At the Rothschild Proust ball of 1971, amongst the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor was a giddy Duchess of Windsor, bedecked in a set of looming canary diamonds.
The American socialite – as famous for her ostentatious jewelry collection as she was for her love affair with British king Edward VIII, who abdicated his throne in 1936 to marry her – waved her left hand around ‘like a mad Goya,’ as Cecil Beaton later described her that night; the main attraction being a 47.17-carat heart-shaped yellow diamond that protruded from her bony ring finger.
It was nearly seven years later that her friend Estée Lauder bought, and then refashioned, that very diamond into an even more grandiose pendant necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels. And now the $2 million jewel, along with an internally flawless 6.54-carat pink diamond ring with a pre-sale estimate of $4 million, will assume star-status at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale on December 5th – where the collections of Estée and Evelyn Lauder, who died in 2004 and 2011 respectively, will be auctioned to benefit The American Breast Cancer Foundation.
However the cosmetic empresses’ collection isn’t the only sparkling legacy lined-up for the holiday season’s upcoming diamond sales. Rival Christies’ 76.02-carat cushion-shaped diamond, from the ancient Indian Golconda mines, not-so-subtly gives the late Lauder ladies a run for both magic, and size.
The diamond, a perfect D colour with internally flawless clarity, was named after its first recorded owner: Archduke Joseph August of Austria, the great grandson of both Emperor Leopold II, and King Louis Philippe of France. It is widely believed he gave the diamond to his son, Archduke Joseph Francis, who died in 1956 and purportedly deposited it in the vault of the Hungarian General Credit Bank in 1933.
The paperweight-sized colorless stone sits amongst 349 whimsical diamonds offered in Christies’ Magnificent Jewels sale on November 13th – a collection of delicate bracelets, antique rings and neck-grazing earrings that are all over the spectrum from a cost perspective, but have one common thread; they are simply labeled ‘property of a lady’.
It can be said that certain things never go out of style, for a lady. A cotton blue shirt, a little black dress, a cashmere sweater… an heirloomed diamond Cartier Trinity ring. It is such Cartier classics, with their forever-contemporary but always timeless sensibility, that makes up a sizable portion of auction house Phillips’ December 6th sale, titled Jewels.
Whether they are conventionally dainty, imposingly geometric or serious sparklers, these diamonds are the kind of perennial pieces that at once appear illustrious, but also unassuming; the kind of enduring jewels you hope to one day leave your own daughter.
Because as Estée Lauder herself once said – while advising mothers on what they should bequeath to their daughters-in-law – “Trust and love are wonderful, but don’t forget the diamond earrings.”