hindou Necklace (also called the Lotus Necklace, or the Baroda Necklace) remained in the Maharani's possession for nearly two decades following their exile from India.

    Sita Devi Sells the Hindou Necklace

    In 1956, Sita Devi divorced her husband and moved to Paris with their son. The Maharajah's eldest son, born to his first wife in India, was given governance of the Baroda province. Maharajah Pratap Singh Gaekwar lived the remainder of his life in exile in London. He died in 1968.

    Meanwhile, Maharani Sita Devi and her son continued to enjoy a life of luxury for the next several decades. Having grown accustomed to a life of luxury and fast living, she continued to wear her lavish jewels to cafe society parties and spend vast amounts of money.

    By the early 1970s, Sita Devi was destitute. According to Vogue, in 1974, Sita Devi sold all of her jewels, including the Hindou Necklace, during an auction organized by the Crédit Mobilier of Monaco. The sale of her jewels brought a reported $4 million.

    Since then, the Hindou Necklace has been to auction one more time, in 2002. In a description for Lot 417 in Christie's Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on May 15, 2002, the necklace is described, with a matching pair of earrings, as "A Magnificent Emerald Drop and Diamond Necklace and Ear Pendants, by Van Cleef & Arpels" {Christie's}. The matching pair were sold to a private collector for nearly $1.65 million.

    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


    1. "Bakersfield California Details, The," The Bakersfield California, August 12, 1948, p. 12.
    2. Christie's. "A Magnificent Emerald Drop and Diamond Necklace and Ear Pendants, by Van Cleef & Arpels." May 15, 2002.
    3. "Jewelry See: Legendary Jewelry Sales 1/9," Vogue ParisAccessed March 14, 2015.
    4. Swamy, K.R.N. "The most flamboyant Maharani," The Tribune, August 13, 2006.
    5. Swamy, K.R.N. "Yarn of the priceless pearl carpet that has vanished," The Tribune, August 18, 2002.
    6. Van Cleef & Arpels. "The Set of the Maharani of Baroda." Accessed March 14, 2015.
  • Princess Soraya's Jewelry at Auction

    "Court Portrait by SAKO of Queen Soraya 1953" by SAKO "Court Portrait by SAKO of Queen Soraya 1953" by SAKO. Princess Soraya's Jewelry fetched over $6 million at auction in 2002.


    Princess Soraya's jewelry collection serves as a repository for one of the saddest love stories of the 20th century. After seven years of marriage to her one true love, Shah Reza Palhavi, ruler of Iran, she was forced by her own conscience to leave her husband and and her country forever.

    Princess Soraya's Tragic Exile

    One can only describe her exile as tragic. After several attempts to convince her to return and accept the Iranian custom of polygamy, Shah Palhavi finally granted her a divorce in 1958. Heartbroken, she retreated to Switzerland with her vast collection of jewelry and clothing.

    The heartsick lovers continued to correspond until she moved to Germany to live with her parents {1}. After a few trips to America, she finally settled herself in France. Though she lost the title of Queen, her former husband bestowed upon her the new title of Her Imperial Royal Highness Princess Soraya of Iran.

    In the 1960s, she threw herself into acting, starring in I tre volti (The Three Faces) and She, both produced in 1965. The Princess did fall in love again, this time with Italian director Franco Indovina. Tragically, 13 years after they first met, Soraya once again lost her lover. Franco died in a plane crash in 1972 {5}.

    She found comfort in her friends and her family, especially her brother Bijan. She continued to live in Paris and wrote two memoirs, one called Princess Soraya: Autobiography of Her Imperial Highness (publ. 1964) and Le Palais des Solitudes (Palace of Solitude) (publ. 1991/92).

    Princess Soraya's Jewelry at Auction

    Eleven years later, on October 26, 2001, Princess Soraya died in her apartment. Her brother Prince Bijan, who was slated to inherit her estate, died one week later. A will stipulated that all of Princess Soraya's jewelry and possessions were to be auctioned {6}. The majority of the proceeds were to be directed to her brother who lived in Cologne, Germany {6}.

    Unfortunately, Prince Bijan passed away without leaving his own will. According to German law, notices were posted to find other living heirs. Those that came forward were found to illegitimate claims to her estate {6}. After exhausting all possible attempts to find a suitable inheritor, authorities released her estate to Paris auctioneers, Beaussant-Lefevre {3}.

    According to an article written by Cyrus Kadivar, the auctioneers went to great ends to invoke the essence of mystery the departed princess evoked wherever she went. Before the auction, they arranged an exhibition which Eric Beaussant hoped would "preserve her image in a dignified and graceful manner" {3}.

    A display of Soraya's jewelry included the stunning diamond Pahlavi Crown, a five-strand pearl necklace, an emerald ring, and a diamond bird brooch which Shah Palhavi gave her on their honeymoon {3}. While the display was stunning, it was the scent of jasmine filling the air that left an indelible impression upon Cyrus Kadivar.

    Royal Estate Benefits German State

    The auction of the Princess's estate, which took place on May 29-31, 2002, realized over $6 million. According to Irene Zoech, writing on April 6, 2003, the proceeds of this astonishing sale were turned over the finance office of North Rhine Westfalia in Germany.

    Ms. Zoech reported that Princess Soraya's jewelry comprised ₤1.3 million (approximately $1.89 million in 2002). Hartmut Meuller-Gerbes, spokesman for the region's finance office, stated that the money would be put to "good use, although it will not be possible to say exactly what it will be used for. It will just go into the general pool, for the benefit of everyone" {6}.

    Ms. Zoech writes that the funds could wind up "paying for street lights, rubbish collection and other public amenities" in the district where Princess Soraya's brother lived and died {6}. While it may seem a tragic end, at least the money has been put to good use for the benefit of her brother's country.

    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


    1. Afkhami, Gholam Reza. The Life and Times of the Shah. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2008.
    2. Bakhtiari Family. "Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari." Accessed February 2015.
    3. Kadivar, Cyrus. "Soraya: Fragments of a Life," The Iranian, June 25, 2002.
    4. "Late Princess Soraya's Personal Effects Sell for $6 Million," Hello MagazineJune 3, 2002.
    5. Order of Splendor. "Wedding Wednesday: Queen Soraya's Gown," October 26, 2011.
    6. Zoech, Irene. "Fortune of Shah's former wife goes to German state," The Telegraph, April 6, 2003.

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