Wednesday, February 17, 2010


“Star of South Africa Broach was once owned by the Duchess of Windsor. Reportedly sold in Auction for $20,000,000.”

Marla’s good friend, Lea, told us that we “HAD” to see the fantastic “Cartier and America” exhibit at the Legion of Honor during a trip to San Francisco this month. I must say that I was amazed! The largest collection of Cartier jewelry ever assembled was on display to honor their 100th anniversary in America. The clients are a Who’s Who of America’s most wealthy women and famous movie stars. Jewelry from Grace Kelly, Doris Duke, Margaret Merriweather Post, Barbara Hutton, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others were on display. It was all about glitter, and the glitterati were definitely out in force. Humphrey Bogart once said in the Maltese Falcon, “This is the stuff that dreams are made of.” What a perfect quote for the exhibit.

The Legion of Honor was a gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels to San Francisco and completed in 1924. It is a ¾ scale imitation of the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris. This is one of my very favorite museums; a true jewel box.

A statue of El Cid graces the lawn in front of the Legion of Honor, seemingly pointing toward the Marin Highlands across the bay. The museum is perfectly situated in Lincoln Park with views of Marin County and the Golden Gate Bridge. I once rode past it during the cycling leg of the “Escape From Alcatraz” triathlon.

Prince Rainier III gave Grace Kelly a Cartier 10.47 carat emerald cut engagement ring. She wore it in the 1956 movie, “High Society.” In the movie, Bing Crosby quips, ”Some stone, did you mine it yourself?”

“Movie poster for the movie “High Society.”

Cartier “London” Emerald Necklace of 1932. The emerald is 143 carats!

206 carat sapphire pendant Cartier created in 1951. This was once in the collection of the Duchess of Windsor for whom the King of England abdicated his crown.

Gloria Swanson helped Cartier design a pair of unusual deco style bracelets. She wore them in the movie, “Sunset Boulevard.”

“Barbara Hutton wearing a magnificent Cartier necklace.”

Barbara Hutton was once one of the wealthiest women in the world and a big customer of Cartier. After the death of her troubled mother, Edna Woolworth Hutton, Barbara eventually inherited the modern equivalent of $1 billion dollars. Married seven times, often to parasitic husbands, Barbara’s life was swept up in a tailspin of emotional problems. It was reported that when she died at 66, all that was left of her fortune was $ 4,000, the result of bad business managers, fortune-hunting husbands and lovers. She was definitely in the “money can’t buy you happiness” category.

“Barbara Hutton is wearing a regal Cartier tiara.”

“Barbara Hutton’s famous tiger ear clips and broach.”

Cartier’s “Mystery” clocks are a marvel of craftsmanship and ingenuity. The clock’s hands seemingly float behind the rock crystal face. Now that is something I would like!

“Elizabeth Taylor at Villa Fiorentina on the Cote d’Azur.”

Is there is anyone living today that loves jewelry more than Elizabeth Taylor? The picture above, shows Liz wearing the Cartier diamond & ruby necklace that her husband Mike Todd gave her in 1957. She is quoted as saying “I just shrieked with joy, put my arms around Mike’s neck and pulled him into the pool after me. It was a perfect summer day and a day of perfect love.”

Elizabeth is absolutely radiant next to her husband, Richard Burton, wearing one of the numerous jewels he gave her. He made headlines when he gave her a 69 carat pearl shaped Cartier diamond, later known as the Burton-Taylor Diamond, in 1969. They don’t make too many husbands like old Richard. She must have thought so, since she married him twice.

“Cartier necklace from the 1920’s known as the “Tutti-frutti” style. It was once owned by the famous socialite of that era, Daisy Fellowes.”

“Famous actress of the Mexican cinema, Maria Felix”

Maria Felix (1914-2002) was a connoisseur of fine jewelry, especially Cartier. In 1975 she asked Cartier to design a special necklace for her in the shape of two crocodiles. One side had 1023 diamonds and the other side had 1060, round cut emeralds. She was dressed by haute couture designers like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, & Balenciaga. Hermes designed items strictly for her. The top picture shows Maria Felix wearing her Cartier crocodile necklaces and bracelets. She must have been a very dramatic lady!

The 45.5 carat blue “Hope” diamond was once owned by Louis XIV of France. Cartier sold the precious bauble to Evalyn Walsh Mclean in 1910 for $154,000. Harry Winston donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958.

“Dede Wilsey & John Traina at the Cartier in America Patron’s dinner.”

Dede Wilsey was instrumental in bringing “Cartier and America” to San Francisco. She is shown wearing her Cartier necklace next to her ex-husband, John Traina, who also collects Cartier. He owns a platinum Cartier cigarette case trimmed in sapphires. It was originally gifted to Somerset Maugham by Tyrone Power in 1946 during the filming of Maugham’s novel,“The Razor’s Edge.” (John Traina married novelist Danielle Steel later in life.)

Cartier still inspires and dazzles. Italian actress, Monica Belluci, is shown wearing a beautiful Cartier necklace at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

In the 1953 film, Gentleman Prefer Blonds, Marilyn Monroe sings “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” For many that may be very true.


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