Composed of thirty-six graduated oval-shaped amethyst collets interspersed with twin rectangular-cut amethysts or twin diamond-set bar links, can be styled as a belt, or detached and worn as three necklaces of varying lengths, mounted in gold, total length 140.0 cm (3)
'A Casket of Highly Important Jewels: The Property of the late Gladys Marie, Dowager Duchess of Marlborough', Christie's London, 5 July 1978, lot 80.

Lot Essay

A year after she died at the age of 97, 'A Casket of Highly Important Jewels' that had been the property of Gladys Marie, Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, came to auction at Christie's on 5 July 1978. This sale reminded everyone of the woman who once had inspired writers like Marcel Proust, who wrote after their first meeting in 1907: 'I never saw a girl with such beauty, such magnificent intelligence, such goodness and charm.' Those who knew her in her youth agreed with Proust that she was extraordinary attractive, and for years she was pursued by many of the most eligible bachelors in Europe. But it was not until her fortieth year that she finally married the 9th Duke of Marlborough.

Gladys was born in Paris in 1881, the progeny of two well-established and extremely wealthy American families, the Deacons and the Baldwins. Her parents, Edward and Florence Deacon, were part of the fashionable American set who made their base in Europe and thrived on the high social lifestyle on both side of the Atlantic. Gladys was the eldest of four sisters and grew to be the most beautiful and most intelligent of them all. From her mother she had inherited not only her striking looks but also her deep passion for the arts. Her early years were spent in the company of the best of European and American society and the elite of the artistic world.

The 1978 sale of her casket described lot 80 as an 'Important Amethyst and Diamond Belt Ornament'. The long chains of amethysts and diamonds were originally part of a sumptuous sautoir first ordered by Gladys in 1926 from Cartier, London. During this period, Cartier was creating wonderful interpretations of this extremely fashionable jewel. The first design of this sautoir was a long chain of oval amethysts connected by links of baton-shaped amethysts and diamonds, and the clasp was designed as an open circle set with calibré-cut turquoises and diamonds, connected by an amethyst-set fob attachment. From Cartier's records, it is clear that the Marlboroughs supplied the 34 larger amethysts and four diamonds, previously set in a brooch. The turquoises and the baton-shaped amethysts, together with a further nearly 20 carats of diamonds were supplied by Cartier. The clasp of this sautoir, was sold as a brooch. In 1928, Gladys had the sautoir altered yet again so it could be worn as a two row necklace together with detachable diamond panels.

Although modified several times through the years, this versatile sautoir is still today set with the magnificent amethysts of the Duchess of Marlborough.

Text from the book 'Famous Jewelry Collectors, Thames & Hudson, 1999. Courtesy of Mr Stefano Papi.

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