While the very privileged enjoy the most extraordinary things in life, most of us are lucky enough to merely catch a glimpse of such extravagance. The finest in jewelry remains at the top of these luxuries and when a selection of a society heiress’ fabulous jewels go up for auction, the average Joes of the world get to gawk.
Like the late heiress Huguette Clark and philanthropic Lily Safra before her, beloved treasures from the estate of the late and last Mrs. Astor will also go to auction on September 24th and 25th at Sotheby’s. Benefiting from this auction are a selection of city charities and cultural institutions selected by Mrs. Astor, including The New York Public Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Central Park Conservancy. Beyond her precious jewelry, the auction will also include furnishings from Brooke Astor’s tony Park Avenue duplex and her Westchester estate, Holly Hill, drawings by Canaletto and Tiepolo, and a collection of her cherished dog paintings.
Although all the jewelry is sure to be of the finest quality, three lots are expected to highlight this truly momentous event. The first two is a matching emerald ring and emerald and diamond necklace: the ring holds a 22.84 carat Columbian emerald and is estimated to fetch $150,000 and the necklace, custom-designed by Bulgari, boasts 27 emeralds hand selected by her third husband, Vincent Astor, and numerous diamonds and is expected to sell for $250,000 to $350,000.
The third lot is a gorgeous fancy colored diamond studded lion with ruby eyes resting on a coral branch, a signature brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, and is estimated to sell for $20,000 to $30,000.
As if the name itself should be covered in diamonds, the Astor surname elicits the grandeur of a bygone era, when New York society was at its most regal. The first Mrs. Astor was Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, wife of William Backhouse Astor Jr., who ambitiously achieved the recognition as the reigning queen of New York’s social set during the Gilded Age. Known for her extraordinary balls and stringent adherence to social manners, Mrs. Astor established the family name as one that befits American wealth and privilege of the utmost degree.
The third wife of Caroline Astor’s grandson, Vincent Astor, would continue to bear the title of ‘the’ Mrs. Astor and all the prestige that came along with it. Even after Vincent’s death six years after they married in 1953, Brooke Astor (née Russell) relished in her social and philanthropic duties as New York society’s grande dame. Despite scandal involving her son Anthony Marshall, the late Mrs. Astor left a legacy one can only dream of and was the end of the line of the great and social Astors.
For more information regarding this auction, be sure to read Town & Country’s article in their September issue or visit Sotheby’s website.