Born into untold fortune as the only child of tobacco tycoon James Buchanan Duke, Doris Duke lived life to the fullest in every way possible. Her life in the press began at birth, when newspapers touted her “the richest little girl in the world” in 1912, which literally came true after her father’s untimely death thirteen years later.
James Buchanan and Doris Duke
An early portrait photo of J.B. and young Doris Duke.
Duke inherited nearly all of her father’s fortune valued at more than $100 million, or well over a billion in today’s dollars. That immense fortune afforded Duke to amass a myriad of collections during her adult life, from a handful of mansions and fine furniture to magnificent gems and gold-digging husbands.
Cecil Barton’s portrait of Doris Duke
Growing up in luxurious isolation, Duke was left under the watchful eye of her cold, materialistic mother, Nanaline, from the age of 14 until her first marriage in 1935 to James Cromwell. Duke was an adventurous and highly intelligent woman, a statuesque blonde bombshell standing six feet one inch tall. Her passion for life and travel surpassed her concerns for social self-consciousness. She courted scandal with her numerous affairs and scandalous lovers, but Duke is best remembered for her philanthropic pursuits and insatiable appetite for collecting.
Doris Duke’s Shangri La estate in Hawaii
Duke’s extraordinary collections of English and French furniture, Asian and Islamic art, rare wines, and magnificent jewelry were housed throughout her even more extraordinary number of properties: Rough Point in Newport, RI, Shangri La in Hawaii, Falcon Lair in Beverly Hills, Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ and her Park Avenue penthouse in New York. Countless travels beginning at an early age cultivated Duke’s taste for collecting, the most influential of which were her visits to the Middle and Far East. Of all that she collected, her jewelry tops the lot.
Doris Duke’s Rough Point estate in Newport, RI
So, when Christie’s auctioned her prestigious jewelry collection in June 2004, along with her other important collections, the public got their first glimpse of Duke’s most illustrious possessions. Her jewelry alone sold for nearly $12 million, well above its high estimate.
Doris Duke, circa 1939.
Though Duke did not consider it a formal collection, her jewelry nevertheless reflects her life’s colorful story. Beginning with the jewels she inherited from her grandmother, Florine Russell Holt, Duke’s collection spans more than a hundred years of jewelry’s evolving styles during the late 19th and almost all of the 20th centuries. Jewels from the Belle Époque, Art Deco and modern eras reflect Duke’s ardent eye for high quality and style while Eastern-inspired jewels by Cartier and David Webb exemplify her fondness for the Far East. Duke also favored Indian inspired jewelry with Mughal motifs, with several jewels featuring Colombian emeralds – the favored stone of the Maharajahs.
Doris Duke touring the Taj Mahal on her honeymoon with James Cromwell
Adding to the jewels she inherited, Duke instilled her own personal style with pieces she commissioned from Fulco di Verdura, David Webb and Seaman Schepps. Oftentimes Duke would collaborate with the designers on her pieces, making her jewelry truly one of kind reflections of herself. Overall, Duke’s collection reveals her profound passion for beautiful jewelry, combining the best jewelers in a dazzling array of styles, materials and techniques. Through her jewels, the personal style and extraordinary life of Doris Duke sparkle to life.
One of the most important pieces of the collection is a magnificent Belle Époque diamond and pearl necklace by Cartier, circa 1908. A sublime example of Cartier’s mastery of garland-style design during the period, the final necklace resulted from a collaboration with Cartier and James Buchanan Duke, who also supplied some of the larger diamonds in the necklace. The necklace sold for $2,359,500, almost double its high estimate of $1.2 million.
A MAGNIFICENT BELLE EPOQUE DIAMOND AND PEARL PENDANT NECKLACE, BY CARTIER
The pear-shaped diamond pendant, within an openwork single-cut diamond frame, enhanced by three pear-shaped diamond tassel terminals, suspended by a pearl, measuring approximately 8.80 mm, from a similarly-designed cushion-cut diamond plaque, joined to the four-strand pear, marquise and French-cut diamond festoons, with single and old European-cut diamond trim and florets, further enhanced by an old European-cut diamond openwork clasp of geometric design, mounted in platinum, circa 1908
Another highly important piece is an exquisite 19.72-carat diamond ring by Tiffany & Co., circa 1935, that first belonged Doris Duke’s mother, Nanaline Duke. The ring sold for $1,261,900.
AN EXQUISITE DIAMOND RING, BY TIFFANY & CO.
Set with a rectangular-cut diamond, weighing approximately 19.72 carats, to the pavé-set diamond gallery and shoulders, mounted in platinum, circa 1935
Signed Tiffany & Co.
With report 0402031 dated 9 February 2004 from the Gübelin Gemmological Laboratory stating that the diamond is D color, VS2 clarity; accompanied by a note stating that based on its infared spectrum, the 19.72 ct diamond described in Diamond Report No. 0402031 is classified as a type IIa
With report 13149214 dated 26 January 2004 from the Gemological Institute of America stating that the diamond is D color, VS1 clarity; accompanied by a working diagram stating the the clarity is potentially flawless
From Christie’s Lot Notes on the ring:
The twentieth century witnessed a renewed interest in diamonds and the designers at Tiffany & Co. pioneered the trend. The firm continued to mount important gems into jewelry including the ring illustrated. This ring, dating from 1935, is a magnificent example of both Nanaline Duke’s exquisite taste and the importance of Tiffany’s diamonds. The 19.72 carat cushion-cut stone is elegantly mounted in platinum with delicate diamond-set shoulders. Typical of stones this size, the cushion-cut makes an understated and lovely outline. The cushion-cut is a transitional cut, linking the old mine with the old European. Most likely, Mrs. Duke’s stone is of Golconda origin. This ledgendary Indian mine produced some of the most spectacular diamonds of the world including the Koh-I-noor, the Hope and the Agra which were all cut in the same cushion outline. According to Doris Duke’s biography by Stephanie Mansfield, Mrs. Duke lost this diamond ring at a bridge party. Thankfully, it was returned to her.
Nanaline Duke was renowned for her impeccable taste in jewelry and her love of diamonds, as can be seen in this marvelous Art Deco bracelet by Cartier.
A MAGNIFICENT ART DECO DIAMOND BRACELET, BY CARTIER
The openwork baguette-cut diamond geometric band, of flexible design, centering upon a marquise-cut diamond, weighing approximately 7.19 carats, flanked on either side by pear-shaped diamonds, weighing approximately 7.03, 6.24, 4.98 and 3.76 carats, joined by pavé-set diamond links and baguette-cut diamond arched spacers, mounted in platinum, circa 1927, 7 ins., in a Cartier red leather case
Signed Cartier, no. 2716752
With five reports dated from 29 January 2004 to 26 February 2004 from the Gemological Institute of America stating that the weight, color and clarity of the diamonds are as follows:
7.19 carats, F color, VS1 clarity; 7.03 carats, F color, I1 clarity; 6.24 carats, D color, VS1 clarity; 4.98 carats, G color, SI1 clarity; 3.76 carats, G color, SI2 clarity
The bracelet sold for $1,217,100.
Another highlight of the collection is an impressive two-strand emerald bead necklace weighing a total of approximately 541.40 carats.
A MAGNIFICENT TWO-STRAND EMERALD NECKLACE
Each strand composed of sixty or sixty-one graduated emerald beads, joined by a single and old European-cut diamond pierced plaque clasp, centering upon a cabochon emerald, mounted in gold and silver, circa 1935, 18¾ ins.
The total weight of the emeralds is approximately 541.40 carats
Other highlights of the sale include the following exceptional jewels:
A SPECTACULAR INDIAN DIAMOND NECKLACE
The diamond collet line, suspending a fringe of twelve large foil-backed table-cut diamonds, each within circular-cut diamond frames with similarly-set foliate accents, the central table-cut diamond suspending an elaborate pendant of similar design, mounted in platinum, (many of the diamond drops are detachable), 15½ ins.
Sold for $701,900
From Christie’s Lot Notes on the necklace:
In the Parke-Bernet sale on 1 April 1971, Doris Duke purchased lot 80 for $7,250, lot 81 for $14,000 and lot 82 for $62,500. She likely combined the three lots (a pendant clip, earrings and necklace), to create the present necklace with a large central chandelier-style pendant. The sale that she purchased these lots from, “The Important Jewelry Collection of Madame Ganna Walska” was a single-owner sale of the flamboyant Polish soprano, Ganna Walska, (b. 1887). It is interesting to note that Walska apparently bought the necklace from Cartier in the early 1930s and altered it to her taste. When the necklace went up for auction in 1971, the necklace appeared quite different but with the same large foil-backed diamonds, each in the original circular-cut diamond borders.
AN IMPORTANT PAIR OF ART DECO DIAMOND BRACELETS, BY CARTIER
Each composed of three independent circular, navette, marquise and baguette-cut diamond lines, intersected by pavé-set diamond sculpted motifs, mounted in platinum, (may also be worn as a choker, 13¼ ins.), circa 1930, 6 5/8 and 7 ins.
Signed Cartier, nos. 8410, 8354, 822 (2)
Sold for $433,100
AN ELEGANT DIAMOND CLIP BROOCH, BY DAVID WEBB
Designed as an undulating old European and baguette-cut diamond foliate scroll, suspending a central pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 9.67 carats, and a smaller pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 4.14 carats, further enhanced by a marquise-cut diamond fringe, mounted in platinum, circa 1957
With reports 8448680 and 13155477 dated 29 January and 2 February 2004 from the Gemological Institute of America stating that the diamonds weighing approximately 9.67 and 4.14 carats are D color, VS1 clarity and E color, VS2 clarity respectively
Sold for $343,500
AN ELEGANT SAPPHIRE, DIAMOND AND SEED PEARL BRACELET, BY CARTIER
Centering upon a square-cut sapphire, weighing approximately 35.54 carats, flanked on either side by twin bagette-cut diamonds, circular-cut diamond rectangular links and calibré-cut sapphire spacers, joined to the six-strand seed pearl bracelet, enhanced by a clasp of similar design, mounted in platinum, circa 1925, 6½ ins.
Signed Cartier, no. 24121
With report CS 36737 dated 22 January 2004 from the American Gemological Laboratory stating that based on available gemological information, it is the opinion of the Laboratory that the origin of this material would be classified as Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Heat Enhancement: None. Clarity Enhancement: None
Sold for $332,300
From Christie’s Lot Notes on the bracelet:
James B. Duke commissioned Cartier to make this bracelet using stones he provided. The payment of $5,630 was not made until 8 November 1925, after his death.
AN ELEGANT ART DECO NATURAL PEARL AND DIAMOND BANDEAU, BY CARTIER
The openwork old European-cut diamond tapering band, of geometric design, centering upon a pearl, measuring approximately 13.10 mm, enhanced by two pear-shaped diamonds, mounted in platinum, circa 1924
Signed Cartier, no. 2419203
With report 13163096 dated 10 February 2004 from the Gemological Institute of America stating that the pearl is natural
The total weight of the natural pearl is approximately 12.77 carats
Sold for $298,700
AN EXQUISITE ART DECO EMERALD AND DIAMOND BRACELET, BY CARTIER
Of Indian design, centering upon a cabochon emerald plaque of circular outline, with single-cut diamond trim, flanked on either side by old European-cut diamond trefoil shoulders to the cabochon emerald and four-row cultured pearl bracelet, measuring approximately 4.50 mm, joined by a circular and rectangular-cut diamond clasp, mounted in platinum and gold, circa 1934, 6½ ins.
Signed Cartier Paris New York, no. 2717519
Sold for $209,100
AN EXQUISITE ART DECO DIAMOND AND ENAMEL EVENING BAG, BY CARTIER
Of square outline, the black silk bag joined by a black enamel clasp, enhanced at either end by pierced pavé-set diamond plaques, to the central pave-set diamond pull of geometric motif, centering upon an old European-cut diamond, to the central baguette-cut diamond line, opening to reveal a white silk interior with a separate mirror, mounted in platinum, circa 1934, 6 3/8 x 5 7/8 x 5/8 ins.
Sold for $101,575
A SPECTACULAR RUBY AND CULTURED PEARL NECKLACE, BY DAVID WEBB
Designed as a multi-strand ruby bead fringe, accented by cultured pearls, measuring approximately 9.70 mm, to the ruby bead and polished gold neckchain and cultured pearl and ruby bead floret clasp, mounted in 18k gold, circa 1969, 16 ins., in a David Webb black suede case
Signed Webb for David Webb
Sold for $93,210
From Christie’s Lot Notes on the necklace:
Doris Duke commissioned this necklace from David Webb using three single-strands of pearls, 14 loose pearls and 1136 ruby beads she provided. The invoice for $4,000 was paid in full on 10 October 1969.
A TOPAZ AND DIAMOND “FLOWER TWIST” BRACELET, BY FULCO DI VERDURA
The flexible openwork band, designed as twin undulating lines of graduated oval-cut pink topaz, enhanced by circular-cut diamond foliate cluster trim, mounted in platinum and gold, circa 1966, 6½ ins.
Sold for $89,625
A PAIR OF ART DECO DIAMOND CLIP BROOCHES, BY CARTIER
Each designed as a pavé-set diamond scroll, centering upon a baguette-cut diamond step motif, mounted in platinum and 18k gold, (illustrated as a bangle bracelet), circa 1930, with French assay marks and maker’s marks (2)
Sold for $86,040
A PAIR OF DIAMOND AND CULTURED PEARL EAR PENDANTS, BY DAVID WEBB
Each circular-cut diamond cluster surmount, centering upon an old mine-cut diamond, suspending a circular-cut diamond hoop, with circular-cut diamond and drop-shaped cultured pearl fringe, centering upon a detachable independent drop-shaped baroque cultured pearl, measuring approximately 21.40 x 13.40 mm, with an old European-cut diamond cap, mounted in platinum, (one baroque cultured pearl deficient), circa 1960
Signed Webb for David Webb (2)
Sold for $83,650
A PAIR OF ART DECO DIAMOND AND CULTURED PEARL BRACELETS
Each designed as five strands of graduated cultured pearls, measuring from approximately 4.80 to 7.60 mm, joined by a pavé-set diamond boule clasp, enhanced by baguette-cut diamond trim, mounted in platinum, circa 1930, each 6½ ins. (2)
Sold for $83,650
AN ART DECO EMERALD, PEARL AND DIAMOND CLIP BROOCH, BY CARTIER
The openwork cabochon emerald cluster, within a single, old European and rose-cut diamond frame, to the pearl trim, measuring approximately 7.70 mm, each surmounted by a single-cut diamond, alternately-set by old European-cut diamonds, further enhanced by single, pear and old European-cut diamond, cabochon emerald and cultured pearl bow and trefoil motifs, mounted in platinum and gold, circa 1934
Signed Cartier Mtg, no. 54-52481
Sold for $83,650
A RETRO SAPPHIRE, DIAMOND AND GOLD CUFF BRACELET, BY CARTIER
The hinged cuff, composed of a series of polished gold links, each centering upon a rose gold plaque, enhanced by old European-cut diamond trim and joined by calibré-cut sapphire arched links, mounted in platinum, yellow and rose gold, circa 1939, diameter 2 ins.
Signed Cartier New York, no. 3918096
Sold for $71,700
A PAIR OF DIAMOND “SNOWFLAKE” EAR CLIPS, BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Each circular and baguette-cut diamond snowflake of openwork design, mounted in platinum, circa 1946
Signed Van Cleef & Arpels N.Y., no. 56611
Sold for $62,140
AN ART DECO PEARL AND DIAMOND BRACELET, BY CARTIER
The wide pearl and seed pearl mesh band, centering upon a single, old European and old mine-cut diamond pierced rectangular panel, joined by a clasp of similar design, mounted in platinum, (three pearls deficient), circa 1920, 6½ ins.
Signed Cartier, no. 3519688
Sold for $57,360
AN IVORY AND MULTI-GEM “CHESS PIECE” BROOCH, BY FULCO DI VERDURA
Designed as a red-stained and painted ivory camel, enhanced by cultured pearls, seed pearls and diamond collet, surmounted by a painted ivory warrior with a seed pearl and carved ruby shield, a polished gold, triangular-cut diamond and carved ruby turban, wearing a diamond collet necklace and earrings, mounted in 18k gold, circa 1940
Sold for $47,800
Christie’s Lot Notes on the brooch:
In 1939, a woman came to Verdura’s showroom selling a set of 18th Century painted ivory chessman from India. He bought all of them and transformed them into exquisite bejeweled brooches. Inspired by the Dinglingers’ work in the Dresden Green Vaults, the elaborate pieces sold out. Some of the brooches were accompanied by a stand to be displayed.
A PAIR OF EMERALD EAR CLIPS, BY CARTIER
The circular-cut emerald leaves, with circular-cut emerald trim, further enhanced by green enamel beads, mounted in 18k gold, (one enamel bead with damage), circa 1967, with French assay marks and maker’s marks
Signed Cartier Paris, no. R8427; with maker’s mark for Cartier (2)
Sold for $47,800
A MULTI-GEM BRACELET, BY SEAMAN SCHEPPS
Composed of five independent cabochon sapphire lines, joined by an openwork rectangular panel clasp, designed as a polished gold tree, set with carved sapphire leaves and birds and diamond, ruby and emerald collet detail, mounted in platinum and gold, circa 1937, 7 3/8 ins.
Sold for $45,410
A SAPPHIRE, DIAMOND AND EMERALD “BUNCH OF GRAPES” CLIP BROOCH, BY SEAMAN SCHEPPS
Designed as a multi-colored cabochon sapphire cluster of grapes, with carved emerald detail and a pavé-set diamond leaf, enhanced by a polished gold tendril, mounted in platinum and gold, circa 1941
Signed Seaman Schepps
Sold for $44,215
A DIAMOND DOUBLE-CLIP BROOCH, BY PAUL FLATO
Each clip designed as baguette-cut diamond scrolling ribbon, enhanced by pierced old European and circular-cut diamond leaves, mounted in platinum and gold, (may be worn as two clips or one brooch, four diamonds deficient), circa 1942
Sold for $38,240
A CITRINE AND GOLD NECKLACE, BY FULCO DI VERDURA
The rigid gold hoop, terminating in sculpted and fluted gold stylized cornucopia, extending an articulated faceted citrine bead cascade, mounted in gold, circa 1940
Sold for $38,240
A DIAMOND, TURQUOISE, FRESHWATER PEARL AND GOLD INDIAN HEAD BROOCH, BY FULCO DI VERDURA
Designed as a sculpted rose gold Indian chief, wearing an elaborate headdress composed of a large baroque freshwater pearl, textured gold feathers and single-cut diamond feathers, and a cabochon turquoise necklace, enhanced by an articulated turquoise pendant, mounted in platinum, rose and yellow gold, circa 1957
Sold for $22,705
Christie’s Lot Notes on the brooch:
Verdura loved to scour flea markets and one of his most interesting finds was an antique folio of Native American tribal chiefs. The wonderful hand-colored plates inspired many of his Indian-themed jewels. This brooch that Verdura created for Doris Duke in 1957 was inspired by the Indian head nickel. She was so pleased with the jewel she had him create a similar piece with diamonds replacing the baroque pearl.
A MULTI-GEM, ENAMEL AND GOLD VANITY CASE, BY CARTIER
Of rectangular outline, the engraved gold and lapis lazuli case with black enamel detail, the top centering upon a polychrome enamel foliate motif, accented by sugarloaf cabochon and buff-top calibré-cut sapphire, ruby, emerald and amethysts, the similarly-set pushpiece opening to reveal a fitted mirror and two powder compartments, mounted in 18k gold, circa 1937, 2 x 3½ x ¾ ins., with French assay marks and English hallmarks
Signed Cartier Paris Londres New-York Made in France, no. 1479, 1698, 5004
Sold for $33,850
A MULTI-GEM AND GOLD VANITY CASE, BY FULCO DI VERDURA
The rectangular box entirely covered by vari-cut brown, green and yellow olivines, tourmalines, citrines, and beryl, opening to reveal a fitted mirror, two covered compartments and a lipstick holder, mounted in 14k gold, circa 1940, 2 3/8 x 3¾ x 1 1/8 ins.
Sold for $33,460
A RETRO DIAMOND AND GOLD FEATHER BROOCH, BY FULCO DI VERDURA FOR PAUL FLATO
Designed as twin sculpted gold plumes, enhanced by single-cut diamond trim, tied with an old European and single-cut diamond ribbon, mounted in platinum and gold, circa 1935
Sold for $23,900
A RETRO PAIR OF AQUAMARINE AND DIAMOND SCROLL EAR CLIPS, BY SUZANNE BELPERRON
Each designed as a pavé-set diamond and calibré-cut aquamarine scroll, mounted in platinum and 18k white gold, circa 1945, with French assay marks and maker’s marks
With maker’s mark for Groene et Darde
Sold for $23,900
AN ANTIQUE TOPAZ BROOCH
Designed as a vari-shaped foil-backed colorless topaz tree, mounted in silver, 19th century
Sold for $16,730
A NATIVE AMERICAN BRACELET
Composed of a series of amber, turquoise and lapis lazuli bead links, mounted in silver, 8 5/8 ins.
Sold for $4,780
All jewelry photos, descriptions and lot notes courtesy of Christie’s