For jewelry lovers, it’s not the sex and scandal surrounding 20th century icons like Wallis Simpson, Daisy Fellowes, Barbara Hutton that are so fascinating, but their incredible collections of fine jewelry. With Thames and Hudson’s new book 20th century Jewelry and the Icons of Style, which explores both aspects of the women’s lives, there’s no need to choose.
Not a single jewelry sale goes by at Sotheby‘s or Christie‘s without a gem formerly owned by one of these femmes fatales popping up under the hammer. And with good reason, it was for customers like Wallis Simpson, Maria Callas, Daisy Fellowes, Mona Bismarck and Barbara Hutton, that the fine jewelry houses created some of their most incredibly pieces. Think of the innovation and technical skill seen in the Zipnecklace, invisible stone settings, and Cartier’s roaring panthers. A century’s worth of splendor shines out from the pages of 20th Century Jewelry and the Icons of Style published by Thames and Hudson, a new book written by jewelry experts Stephano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes, illustrated with black and white images shot by the likes of Horst and Cecil Beaton.
47.14cts yellow diamond that the Duke of Windsor bought for the Duchess in 1951 from Harry Winston to complement her other yellow diamond and set in a ring. The stone was later acquired by Estée Lauder, set in a pendant and sold by the Lauder family in 2012 in aid of Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It is now known as ‘The Windsor Heart.’ CourtesySotheby’s.
A studio portrait of Wallis by Cecil Beaton, 1936. She is wearing ruby and diamond creole earclips by Van Cleef & Arpels. Courtesy Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby’s.
Hindou necklace created for Daisy Fellowes by Cartier in 1936. CourtesySotheby’s.
Mona, photographed by Cecil Beaton in 1936, wearing her aquamarineparure by Suzanne Belperron. Courtesy Cecil Beaton Studio Archive,Sotheby’s.
A stylish necklace from the 1920s, designed to evoke a waterfall. It is set with circular-cut diamonds suspending seven cabochon emerald drops. The ring, probably by Boivin, has a step-cut emerald within an articulated bezel set with a fringe of baguette diamonds, 1930s. Courtesy Sotheby’s.
A studio portrait by Dorothy Wilding. Lady Deterding is wearing the pearl and diamond pendant bought from the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna. Private Collection.
Gold and diamond evening bag by Van Cleef & Arpels. CourtesySotheby’s.