Sale includes designs by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Buccellati, worn by Lady Ashley, Bette Midler & Hélène Irwin Crocker Fagan
May 9, 2022: From the glamour of the wearers to the stunning designs, Bonhams New York Jewels sale is filled with Art Deco treasures from three important American collections.
On May 24, jewels on the auction block include a 101-carat Colombian emerald Art Deco bracelet by Cartier, circa 1926, from the collection of Hélène Irwin Crocker Fagan (1887–1966), one of the richest American heiresses in the world during the Belle Epoque and Art Deco eras. Daughter of William G. Irwin, an English capitalist who amassed a fortune as a sugar baron in Hawaii, Hélène married Templeton Crocker (grandson of Charles Crocker, one of the big four railroad magnates) in 1911. The newspapers went wild, and the San Francisco Call headline read, “Crocker-Irwin Wedding Bells Clink of Gold: Vast Fortunes to be United at Altar.”
Lady Sylvia Ashley (1904–1977) was an extraordinary beauty and hundreds of society photos capture her dazzling smile, perfect style, and love of jewelry. Known as “Silky” to her friends, referencing her start as a chorus girl and lingerie model, she was lively, extravagant, and loved a crowd. Her five marriages - to two lords, one prince, and two Hollywood icons: Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Clark Gable – are much popular.
Her collection (more than 60 pieces) is full of jewelry and objects with old Hollywood glamour collected during an extraordinary life. From an Art Deco aquamarine bracelet by Cartier, to a geometric diamond charm bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels, Lady Ashley loved and wore her pieces during her adventures, be it meeting Prince Edward at Buckingham Palace or traveling the world on Douglas Fairbanks’ yacht. The selection of Art Deco boxes by Cartier and other makers is noteworthy. Two midcentury gold Van Cleef & Arpels clocks are wonderfully whimsical timepieces and the “Inséparables” clock from the 1940s features two emerald lovebirds and a spray of rubies – a similar model was owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
One of the world's most beloved entertainers, Bette Midler’s expansive body of work has spanned nearly six decades across different genres, eras, and media. She has been recognized with four Grammy Awards, two Academy Award nominations, three Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and nine American Comedy Awards. A bestselling singer, her albums have sold over 30 million copies worldwide. She is celebrated for films including The Rose, Beaches, and Hocus Pocus, and her recent Broadway turn in Hello Dolly!. On and off stage, Ms. Midler’s style has always demanded attention. From the red carpet to her costume parties for her charity the New York Restoration Project, to her laid-back looks, Ms. Midler is an icon of style and is always adorned with eye-catching jewelry. More than a dozen pieces from her include a spectacular diamond and yellow sapphire feather from Tiffany & Co., a pair of gold bubble bracelets from Demner, earclips from Buccellati, and a Cartier “La Dona” gold watch.
Caroline Morrissey, Director of Jewelry for Bonhams New York, said: “We are delighted to present three fabulous jewelry collections from American ladies: first, the incredible jewels of Hélène Irwin Crocker Fagan, an heiress from the Art Deco era who owned one of the finest Colombian emerald Cartier bracelets I have ever seen; second, the collection of Lady Ashley, a rags to riches story of a chorus girl who ended up marrying both Douglas Fairbanks and Clark Gable; third, jewelry from a living legend, the inimitable Bette Midler. Many of the pieces in this sale are on the market for the first time and it is an incredible opportunity to buy a beautiful jewel with a famed and glamorous story behind it.”