Described as having a ‘personal magnetism’ by Ernest Hemingway, Marlene Dietrich was anything but ordinary. Known for her unmistakable voice and boundary pushing style amongst a plethora of other defining characteristics, Dietrich was one of the greatest and most glamorous women of her time.
Born in Berlin in 1901 as Marie Magdelene Dietrich, it has been said that her nickname growing up was ‘Lena’. It was not long before she combined her first two names into the infamous ‘Marlene’ that would later become a household name.
As a young woman, Marlene’s sights were set on playing the violin professionally. After a wrist injury, her interests quickly pivoted to acting as she auditioned for drama school. Though she was not accepted into the school, Marlene was persistent and began to land small roles on the stage and in films.
Working throughout Germany in the 1920s, the importance of Marlene’s stage and film roles continued to grow. In 1923, while working on the film set for The Tragedy of Love, Marlene met her husband Rudolf Sieber and the two married that same year. The following year they welcomed their daughter, Maria.
Her undeniable talent caught the eye of famed filmmaker Josef Von Sternberg and she was cast in what is known to be one of her breakthrough roles as Lola Lola in The Blue Angel (1930). Riding on the film’s success alongside Von Sternberg, Marlene and her family headed to the United States and landed in Hollywood. Now working closely with Paramount Pictures, the public began to take notice of Marlene’s unique persona and appeal, and she quickly became one of the most popular film and music stars of the time. In the mid-1930s after a few years of success at Paramount, Dietrich began pursuing other routes, officially ending her creative partnership with Von Sternberg.
After trying her hand at new genres of films, Marlene became a staunch advocate for one thing in particular – the US War effort. After renouncing her German citizenship, and becoming a US citizen in the late 1930s, she used her position in the spotlight to help sell war bonds for World War II. In addition to selling war bonds, Dietrich could be found volunteering with other Hollywood greats at the Hollywood canteen location for off-duty soldiers.
In 1944 and 1945 Marlene embarked on two tours with the USO where she performed for troops in France, Italy, Algeria and Germany. Her performances included hit songs from her films, a mindreading act taught to her by close friend Orson Welles, and playing a musical saw. The conditions of each tour location varied, and it is said that Marlene would perform without power, that she would sleep in tents, and even worked extremely close to the front lines.
Dietrich’s profound dedication to the US war effort and her support of the troops did not go unnoticed. In 1947 she was awarded two of the highest honors - the Medal of Freedom by the US government, and the Légion d’Honneur by the French government.
Marlene returned to the screen and stage in the late 1940s and into the 1950s, in films such as A Foreign Affair (1948) and Stage Fright (1950) by Alfred Hitchcock. Working with notable fashion and jewelry houses in these films, Dietrich formed lasting relationships with Christian Dior, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Louis Arpels even became a close personal friend. This relationship with Mr. Arpels led to the ideation and creation of one of the most extraordinary pieces of jewelry ever to be made - Marlene Dietrich’s ruby and diamond ‘Jarretière’ bracelet.
A true work of art crafted in 1937 by Van Cleef & Arpels’ expert jewelers, Dietrich’s incredible cuff bracelet features oval-shaped rubies, round, square-shaped and baguette-cut diamonds, all set in striking platinum.
Well known for being featured in several scenes in Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950), Marlene’s character Charlotte coolly clasps on the iconic bracelet while in heated conversations with co-star Richard Todd’s character, Jonathan. She donned the bracelet again at the Oscars in 1951 where she was a presenter.
As seen in photos of Marlene wearing her bracelet, the ‘Jarretière’ cuff sits fiercely above the wrist. The front of the bracelet features dramatic curving loops of rubies alongside geometric square and baguette-cut diamonds; each stone carefully set into the metal one by one. The loops guide one’s eye to the reverse, where small round pave-set diamonds cover the elevated underside, gesturing to an almost floral shape. All sitting atop of the twinning diamond elements that create the foundation for the rubies and diamonds above.
With a simple click of a pin, the bracelet is fastened on to the wrist, resulting in one harmonious form.
Housed in a custom Mark Cross case stamped with an ‘MD’, this cuff bracelet was said to be her favorite jewel and the only piece she kept until her passing, having sold a large part of her collection through Christie’s during her lifetime. This exceptional Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet dared to push boundaries in the late 1930s, much like Dietrich herself was known to do.
An iconic symbol for men and women on and off the screen, Dietrich passed away in the 1990s at her home in Paris. She is buried in her native Berlin near her family, where visitors are able to pay their respects and honor a woman of such immense caliber.
Originally first sold at auction in 1992, this spectacular bracelet gives an extraordinary opportunity to acquire one of the greatest examples of 20th century jewelry design.