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The Fashion Icons of Fine Jewelry

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These are the women who defined 20th-century glamour. From socialites to actresses and royalty, there are certain trendsetters who preferred all things precious and glittering. Check out these six fashion icons of fine jewelry.

1. Barbara Hutton
barbara hutton
Heiress to the Woolworth retail store fortune, Barbara Hutton was one of the wealthiest women in the world before she was even out of her teens. Though the Woolworth fortune was vast, a troubled life led Barbara to spend nearly every penny by the time she passed in 1979 — the only remains of her fortune was her vast jewelry collection.

Hutton was an avid jewelry collector, amassing an impressive private collection throughout her life. One of her favorite gemstones was jade, with her collection featuring stunning Cartier carved jade bangles. She also had a jadeite carved bead necklace featuring 27 graduated jadeite beads of stunning color and translucence. She owned a pearl necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette of France. Her favorite jeweler was, without a doubt, Cartier, and Barbara was a lifelong patron of the French jeweler.

2. Elizabeth Taylor
elizabeth taylor

Last year at a Christie’s auction, Elizabeth Taylor’s private jewelry collection sold at auction for over $137 million in total — the record for a single-owner auction. Elizabeth Taylor was undoubtedly known for her glamour and obsession with precious gemstones. She even has a 33.19-carat diamond named after her, and a 68-carat diamond named after her and her two-time husband Richard Burton.

Her collection included highlights such as the natural 50.56-carat La Peregrina pearl, first discovered in the 1500s. Her collection contained jewels of historic importance and unbelievable provenance. Her collection featured pieces from Cartier, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels and more of the world’s top jewelers. She owned some of the finest emeralds, sapphires and diamonds in the world.

3. Wallis Simpson
wallis simpson

Wallis Simpson held the record for the largest private-jewelry auction before Elizabeth Taylor’s collection took the title. The American-born Duchess of Windsor was known for her style, sophistication and taste in fine jewelry. At a Sotheby’s auction in 1987, her collection sold for a total of $53.5 million across 214 items.

King Edward VIII of the British Royal Family showered Wallis with expensive jewelry gifts and eventually abdicated the throne so he could marry the woman he loved. At the 1987 auction, her 31-carat diamond ring sold for $3.15 million. Elizabeth Taylor bought the Three Ostrich Plume Diamond Brooch which was designed by Edward as a gift for Simpson before their wedding. Simpson had a love for Cartier, especially panthere jewelry. Edward had two impressive panthere pieces commissioned for Simpson and the Duchess of Windsor is even thought to have started the big cat trend in fine jewelry. In 2010, her Cartier panthere bracelet sold for $7.4 million.

4. Daisy Fellowes
daisy fellowes
Dasiy Fellowes was heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune as well as a French aristocrat. Fellowes was known for her style, intelligence, humor and beauty. She even served as the Paris editor of the American Harper’s Bazaar. Her sophisticated and often daring style included the finest jewels of the 20th century.

One of her most famous possessions was the Cartier Tutti Frutti necklace, the prototypical ideal of the Cartier icon. Fellowes had bought two tutti frutti bracelets and a necklace from Cartier and then commissioned a new design from the French jeweler. Fellowes’ pieces provided 785 gemstones, including 594 diamonds, and Cartier contributed an additional 238 diamonds and 8 rubies to complete the piece. The piece is called the Collier Hindou and was purchased by Cartier at an auction in 1991 for $2.65 million.

5. Grace Kelly
grace kelly

Grace Kelly was both fashion royalty and actual royalty. After marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco, Princess Grace had her name attached to the Hermes Kelly bag and accessories. Her favorite designers were French favorites Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Her engagement ring given by Prince Rainier was a 10.47-carat Cartier emerald-cut diamond ring.

One of Grace’s well-known pieces is a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond tiara she wore only once to her daughter’s wedding. The tiara features 144 diamonds, for a total of 77.34 carats, and is set in platinum and white gold. The tiara has since been in Van Cleef and Arpels’ possession. Princess Grace’s collection also featured a stunning platinum and ruby tiara by Cartier and several animal-inspired brooches.

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