Lot 341. Formerly from the Collection of Consuelo Montagu, Duchess of Manchester. Emerald and diamond necklace, circa 1860. Estimate: 300,000 - 390,000 CHF. Lot sold 462,500 CHF. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Set with cushion-shaped emeralds framed with circular-cut diamonds, alternating with scrollwork links set with similarly cut and rose diamonds, length approximately 360mm.
Accompanied by AGL report no. CS 71925, stating that the emeralds are of Colombian origin, with insignificant to minor clarity enhancement, together with SSEF report no 113583, stating that the emeralds are of Colombian origin, with none to moderate amount of oil in fissures at the time of testing.
Gifted in 1876 to Consuelo Yznaga upon her marriage to George Montagu, Viscount Mandeville, this necklace was likely the star of a similarly-designed parure. Featuring an impressive row of emeralds spaced by delicate scrollwork motifs, this design exemplifies the Victorian fashions favoured by the group of women now known as ‘The Million Dollar American Princesses’, a group pioneered by the Duchess of Manchester herself. As the corset helped make the décolleté the focal point of women’s fashion, layers upon layers of jewels were called to conceal yet draw attention. Necklaces such as this would have likely been partnered with additional rivières and gem-set floral creations to accessorise the bustled gowns worn to the innumerable events dotting the social season.
Provenance: Born in Louisiana in 1853 to a plantation owner of Cuban descent, Consuelo Montagu, née Consuelo Yznaga, was known for what The Pittsburgh Press referred to as 'the Spanish type of beauty’, with jet-black eyebrows and abundant golden blonde hair. Her marriage to a member of the British aristocracy was an unfamiliar union that required sufficient time for both families to endorse. The 1876 wedding at Grace Church in New York City was described as ‘one of the most brilliant affairs of the season’ by The New York Times. Crowds crammed into the chapel to get a glimpse of the bride, who wore an ornate satin design with diamond starburst brooches in her hair. The New York Times duly noted that 'the presents received by the bride were very elaborate and costly’. Wall Street tycoon Mr. Leonard Jerome gifted the young bride with heavy gold bracelets’ while Mrs. William Vanderbilt presented a ‘point lace fan’. It is important to note these two wedding guests in particular when observing the influence of Consuelo’s marriage; Mr. Jerome’s daughter, Jennie, a friend of Consuelo's, later went on to become Lady Randolph Churchill via marriage (and was mother to Sir Winston Churchill); Mrs. William Vanderbilt, known as Alva, named her own daughter Consuelo in the hopes she would receive the same marital rank as her longtime friend (and indeed she became the Duchess of Marlborough).
As a social pioneer, Consuelo became a sort of matchmaker, inspiring her friends from America to find suitable husbands; husbands that needed American fortunes to maintain their decaying estates in exchange for noble titles unavailable to American girls of even the highest social rank. Demure yet powerful in design, this necklace exemplifies the quiet confidence that defines the ‘Dollar Princesses’.
Exhibited: This necklace was displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London for 22 years.
Sotheby's. Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels: Part II, Geneva, 23 June 2020