Next week, Sotheby’s will be auctioning Bunny Mellon’s collection of jewelry and jeweled objets, an assemblage of jewels and objets that reflect distinctly the character of its owner. From her exquisite blue diamonds to her charming gardening-themed gold charm bracelet, Mrs. Mellon’s taste knew no bounds – she bought what she liked. And, she also commissioned what she liked. Many of her pieces were specially ordered from Verdura and Schlumberger, two close friends of hers whose jewels intimately speak to Mrs. Mellon’s passion for gardening as well as collecting beautiful objects.
An 18k Tri-Color Gold and Colored Diamond Box, Verdura, the tri-color gold box composed of overlapping oak leaves, set with numerous round colored diamonds weighing approximately 7.80 carats, the interior decorated with a single diamond-set leaf, measuring approximately 3¼ by 3¾ by 1¼ in., gross weight approximately 285 dwts, signed Verdura. With signed and fitted box. Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000
Of all the pieces in the sale, my absolute favorite is her ‘Oak Leaf’ box by Verdura. When I saw it in person and held it in my hands, I was awe-struck. The overlapping layers of hand-carved gold oak leaves, a nod to the bounty of oak trees at her Oak Spring Farms estate in Virginia, capture the arresting beauty of fall foliage in various shades of gold. Depicting nature’s fleeting picture of the changing leaves in autumn, the top leaf glistens with colored diamonds that transition from rich browns and vivid yellows of the outer edges to soft chartreuses and deep greens toward the middle of the leaf. Inside the box lies a smaller leaf set with brown and yellow diamonds, a touching detail that renders the jewel extraordinary both inside and out.
A peak inside the Oak Leaf box reveals a second colored diamond-set leaf.
There is a beautiful, delicate espalier apple tree brooch with ruby beads as apples made by Verdura in 1950, just like those she planted in her garden. She adored all fruit trees, in fact, and many of her jeweled objets adequately echo this sentiment.
A 14k Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Ruby Brooch, Verdura, designed as an espalier apple tree, the leaves set with round diamonds weighing approximately .75 carat, accented by 26 ruby bead ‘apples,’ unsigned; circa 1950. With signed box. Estimate: $2,500 – $3,500
A vivaciously colorful ‘Pomegranate’ table ornament by Verdura is another spectacular item in her collection. The fruit’s bright multi-color enamel skin is gently split to reveal a ripe assortment of equally vibrant ruby, pink tourmaline and citrine ‘seeds.’
A Gold, Gem-Set and Enamel Table Ornament, Verdura, the fanciful pomegranate highlighted in vibrant multi-colored enamel, with numerous ruby, pink tourmaline and citrine ‘seeds,’ the stem and leaves set with round demantoid garnets and colored diamonds weighing approximately .35 carat, unsigned. With signed and fitted box. Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
Mrs. Mellon loved jewels set with colorful stones, and two pieces embody this to perfection: an amethyst, citrine, sapphire, lapis lazuli, beryl and diamond bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels; and a ring by Cartier with a fantastical cluster of diamonds, yellow and pink diamonds, and other colored gemstones.
An 18k Gold, Colored Stone and Diamond Bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels, the gold links set at intervals with an amethyst, citrine, sapphire, lapis lazuli and beryl, accented by round diamonds weighing approximately 2.00 carats, gross weight approximately 41 dwts, internal circumference 7 in., signed Van Cleef & Arpels N.Y., numbered 15190. Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
An 18k Gold, Diamond, Colored Diamond and Colored Stone Ring, Cartier, the fantastical cluster set with round diamonds weighing approximately 1.75 carats, accented by two diamonds of yellow hue weighing approximately .60 carat, further set with a pink diamond weighing approximately .25 carat, completed by numerous colored stones, size 5, signed Cartier, numbered 9600. Estimate: $6,000 – $8,000
A charm bracelet set with exquisitely detailed ingredients for a martini reveals Mrs. Mellon’s sense of humor and whim. A twist of lemon peel, a bottle of gin, a cocktail shaker which opens to reveal a devil, a liquor bottle, a martini glass and an ice cube suspend from links inscribed with the correct portions to make the perfect martini.
An 18k Gold, Rock Crystal and Enamel Charm Bracelet, France, the gold link bracelet suspending six cocktail-themed charms including a twist of lemon peel, a bottle of gin, a cocktail shaker which opens to reveal a devil, a liquor bottle, a martini glass and an ice cube, the link surmounting three charms inscribed, ‘1 verre a liqueur,’ ‘½ verre a Madère,’ ‘Country of origin France,’ and ‘2 traits,’ gross weight approximately 12 dwts, length 7 in., numbered 47780, with French assay and partial workshop marks; circa 1935. Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
My last favorite pieces are a few more made by Verdura, who designed highly personalized, one-of-a-kind jewels for his clients. This series of brooches in unrelating themes exemplifies the designer’s incredible talent for inserting a sense of fantasy into his pieces. And, I simply love his work.
A Gold, Platinum, Coral Colored Stone, Enamel and Diamond Brooch, Verdura, the kneeling Egyptian figure in the form of Cleopatra composed of carved coral, the figure wearing a textured gold dress and bangle-bracelets, the headdress set with calibré-cut sapphires, the platform set with calibré-cut emeralds, accented with round diamonds weighing approximately .35 carat, her lotus blossom scepter and eyes applied with enamel, signed Verdura. With signed box. Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000
An 18k Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Cultured Pearl and Ruby Brooch, Verdura, the weathervane featuring a rooster, globe and cardinal directions set with round and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately 3.20 carats, the rooster atop a cultured pearl measuring approximately 4.7 mm, decorated with textured gold plumage, completed by a cabochon ruby eye, signed Verdura. Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000
A Gold, Ruby, Diamond and Pearl Brooch, Verdura, centering a gold Spanish 8 Escudos coin depicting a bust of Philip V and dated 1731, surmounted by a coronet topped by a cross and accented by ribbons, set with oval-shaped cabochon rubies and numerous seed pearls, further set with rose-cut diamonds weighing approximately 1.00 carat, gross weight approximately 23 dwts, signed Verdura; circa 1940. Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000
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