The history of the imperial jewels
The history of the imperial jewels
Following over four months of closure during lockdown, Kensington Palace will be reopening its doors once more to welcome visitors from Thursday, 30 July. To celebrate the re-opening, the famous ‘Travolta dress’, worn by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, will go on display at the palace for the first time since it was acquired by Historic Royal Palaces at auction in 2019.
The midnight blue velvet gown, designed by Victor Edelstein, became legendary when the Princess wore it to a White House Gala in 1985 and took to the dance floor with John Travolta. Images of the Princess and the Hollywood actor dancing together made headlines around the world, securing a place in fashion history for the stunning gown. In 2019, it was acquired by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces and has somewhat fittingly been in conservation ‘quarantine’ ever since, to protect it for posterity. Like Kensington Palace itself, the dress is now coming out of isolation, and will be on display at the Princess’s former home this Summer for visitors to enjoy.
Famously the birthplace of Queen Victoria, Kensington Palace has been a royal residence for over 300 years. Lavish Georgian parties were held within its spectacular state apartments in the eighteenth century. A hundred years later, in 1837, a young Princess Victoria woke up at the palace to the news of her accession to the throne. In recent years the palace has been home to Princess Margaret – sister of HM Queen Elizabeth II – and Diana, Princess of Wales. It is currently the London home of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The palace closed in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and has since been quiet, with the shutters of its famous galleries closed to protect the remarkable collections on display. Palaces staff have returned to Kensington this week to gradually ‘reawaken’ the palace and install and array of new measures to ensure returning visitors feel safe. Hand sanitiser dispensers and social distancing signage have been installed across the site. Visitors are asked to book in advance, to help Historic Royal Palaces manage capacity, so visitors can enjoy their time at court with plenty of space. The State Apartments and the rooms Queen Victoria grew up in will both be open, with visitors asked to follow a one-way route through the palace.
Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that cares for Kensington Palace, is hoping visitors will show their support for its national treasures by returning for a visit this Summer. The charity is dependent on visitor income and facing a £98 million shortfall in its finances following the pandemic. The return of visitors will make a vital contribution to the charity’s work caring for Kensington Palace and sharing its stories with the public.
Sam Owen, Head of Kensington Palace, said,
‘We are delighted to be welcoming visitors back to the palace again this Thursday. Kensington Palace was built to be enjoyed by hundreds of people and it’s been sad to see it so quiet over the past couple of months. Myself and the team can’t wait to welcome visitors back again and give them a suitably royal welcome. We’ve never needed their support more – each visit is an important contribution to help us maintain this wonderful building for generations to come.’
The gown both for day and evening wear depend on for their effect their perfect cut, rather than on costliness of material. The trousseau includes several useful tailor-built gowns, one of navy serge with open jacket worn over a fawn-coloured Tattersall vest; another of gendarme blue home-spun, and third of brown-fleoked Scotch tweed, which is being made near the bride’s Highland home by a lady who enjoys the patronage of Royalty, was specially charmed with Cuttle Russian coat of gendarme blue cloth, with big square collar and revers sable and quaint strap fastenings on the bodice. The basque was attached to a ribbon belt fastened with buckle of oxidized silver. Cozy wrap of fawnooloured serge was lined through with gray squirrel fur and bordered with soft brown bear fur. The high collar was cut in one with the cloak.
Quaint Spanish buttons of old silver were used on the bodice of useful little gown black diagonal with bands of crimson velvet the skirt and a crimson velvet vest.
For her wedding journey tho Isle of Wight the future Lady Bathurst has selected dress and coat of brown hopsack tweed. The skirt has border of mink and a band petunia-coloured mirror velvet covered with brown passementerie. The bodice has square yoke back and front of the petunia velvet, edged with passementerie. Both coat and skirt are lined with petunia-red shot silk. A large picture hat of brown velvet with plumes of ostrich tips on the left side is to be worn with the dress. Most the future Countess Bathurst’s evening gowns are guiltless of trains, these appendages not being much approved by the sensible and practical young lady.
Among these gowns is a charming dinner dress of white silk, powdered with tiny pink flowers. The hem flounce is run on green and pink baby ribbon, which is knotted here and there, and the bodice and Empire sash are trimmed with gold enamel trimming. A dainty gown of blue moiré has the skirt trimmed with donkey ear bows blue velvet and bands of velvet covered with passementerie of white and colored pearls, the bands forming deep point in front. Another evening dress of de Nil armor silk, with a double flounce of embroidered chiffon arranged pagoda-wise the skirt.
A very pretty Whatteau tea gown in light yellow, has points caught with a rosette on the train and the slight train falls from 8 rosettes between the shoulders. A charming little tea gown in rise pink Lilac silk has full front the silk circled with a quaint chain girdle and clasps of oxidized silver. Dainty dressing gowns, heaps of pretty lingerie, and a variety of headgear were among the wedding finer v displayed in the young bride’s pretty sitting room near the top of Sir Algernon’s high house in Piccadilly, the windows which command magnificent view over the green park.
Above in the picture: Lilias, Countess Bathurst
The most valuable piece from the collection of Countess Bathurst, is an early 20th Century Diamond Tiara, commissioned from Cartier by Lilias, Countess Bathurst (1871-1965).
Made from old and rose-cut diamonds, silver and gold, (circa 1910) the stones were taken from two tiaras, Countess Bathurst inherited from her mother Lady Glenesk.
The tiara and the preceding corsage brooch, is the epitome of aristocratic splendor and the delicate Belle Époque scrolling motifs were inspired by 18th century architectural details.
Compared to many Victorian tiaras with their often heavy style of mounting and high surmounts this early 20th century example must have felt comparatively ethereal, and it is not surprising that Gloria Bathurst clearly enjoyed wearing it and was photographed wearing this beautiful head ornament on various grand occasions.
The story of the jewels from the estate of Princess Henriette of Auersperg, wife of the last Krupp, the Boucheron Art Deco diamond bracelet with pattern of stylized roses and:
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Florence Gould, a patron of the arts, died in her villa on the Mediterranean in 1983. She was 87 years old.
Mrs. Gould had moved to the villa after the death of her husband, Frank Jay Gould, in 1956. She was born in San Francisco, the daughter of Maximilien Lacaze, a French publisher who made his fortune in the United States. She interrupted her career as an opera singer in 1923 when she married Mr. Gould, who was the son of Jay Gould, the American railroad magnate.
When Florence J. Gould, a patron of the arts and daughter-in-law of the railroad magnate Jay Gould, was 80 years old, she packed most of her jewelry and went to Japan and Southeast Asia.
The necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, brooches and clips she took with her on that 1976 trip, jewelry now valued at about $8 million, will be auctioned next Wednesday at Christie’s.
“She let all the women in a geisha house try on her jewels,“ Daniel Wildenstein, the art dealer, recalled of an incident he witnessed as her companion on that journey. He was wary, he said, but Mrs. Gould was not, and “she was proven right – all the jewels came back.“
In Cambodia, Mrs. Gould, generously decked out in gems, traveled by elephant to see the temples of Angkor. On another occasion, Mrs. Gould, wearing rings on her fingers and jewels at her throat, rode off into the Cambodian jungle in a pedicab with only a guide.
“She was full of diamonds,“ Mr. Wildenstein recalled, adding that he feared for the safety of his friend and client.
“I was certain she’d never arrive alive. She wasn’t the least bit afraid. Of course, all was well.“ Mrs. Gould’s jewelry remained intact on that trip, and she wore most of it frequently at El Patio, her villa at Cannes, until her death at 87, a year ago. The bulk of the extraordinary jewelry holdings of the widow of Frank Jay Gould – he was Jay Gould’s youngest child and a real-estate tycoon who developed Juan-les- Pins on the Riviera – will be on view all this weekend and through next Tuesday at Christie’s, Park Avenue at 59th Street.
Not all of Mrs. Gould’s jewelry is in this sale – some pieces were sold earlier, and others were stolen. Following a 1978 theft at her estate, involving $1.4 million worth of jewels, Mrs. Gould spoke lightly of the loss. “She used to say, ‚Thank heaven, they only got my everyday jewelry,‘ “
John Young, a director of the Florence J. Gould Foundation, said, adding that the most valuable pieces stolen were a three-strand necklace of 97 pearls, worth almost $700,000, and an 85-pearl chain.
The purpose of the foundation, which benefits from most of Mrs. Gould’s $100 million estate, is to foster French-American amity. Mrs. Gould, who was born in San Francisco and studied opera before she became Mr. Gould’s third wife in 1923, died without heirs.
The star among the 87 offerings in the sale is a sapphire necklace valued at as much as $1.5 million. The design began as a simple necklace devised by Van Cleef & Arpels, using a spectacular 114.30-carat sapphire, “The Blue Princess,‘‚ with diamonds.
Mrs. Gould subsequently made “The Blue Princess“ the center of an assemblage of sapphires and diamonds, a necklace that she styled and Georges Bidault, a jeweler with a workshop outside Paris, fabricated.
Second only in value to the sapphire is the “Victory“ diamond, 31.35 carats, mounted as a ring, which was named for the Allied victory in World War II because the rough stone from which it was cut was discovered in Sierre Leone in 1945 at the end of the war.
The rough stone was the third- largest ever found in Africa. The ring is estimated to sell for up to $700,000.
Mrs. Gould had a passion for pearls, and more than one superb necklace remains.
A pearl and diamond fringe necklace by Alexander Reza, a Paris jeweler on the Place Vendome is estimated to sell for up to $300,000.
“If we had five of them, we could sell them all, so strong is the interest,“ Francois Curiel, Christie’s jewelry specialist, said. Mr. Reza also fashioned for Mrs. Gould an emerald-bead necklace of carved fluted stones, the size of marbles, which is estimated to bring up to $220,000.
She wore diamonds from head to toe – as Mr. Curiel discovered when he checked her closets and found a pair of diamond clips on her shoes. She wore fakes too – there are three fake diamonds, two fake sapphires and an ersatz emerald in the sale. The fakes and the fish – there are numerous fish-shape pins, crafted of sapphires and diamonds, and of ivory, diamonds and emeralds – are, according to Christie’s, attracting the most interest among lower-price offerings in the sale.
On April 12, 1984 her jewelry was sold for $8 million, the highest price then ever reached at auction for a single collection of jewelry.
Jewelry Collections Of Prominent Women
Jewelry that was owned by three other women who were prominent in their careers and as hostesses will be offered next week in three sales at Sotheby’s, York Avenue at 72d Street. Eleanor (Cissy) Medill Patterson, publisher of The Washington Herald until her death in 1948, was partial to the black-pearl necklace and earrings that will be sold next Thursday at 2 P.M.
Miss Patterson bought the string of 22 natural black pearls, separated by diamonds, with matching ear clips in 1934, when she saw them in the window at Cartier in New York.
According to an account in “Cissy,“ a biography of the publisher by Paul Healy, Cartier had just acquired the jewelry from Prince Youssoupoff, a Romanov, who told Jacques Cartier that two of the pearls had belonged to Catherine the Great.
Miss Patterson left the pearls to Evie Robert, a friend, who was a columnist, and whose daughter Alice Birney Robert Jones is the consignor. Sotheby’s expects the pearls will bring as much as $200,000.
Following the death in 1975 of Perle Mesta, the celebrated party giver who was Minister to Luxembourg under President Harry S. Truman, her jewelry was purchased by an antiques dealer, who sold it to a collector.
Now the collector, who has not been identified, is selling Mrs. Mesta’s suite of aquamarine and diamond jewelry, comprising a necklace, pendant, ear clips and brooch (up to $30,000), and an emerald and diamond brooch (up to $20,000). These will also be auctioned.
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Turquoise and diamond ornament brooch| Royal Wedding gift from the Prince and Princess of Wales to Princess Mary of Teck.
The jewel was a wedding gift in 1893 from Queen Mary’s in-laws, the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
The center of the ornament is a large round turquoise cabochon, surrounded from 14 diamonds.
Above on the left in the picture, Queen Mary wearing the Turquoise Diamond Cluster Brooch with a pendant, it looks like one of the „chips“, the smaller parts of the Cullinan Diamonds.
After her death, in 1953 the turquoise brooch, was inherited by her granddaughter, Elizabeth II.
Queen Elizabeth II, wore the Turquoise and Diamond Brooch three times, at least on 5th April in 2020 when she had addresses to the UK and Commonwealth in a special broadcast recorded at Windsor Castle.
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