Lot 900. A Platinum, 18 Karat Gold, Emerald and Diamond Necklace, Bulgari, 1959. Estimate 250,000 — 350,000 USD. Lot sold 686,500 USD. Photo: Sotheby's 2012
Literature: Astor, Brooke. Footprints: An Autobiography. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City: New York, 1980
Note: This magnificent emerald and diamond necklace was commissioned in the fall of 1958 while Mr. and Mrs. Astor were visiting England. As Mrs. Astor recounted in her 1980 autobiography, "Vincent amused himself by having old Mr. Bulgari come over from Rome to discuss an emerald necklace and earrings for me." After spending the afternoon with the couple, Mr. Bulgari returned to Rome to contemplate the design of the suite. Mrs. Astor later noted that, "Vincent was very pleased with himself." It was shortly after this trip to England, in February of 1959, that Vincent passed away. As far as Mrs. Astor knew, the design for the emerald suite remained a mystery.
It came as quite a surprise to Mrs. Astor when she received a package from Mr. Bulgari nearly two years later. As Mrs. Astor wrote, "A strange thing happened at this very moment. Mr. Bulgari, the Italian jeweler, sent over a colored transparency of the emerald necklace and earrings for which we had selected the stones in London in 1958." Attached to the transparency was a note from Vincent, asking that the pieces be completed in time for Mrs. Astor's birthday in March. Having recently returned from a yacht voyage with friends and in the midst of implementing changes within the Astor Foundation, Mrs. Astor felt that the timing was inopportune for such a lavish present. However, after some reassuring words from her banker and further admiration of the design, Mrs. Astor moved forward with the purchase concluding that the necklace "is pretty and not ostentatious but very elegant."
The emerald and diamond necklace is distinguished both by its impressive design and by Mrs. Astor's emotional ties to it. Mrs. Astor explained this connection in her autobiography writing, "Considering that it was really Vincent's last personal gift to me, I am very sentimental about it, and I felt that it was a sign of encouragement from Vincent."
Sotheby's. Property from the Estate of Brooke Astor. New York, 24 sept. 2012