Understated elegance A First Lady’s Jewelry and Handbags

Understated elegance: A First Lady’s Jewelry and Handbags

Our selection of 10 accessories from the auction and online sales of The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan epitomises the former First Lady's classic taste

  • 1
  • A diamond and gold lion pendant-brooch necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels

A diamond and gold lion pendant-brooch necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Suspending a detachable pendant-brooch, designed as sculpted and textured 18k-gold lions head with circular-cut diamond eyes. Estimate $30,000-50,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York

A diamond and gold lion pendant-brooch necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Suspending a detachable pendant-brooch, designed as sculpted and textured 18k-gold lion's head with circular-cut diamond eyes. Estimate: $30,000-50,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

This versatile lion pendant-brooch necklace was worn repeatedly by Mrs. Reagan in each of its various forms — as both longer and shorter necklaces, with and without the pendant brooch and/or the matching earrings. Each quarter section of chain can also be worn as a bracelet. The First Lady was famously photographed alongside Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wearing this necklace during a state visit to the United Kingdom in 1988.

  • 2
  • A shiny black porosus crocodile Mini Kelly 20 shoulder bag by Hermès

A shiny black porosus crocodile Mini Kelly 20 shoulder bag, Hermès, 1987. Estimate $10,000-15,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York
A shiny black porosus crocodile Mini Kelly 20 shoulder bag, Hermès, 1987. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

There is no bag more iconic, coveted or collectible than the Hermès Kelly bag. This beautiful, exotic crocodile iteration in the petite 20cm size makes this particular Kelly an eloquent statement piece typical of Mrs. Reagan’s sophisticated style.

  • 3
  • An American flag diamond, sapphire and ruby ring by Bulgari

A diamond, sapphire and ruby ring, by Bulgari. Set with square-cut sapphires, rubies and diamonds in an American flag motif, ring size 5 ½. Estimate $5,000-7,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York

A diamond, sapphire and ruby ring, by Bulgari. Set with square-cut sapphires, rubies and diamonds in an American flag motif, ring size 5 ½. Estimate: $5,000-7,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

The Italian jewel house was a favourite of Mrs. Reagan and she was often adorned with Bulgari jewellery for state dinners and formal White House functions. This ring was worn on 4 July 1986 for Liberty Weekend celebrations aboard the USS Iowa in New York Harbor.

  • 4
  • A cream satin envelope clutch bag by Judith Leiber

A patron of American fashion houses and designers, the First Lady chose one of her favourite accessories designers, Judith Leiber, to design purses for the inauguration dinners in 1981 and 1984. This crystal Art Deco ornament handbag is a copy of the original Leiber bag created to be worn with the First Lady’s white ensemble during the second inauguration ball in 1984.

  • 5
  • A diamond, sapphire and ruby pendant necklace by Oscar Heyman & Brothers

A diamond, sapphire and ruby pendant necklace, by Oscar Heyman & Brothers. The fine-link 18k-gold neck chain suspending a circular-cut diamond, calibré-cut sapphire and ruby 76, circa 1976, 16 in, mounted in platinum and 18k-gold, engraved NANCY, LOVE DEEDIE-TOM’, in an Oscar Heyman & Brothers grey suede case. Estimate $2,000-3,000. This lot will be offered in The Private

A diamond, sapphire and ruby pendant necklace, by Oscar Heyman & Brothers. The fine-link 18k-gold neck chain suspending a circular-cut diamond, calibré-cut sapphire and ruby '76', circa 1976, 16 in, mounted in platinum and 18k-gold, engraved 'NANCY, LOVE DEEDIE-TOM’, in an Oscar Heyman & Brothers grey suede case. Estimate: $2,000-3,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

This patriotic pendant necklace by American jeweller Oscar Heyman & Bros. is inscribed on the reverse, ‘NANCY, LOVE DEEDIE-TOM’, and was almost certainly a gift to Mrs. Reagan from Tom and Deedie Chauncey. Dated to 1976, it was perhaps offered to mark the end of her successful tenure as First Lady of California.

The Chaunceys were family friends of the Reagans who lived in Arizona. The Reagans often visited Arizona to see Mrs. Reagan’s mother Edith and stepfather Dr. Loyal Davis, and during these trips they would also spend time with the Chaunceys. Tom Chauncey owned a radio station, and Deedie was a member of the Wrigley gum family of Chicago. The Chaunceys were passionate about horses, which no doubt forged a bond with the Reagans, who purchased horses from them over the years.

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  • A red satin tassel boroso clutch bag by Judith Leiber and Yves Saint Laurent

Mrs. Reagan regularly chose a petite evening clutch over a larger top handle or shoulder bag to accompany her stylish ensembles while performing her duties as First Lady. She was often seen toting a Judith Leiber clutch in her favoured colour, ‘Nancy Reagan red’.

  • 7
  • A coral, diamond and gold brooch by Ruser

A coral, diamond and gold brooch, by Ruser. Designed as openwork sculpted gold leaves, set with oval cabochon red corals and circular-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum and 18k-gold. Estimate $2,000-3,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christies in New York

A coral, diamond and gold brooch, by Ruser. Designed as openwork sculpted gold leaves, set with oval cabochon red corals and circular-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum and 18k-gold. Estimate: $2,000-3,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York

Renowned Beverly Hills jeweller William Ruser was a favourite of Mrs. Reagan, and she had a number of his pieces in her collection. She wore this coral, diamond and gold brooch in a 1965 portrait of her family at the Reagans’ California ranch, seen above. Coral is well represented in the former First Lady’s collection and she collected various shades, from pink-suffused angel skin coral to the deep red variety seen here.

The red coral accents on this brooch by Ruser recall Mrs. Reagan’s signature ‘red’ that carried through much of her wardrobe and accessories. One of President Reagan’s earliest gifts to his wife was from William Ruser: a gold key necklace to congratulate her on getting her own dressing room at MGM.

  • 8
  • A silver and turquoise Navajo concho belt by C.M. Yazzie

A silver and turquoise Navajo concho belt, C.M. Yazzie. Estimate $200-300. This lot is offered in the Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan Online Auction, 19-28 September

A silver and turquoise Navajo concho belt, C.M. Yazzie. Estimate: $200-300. This lot is offered in the Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan Online Auction, 19-28 September

President and Mrs. Reagan spent much of their free time at their beloved Ranch House near Santa Barbara, Rancho del Cielo. The First Lady adapted her style to reflect life on the Santa Ynez mountain range, incorporating silver jewellery such as this beloved Navajo concho belt.

  • 9
  • Cultured pearl and diamond necklace

Cultured pearl and diamond necklace. Designed as a strand of cultured pearls with a diamond and white-gold clasp. Metal 18k. Diamonds 11 round diamonds with approximate total weight of 0.15 carats. Cultured pearls 41 round cultured pearl beads measuring approximately 8.5 mm. 16½ inches in length. Marks ITALY, 18K. Gross Weight 41.9 grams. Estimate $1,000-$1,500. This lot is offered in the

Cultured pearl and diamond necklace. Designed as a strand of cultured pearls with a diamond and white-gold clasp. Metal: 18k. Diamonds: 11 round diamonds with approximate total weight of 0.15 carats. Cultured pearls: 41 round cultured pearl beads measuring approximately 8.5 mm. 16½ inches in length. Marks: ITALY, 18K. Gross Weight: 41.9 grams. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500. This lot is offered in the Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan Online Auction, 19-28 September

Where would a First Lady be without her pearls? Mrs. Reagan wore hers often and wore them well. She had a variety of pearl necklaces, and this one is a classic graduated single-strand. Pearls are among the oldest and most universal of gems, worn by royalty and nobility throughout history, and desired not only for their rarity but also for their whiteness — a symbol of purity.

  • 10
  • A trio of Chanel flap bags

A black and cream lambskin leather single flap bag, a navy quilted clutch bag and a light brown leather single flap bag, Chanel, 1990s. Estimate $500-700. This lot is offered in the Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan Online Auction, 19-28 September

A black and cream lambskin leather single flap bag, a navy quilted clutch bag and a light brown leather single flap bag, Chanel, 1990s. Estimate: $500-700. This lot is offered in the Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan Online Auction, 19-28 September

The Chanel flap bag was designed with the modern woman in mind, an ideal exemplified by Mrs. Reagan throughout her lifetime as an actress, First Lady and active political figure during her post-presidential life. Mrs. Reagan’s outfits were incomplete without the perfect accessory, such as these iconic Chanel flap bags, which she often carried with her.