Just as Cartier’s panthère basks in the spotlight of its 100th anniversary, a pair of iconic tigers will come up for auction at Christie’s Geneva in November. Originally part of the Duchess of Windsor’s legendary jewelry collection, the two Cartier tiger jewels – a bracelet and matching clip brooch – are being sold by their current owner, international singing superstar Sarah Brightman, who was gifted the jewels by her then husband Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The Duchess of Windsor had a level of style and taste well beyond her time and her collection of jewelry endures today as one of the greatest. Among her myriad of specially commissioned pieces were her Cartier ‘cat’ jewels, perhaps the most celebrated pieces in her collection as well as the finest specimens of Cartier’s great cat creations. The first feline to join her collection also happened to be the first three-dimensional panthère brooch made in the Cartier workshops. That inaugural jewel was purchased in 1948.
Over the span of nearly twenty years, the Duchess would accumulate a total of seven Cartier cat jewels:
- In 1949, a panther clip with sapphire spots gracefully seated atop a 152.35-carat Kashmir cabochon sapphire was purchased by the Duke of Windsor.
- In 1952, the Duchess herself purchased an articulated onyx and diamond panther bracelet from Cartier.
- A pair of lorgnettes with the handle designed as a tiger with a raised paw was acquired in 1954.
- The pair of Cartier tiger jewels, the same pair to come up for auction in November, were purchased separately, first the bracelet in 1956 and the matching clip in 1959.
- The matching brooch to the onyx and diamond bracelet was purchased in 1966.
When these seven pieces were auctioned with the rest of her collection at Sotheby’s in 1987, they earned figures well into the millions. The sale itself fetched $50.3 million in total, making it the most valuable collection of jewels ever auctioned until the sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s collection at Christie’s in 2011. During the 1987 sale, Andrew Lloyd Webber had the winning bids for the Cartier tiger jewels, buying them for his then wife Sarah Brightman as a present to celebrate the success of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ in London and on Broadway.
Comprised of onyx and yellow diamonds with emerald eyes, the tiger pieces were made by Cartier in the 1950s and will be sold together in one lot estimated to fetch $1.8 to $2.5 million. The last panther jewel once belonging to the Duchess of Windsor to appear at auction was the exquisitely articulated onyx and diamond panthère bracelet, in the form of an outstretched panther, made by Cartier in 1952. This striking piece sold for just over $7 million at Sotheby’s London in 2010, along with a number of other important pieces from the Duchess’ collection.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these iconic pieces will go to The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which significantly supports the arts, music in schools, The Architectural Heritage Fund and awards 30 performing arts scholarships annually.