Mr. Wolcott Blair and Mrs. Ellen Yuille Blair, Cannes, France, 1926.
THE BLAIR FAMILY
Described by Harper’s Bazaar in October 1927 as “extremely popular in the younger fashionable set,” Mr. Wolcott Blair and Mrs. Ellen Yuille Blair were highly admired for their excellent sense of fashion and design from the 1920s through the 1960s. The Blairs often appeared in magazines and newspapers that featured fne living and society’s best dressed.Wolcott Blair, a grandson of Chauncey
Buckley Blair, who founded Merchant’s Bank of Chicago and was an early supporter of the Art Institute of Chicago, grew up in Chicago. He attended Yale College and became a successful investor. Often surrounded by noteworthy company, Mr. Blair gained notoriety in international social circles after he hosted his friend, the Duke of Windsor, in Chicago in 1924.
Ellen Yuille Blair was born in North Carolina to Nancy Williams Yuille and Thomas Burks Yuille and raised in Virginia before her family moved to New York.
Mr. Yuille developed an expertise in the management of commodities at the American Tobacco Company and went on to serve as a respected oficer, president, and director of numerous manufacturing and commodities companies. The eldest of four famous siblings, Ellen Yuille Blair attended the Oldfelds School, where she became an accomplished equestrian and met Wallis Warfeld, the future Duchess of Windsor. The two became lifelong friends.
Two years after their marriage in 1926 and after the birth of their son, Watson Keep Blair, Mr. and Mrs. Wolcott Blair left Chicago and divided their time between New York City, Long Island, Palm Beach, and Islesboro, Maine.
It was in Palm Beach where the Blairs built a highly acclaimed home. The architect Maurice Fatio of Treanor & Fatio designed the home in 1936, and Ruby Ross Woods and Billy Baldwin decorated it. The foorplan allowed for plenty of sunlight, and large windows could be lowered pneumatically to be fush with the foor to allow access to the gardens. This, combined with a crisp white and muted color theme, embodied the indoor-outdoor feel of Palm Beach. The home was admired for its clean elegance and photographed for such publications as Vogue, the Palm Beach Daily News, and Harper’s Bazaar.
As refected particularly in their jewelry, Mr. and Mrs. Blair’s sense of design was also infuenced by extensive travels in Europe, India, and Tibet in the early 1930’s.
Christie’s is honored to present property from the collection of Wolcott and Ellen Yuille Blair. The majority of the items in this collection were originally obtained by the couple and descended directly to their son, Mr. Watson Keep Blair, who proudly displayed the wonderful objects and art in his homes in New York City, Long Island, and Jupiter Island. The collection truly embodies the elegance and sophistication of this glamourous couple and the life they enjoyed together with their son, family and friends.
The sophistication and elegance refected in the Blairs’ homes was also apparent in their taste in jewelry. Their collection was passed onto their son, Mr. Watson Keep Blair, who continued to appreciate the items and nourish the assemblage. With a keen eye, the Blairs not only purchased, but also commissioned many unique pieces from noteworthy frms such as Buccellati, Cartier, René Boivin, Tifany & Co., and Van Cleef & Arpels.
In 1935, the Blairs’ home in Long Island, New York was robbed of over $100,000 worth of jewelry. The event fooded the newspapers, noting that ten servants were in the house at the time of the robbery and yet, the burglar was able to escape. Mr. Blair had been away for the evening and Mrs. Blair was attending a dinner at the time. The burglary was exposed the following day when Mrs. Blair asked for her jewelry to be brought to her and her maid discovered it missing. Due to the robbery, the Blairs made signifcant purchases in the late 1930s and 1940s in order to refurbish their collection and attempt to fll the absence of the lost jewels.
The Blairs’ meticulous records provide further insight into the family’s collecting habits. Countless receipts from Cartier reveal the couple’s close relationship with the frm and frequency of their purchases. Original records of this nature and completeness are rare. The
inventory listings and past receipts help to also create a timeline of the family’s acquisitions. Diamond covered Art Deco jewels, carved precious stones and natural and cultured pearls were prudently obtained throughout the Blairs’ lives and travels. Their collection was not simply an arbitrary cluster of jewelry acquired over time, but a thoughtful grouping that captured both the elegant lifestyle of the Blairs, as well as the periods of design from which each jewel was created.
The Blairs also kept detailed notes on the jewels they disassembled and reworked as trends changed and new styles emerged. Fellow fashion arbiters, such as the Duchess of Windsor, Daisy Fellows and Mona von Bismarck were also known for recreating their jewelry.
They took elements from their existing pieces and refashioned them with new additions to create notable pieces that captured the mood of the period and yet were entirely unique.
Lot 315, the Art Deco multi-gem and diamond elephant brooch, by Boivin, is a brilliant example of Mrs. Blair’s awareness of trends and adaptability of style. Through the family’s records, it is known that Mrs. Blair had ordered a tutti fruitti bracelet from Cartier in 1932. By the late 1930s, fashion had changed and the tutti fruitti motif was no longer as desirable as it had been in the decade prior. Mrs. Blair was recognized as a style icon and socialite, but her sense of style went beyond simply wearing a piece of jewelry. In a sketch from Vogue 1947, Mrs. Blair is depicted wearing the elephant brooch at her collar. Intelligently commissioned pieces, such as this brooch that the Boivin workshop was able to adapt from Mrs. Blair’s previously owned bracelet, is a true testament to the conceptual creativity she possessed.
Lot 315. An Art Deco ruby, emerald and diamond elephant brooch, by René Boivin. Estimate USD 50,000 - USD 70,000. Price realised USD 223,500. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as an old-cut diamond elephant, with calibré-cut ruby and cabochon emerald headdress, onyx eye, calibré-cut ruby and emerald bead saddle and calibré-cut emerald and cabochon ruby anklets, to the old-cut diamond tree with carved ruby leaves and emerald bead fruit, 1939, 3 1/2 ins., with French assay marks for platinum. With maker's mark (partially obscured)
Accompanied by a copy of a two page receipt from René Boivin
Provenance: Purchased from René Boivin, 1 August 1939, for 18,000 Francs.
Notes: Mrs. Blair notes in her hand on the receipt "remaking & resetting bracelet of rubies, diamonds and emeralds into elephant". According to family archives, the Blairs had ordered a carved ruby, emerald bead and diamond tutti frutti bracelet from Cartier in 1932. As fashion changed, we assume that Mrs. Blair had this bracelet dismantled and reset into various pieces of jewelry, including the present elephant brooch from Boivin.
René Bouché / Vogue, July 1947 © Condé Nast
Mrs. Ellen Yuille Blair in India, circa 1935
In the mid-1950s, an insurance listing and hand-written inventory from the family archives, reveal that the Blairs had also worked with the Boivin workshop to create Lot 296, a gold and diamond watch bracelet. We can speculate that the watch bracelet was created from an antique gold bracelet that was acquired abroad and was married with a Cartier watch face, inscribed at the reverse ‘Watson Blair, Glen Head Long Island 12-25-45’. The two pieces come together to create a chic watch bracelet, unique and fashionable.
Lot 296. A gold and diamond watch bracelet, circa 1955. Estimate USD 50,000 - USD 70,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Of manual back-wind movement, the rectangular white dial with black Roman numerals and blue steeled hands, within a sculpted gold hinged surround, to the sculpted gold band centering upon collet-set circular-cut diamonds, circa 1955, 2 1/2 ins. diameter, with French assay mark for 18k gold, case back is inscribed "Watson Blair, Glen Head, Long Island 12-25-45". Dial signed Cartier, case back, no. 90214 077, bracelet with maker's mark for Robert Daviere.
Note: It is likely that Boivin modified the present bangle watch for the Blairs using an antique gold bracelet purchased abroad and a Cartier watch. Accompanied by copies of two pages from the Blair family archives relating to the provenance of this wristwatch. The first is an insurance listing from 1956 stating “one gold bracelet (purchased abroad)…to be attached to a watch purchased from Cartier Dec. 1947…this item now undergoing elaborate alterations which will alter its value…”. The second is a list in Mrs. Blair’s hand listing a group of her watches including “Boivin Gold & Diamond Bracelet”. The bracelet of this watch bears French assay and maker’s marks for Robert Daviere, one of Boivin’s most frequently used workshops. Therefore it is thought that this is the watch mentioned in both documents.
Their avid selectiveness when purchasing jewelry and the foresight used to bring together diferent pieces for new creations exemplifes the careful thought that the family put into the items they acquired. The Blairs were not just consumers but intelligent collectors. From jewelry to home furnishings and art, they were tastemakers in their own right and Christie’s is honored to present property from their family collection.
Lot 295. An antique ruby, diamond and rock crystal parasol set, by Tiffany & Co. Estimate USD 8,000 - USD 12,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
The rock crystal trimmed by oval cabochon rubies, the base set with circular-cut rubies and rose-cut diamonds, with gold parasol tip and eight spoke tips, circa 1890, 3 1/2 ins. (parasol handle), in a fitted beige leather case stamped on in the interior Tiffany & Co. Avenue del'Opera 36 BIS, Paris and with the initials M.J.A. on the exterior. With maker's mark for Tiffany & Co. Paris.
Note: By the beginning of the twentieth century, renowned American jewelry house Tiffany had expanded into Europe and had more than a thousand employees, with salons in London, Geneva and Paris. On the corner of Rue de la Paix and the Place de l’Opera, the Paris location placed Tiffany alongside the most prestigious of Parisian jewelers. Not only did Tiffany’s presence in France allow for higher visibility to the firm’s expanding European clientele, the location provided new access to diverse workshops and highly skilled craftsmen, some with specialized techniques which did not yet exist in America. Relationships with these workshops proved to be beneficial for the firm and workshops alike.
Lot 297. A pair of gold 'manchettes' cuff bracelets, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000 © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Each designed as a tapered textured 18k gold cuff, circa 1970, 2 5/8 ins. widest diameter, 2 1/4 ins. smallest diameter. Each signed V.C.A. for Van Cleef & Arpels, nos. 2V702-21 and 2V702-23
Note: One of Van Cleef & Arpels most iconic designs, gold ‘manchette’ cuff bracelets were a particular favorite of style icons, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who was famously photographed wearing her pair with Muhammad Ali in 1977.
Lot 298. An enamel and diamond serpent bracelet, by Cartier. Estimate USD 25,000 - USD 35,000 © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as a green enamel and 18k gold coiled snake, the head decorated with a pear-shaped diamond within a circular-cut diamond surround, to the circular-cut diamond eyes and nose, circa 1970, 2 1/4 ins. diameter (flexible), mounted in platinum and 18k gold. Signed Cartier, no. indistinct.
Lot 299. A wood and gold bangle bracelet watch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimate USD 8,000 - USD 12,000 © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as a wood bangle, centering upon a gold plaque opening to reveal a watch, of manual movement, the rectangular gold dial with black hands and numerals, circa 1970, 2 1/2 ins. diameter, with French assay mark for 18k gold. Signed V.C.A. for Van Cleef & Arpels, France. Dial signed Longines
Lot 300. A diamond and gold bracelet watch, by Buccellati. Estimate USD 25,000 - USD 35,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
The hinged cuff of sculpted 18k gold grape leaf design, enhanced by circular-cut diamonds, opening to reveal a watch, of quartz movement, with bi-colored gold dial and hands, 2 1/4 ins., mounted in 18k gold. Signed Buccellati, Italy, dial signed Buccellati.
Lot 301. A beryl, sapphire and gold cuff bracelet, by Buccellati. EstimateUSD 15,000 - USD 20,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
The hinged cuff of sculpted 18k gold and circular cabochon sapphire grape leaf design, bordered by sculpted 18k white gold, centering upon an oval cabochon green beryl, 2 1/8 ins. diameter. Signed M. Buccellati for Mario Buccellati, Italy.
Lot 302. An Art Deco cultured pearl and diamond bracelet, by René Boivin. Estimate USD 10,000 - USD 15,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Suspending a cultured pearl drop, measuring approximately 11.83 x 11.65 mm, to a series of articulated stacked old and single-cut diamond graduated discs and diamond-set rondelle and boule, to the graduated line of cultured pearls, measuring from approximately 8.00 to 10.20 mm, spaced by old and single-cut diamond rondelles, 1939, 7 3/4 ins., mounted in platinum
Accompanied by a copy of a two page receipt from René Boivin
With report no. 2175956627 dated 14 October 2016 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the one partially drilled pearl and nineteen drilled pearls are saltwater bead cultured pearls
Provenance: Purchased from Rene Boivin, 1 August 1939, for 12,000 Francs
Lot 303. An Art Deco emerald, diamond and enamel clip brooch, by Cartier. Estimate USD 20,000 - USD 30,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as an old and single-cut diamond scrolling plaque, set at the front with a fluted emerald bead with collet-set old-cut diamond, within a black enamel surround, circa 1930, 1 3/5 ins., mounted in platinum and gold. Signed Cartier, no. G243
Accompanied by a copy of the original invoice, an insurance valuation and a letter regarding the brooch, from Cartier
Provenance: Purchased from Cartier New York, 26 November 1930, for $1,575.00
Lot 304. An Art Deco sapphire dress set, by Cartier. Estimate USD 8,000 - USD 12,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Comprising a pair of cufflinks, each double-link designed as a calibré-cut sapphire square panel; and three shirt studs en suite, mounted in platinum, circa 1935, in a Cartier red leather fitted box. Each signed Cartier, nos. 12909 (cufflinks) and 4184 (studs, partially indistinct)
Lot 305. A pair of Art Deco rock crystal and diamond cufflinks, by Cartier. Estimate USD 7,000 - USD 10,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Each double link set with a pavé-set single-cut diamond bombé plaque within a faceted rock crystal or platinum surround, joined by links, 1937, with French assay marks for platinum. Signed Cartier, Paris (partially indistinct), no. 02005
Accompanied by a copy of the original receipt from Cartier
Provenance: Purchased from Cartier Paris, 29 October 1937, for $400.00
Lot 306. A pair of Art Deco diamond and enamel clip-watch, by Cartier. Estimate USD 25,000 - USD 35,000 © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Of manual movement, the single-cut diamond rectangular dial with black enamel Roman numerals, blue steeled hands and single-cut diamond crown, within a single-cut diamond and black enamel surround, with rose-cut diamond stem, 1935, 1 1/8 ins., mounted in platinum. Signed Cartier, no. 449
Accompanied by a copy of the original receipt, an insurance appraisal and a letter from Cartier
Provenance: Purchased from Cartier New York, 30 November 1935, for $1,290.00
Note: Based on the Blair family archives, it appears that this watch was a replacement for a similar watch brooch purchased in 1928 and stolen in a much publicized jewel robbery at the Blairs' Long Island estate in 1935.
Lot 307. A natural pearl, diamond and citrine jabot brooch. Estimate USD 10,000 - USD 15,000 © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Suspending a detachable marquise-cut citrine cluster and circular-cut diamond link from the natural pearl surmount, measuring approximately 9.35 x 9.23 mm, to the opposite terminal, set with a natural pearl, measuring approximately 9.52 x 9.36 mm, accented by two marquise-cut diamonds, 2 5/8 ins., mounted in platinum and white gold. Detachable pendant signed Cartier, MTG, no. 63 77204
Accompanied by report no. 6177956085 dated 17 October 2016 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the pearls are natural, saltwater, with no indications of treatment
Lot 308. A single-strand natural and cultured pearl necklace. Estimate USD 10,000 - USD 15,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as a graduated strand of sixty-three natural and cultured pearls, measuring from approximately 9.96 to 5.45 mm, joined by a diamond and white gold clasp, 21 ins.
Accompanied by report no. 1176941882 dated 14 October 2016 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that thirty-six of the pearls tested are natural pearls, with no indication of treatment and the twenty-seven remaining pearls are bead cultured pearls
Lot 309. A Belle Époque diamond, natural and cultured pearl brooch. Estimate USD 7,000 - USD 10,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
The pierced old-cut diamond circular plaque trimmed with a natural pearls, centering upon a cultured pearl, measuring approximately 9.75 mm, within a natural pearl and rose-cut diamond border, circa 1910, 2 3/5 ins., mounted in platinum
Accompanied by report no. 5172923116 dated 10 October 2016 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that of the center pearl and random sample of five pearls at the edge tested, the center pearl is a bead cultured pearl and the five pearls at the edge are natural pearls
Lot 310. A Belle Époque sapphire and diamond brooch. Estimate USD 10,000 - USD 15,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as a pierced old and rose-cut diamond oval plaque of foliate motif, centering upon an oval-cut sapphire, circa 1910, 2 ins., mounted in platinum
Lot 311. An Art Deco Colombian emerald and diamond brooch. Estimate USD 30,000 - USD 50,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as two baguette and old-cut diamond interlocking scrolls with carved and reeded emerald bead terminals, circa 1930, 2 5/8 ins., with French assay marks for platinum and 18k white gold
Accompanied by report no. CS 1078755 dated 12 October 2016 from the AGL American Gemological Laboratories stating that it is the opinion of the Laboratory that the origin of these emeralds would be classified as Colombia, with minor clarity enhancement, traditional type
Lot 312. A diamond bracelet, mounted by Cartier. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 120,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Centering upon a detachable dome of old-cut diamonds, to the collet-set old-cut diamond shoulders and seven row band of graduated old-cut diamonds, joined by an old and baguette-cut diamond link clasp, 1942, 7 ins., mounted in platinum, center diamond dome detaches and can be worn as a brooch. Unsigned
Accompanied by copies of the original two receipts, an insurance valuation and a letter regarding the bracelet, from Cartier
Provenance: Cartier New York, 28 February 1942, $635.73
Cartier New York, 29 December 1942, $701.32
Note: According to a receipt dated 28 February 1942, Wolcott Blair instructed Cartier to execute this diamond bracelet using “part of patron’s bracelet and clip” which was invoiced 9 February 1942 for $635.73. Later that same year, Mr. Blair had Cartier modify the bracelet again to make the center element detachable for an additional price of $701.32 which was invoiced 29 December 1942.
Lot 313. A diamond flower clip brooch, by Cartier. Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as a flower, with an old and circular-cut diamond cluster pistil, to the baguette, circular and single-cut diamond petals, extending to the single, old and baguette-cut diamond stem and stylized leaves, circa 1940, 5 ins., mounted in platinum. Signed Cartier, no. 42-27951
Accompanied by a copy of an insurance valuation from Cartier dated 1942
Literature: Cf. F. Cologni, E. Nussbaum, Platinum by Cartier: Triumphs of the Jewelers' Art, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995, p. 186
Lot 313. A Colombian emerald, natural pearl and diamond flower clip brooch, mounted by Cartier. Estimate USD 70,000 - USD 100,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as a flower, centering upon a rectangular-cut emerald pistil, measuring approximately 12.40 x 10.20 x 4.96 mm, to the old-cut diamond and natural pearl petals, measuring from approximately 6.74 to 6.36 mm, extending to the baguette-cut diamond stem, with pear and marquise-cut diamond leaves, 1942, 3 5/8 ins., mounted in platinum. Signed Cartier
Accompanied by a copy of the original receipt from Cartier
With report no. CS 1078756 dated 12 October 2016 from the AGL American Gemological Laboratories stating that it is the opinion of the Laboratory that the origin of this emerald would be classified as Colombia, with insignificant clarity enhancement, traditional type
With report no. 1172958665 dated 18 October 2016 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the randomly tested pearls are natural, saltwater pearls with no indication of treatment
Provenance: Purchased from Cartier New York, 28 February 1942, for $534.82
Note: According to a receipt dated 28 February 1942, Wolcott Blair instructed Cartier to create the present brooch by mounting the client’s emerald, pearls and diamonds which was invoiced on 11 February 1942.
Lot 316. A Colombian emerald, pearl and diamond flower brooch, by Cartier. Estimate USD 250,000 - USD 350,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.
Designed as a flower blossom, centering upon a carved emerald, measuring approximately 37.10 x 31.80 x 3.80 mm, within a pearl and old-cut diamond surround, extending an old and baguette-cut diamond stem and leaves, 3 ins., mounted in platinum. Signed Cartier, no. 10732
Accompanied by a partial copy of the original receipt from Cartier
With report no. CS 1078757 dated 12 October 2016 from the AGL American Gemological Laboratories stating that it is the opinion of the Laboratory that the origin of this emerald would be classified as Colombia, with minor clarity enhancement, traditional type
Provenance: Purchased from Cartier New York, 10 January 1946, for $5445.00
Please note that the pearls have not been tested for natural origin.