The present necklace, created by the prominent Viennese jeweller, Hgler, was worn at the coronation of King George VI in May 1937. Typical of designs at the time, it is set entirely in diamonds and boasts some important sized stones.
Jewels by Hgler seldom come up for auction. Founded in 1871 by Julius Hgler, the firm was furnisher to the Imperial Court until the demise of the monarchy, and up to the Second World War, had branches in Karlsbad, Germany, and Cairo, Egypt.
During the 1930s, and again in the 1950s, jewels were created almost entirely in white diamonds, in stark contrast to those of the Art Deco period. Throughout the roaring twenties, colour abounded, probably in reaction to the dreary war years, but also as a result of movements in the visual arts. Not to be neglected, as well, is the influence exerted by Sergei de Diaghilev's Ballets Russes costumes and stage designs, as well as the colourful Indian jewels that were being brought to England and France by the Maharajahs and European jewellery dealers.
After the "tutti-frutti" craze witnessed at the end of the 1920s, the 1929 "Exposition de Bijouterie-Joaillerie" at the Galliera Museum in Paris' seizime arrondissement was awash with white. Though pieces were occasionally set with one, or a few, same-coloured, important sized gemstones to add contrast, the audacious Art Deco colour combinations had vanished. In spite of the stock market crash in the same year, jewellery production continued. In a March 1929 "Vogue" editorial, the versatility of diamonds was emphasized: "to black and dark blue they impart brilliance, while they enhance the brilliance of white."
As the feminine silhouette once more appeared in the long, close-to-the-body evening dresses of sumptuous satiny silk, the perfect compliment to the sheen of the materials was large expanses of diamonds. The necklaces and bracelets were bold and scuptural. The earrings, contrary to the elongated versions of the Deco period, tended to be around the ear in scrolls, complimenting the new longer and more feminine hairstyles. A review of fashion photographs at the time depicting models by such designers as Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975), Lucien Lelong (1889-1958) and Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) confirms these trends.
At the end of the thirties, gold experienced a revival, perhaps as it was a less expensive material, in keeping with the Depression. It was only after the Second World War that the white jewels returned. It was as if the world's jewellers had taken up where they had left off in the late thirties. Hence, it is not uncommon for the most knowledgeable of specialists to experience difficulty in differentiating between 1930s and 1950s diamond creations.
In 1947, Christian Dior introduced the "New Look". The huge skirts, sometimes requiring up to twenty-five yards of fabric, were made more voluminous by tulle. They radiated out like flowers from tinsy waists. Pearls and diamonds were "de rigueur", once again the white look was in fashion. The most important couturiers, such as Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972), ascribed to the trend which seems to have borrowed much from the fashions of the Second Empire.
Though there has been an undercurrent of colourful jewellery in the past three decades, much of the most sumptuous creations have been in the all-white vein, the ever more discreet mounts letting the stones speak for themselves. The figure behind this new concept was, without question, Harry Winston (1896-1975).
The famous image of Marilyn Monroe, dripping in diamonds and singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953) no doubt immortalized not only the actress, but the belief that the most luxurious way to be jewelled is all in white, from head to hand.