Thursday, December 7, 2017


"Marie Louise" diadem (1810) by Van Clef & Arpels, presented by Napoleon to his second wife; Altered 1954-56

Living up to its label, nothing short of "Spectacular" describes the jewelry commissioned and collected by Marjorie Merriweather Post. An exquisite assemblage at the Hillwood estate, Spectacular: Gems and Jewelry From the Merriweather Post Collection exhibits the extraordinary wealth and brilliant baubles of Post, who--at 27--reigned as the world's wealthiest woman. Housed inside Hillwood's rustic Adirondack Building, an impressive spread of 50+ gemological masterpieces from the world's premiere jewelers glitter in grandeur. Keep reading for a look inside... 

Photo of Marjorie Merriweather Post with the "Marie Louise" diadem

Mastermind of the infamous Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Post had an eye for exquisite jewels, often sourcing her own gems or repurposing and combining equally admirable pieces. Each item on display boasts a sizeable stone and story. Notable mentions include a 17.15 carat East/West diamond engagement ring presented by fourth husband Herbert May in 1958, the Marie Louise diamond-encrusted diadem gifted by Napoleon to his second wife (whose emeralds were swapped for turquoise in the 50s), and Maximillian--a ring bearing a 21-carat Colombian emerald pre-owned by Mexico's emperor Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph. 

Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, David Webb and Verdura served as jewelers of choice for executing Post's custom commissions. Highlights include an ornate gold rope bracelet with a 100+ carat peridot sourced from India by Post and set by David Webb, a Marguerite flower brooch made with Van Cleef's signature 'mystery setting' (traceless mount) and a necklace and earrings set designed by George Headley + crafted by Charles Vaillant Inc. containing unusually large Burmese pearls. An art deco style necklace made from combining two De Sedle's bracelets and a large sapphire centerpiece by Cartier (150 carats in total) is a particular standout; its glamour is depicted in a 1946 portrait of Ms. Post by Frank O. Salisbury.

Necklace + Earrings, George Headley (designer) / Charles Vaillant, Inc. (maker) (1966). Large irregular baroque Burmese pearls

Fame and fortune complements infinite wealth, amounting to a fascinating collection of originally 200 pieces curated by Post. Spectacular reunites an astounding assortment of 50+, exemplifying the extravagant persona of a woman whose lifestyle surpassed acceptable social norms. A socialite and philanthropist, Post cycled through four husbands, bore three children and amassed an impressive collection of real estate, jewelry and Russian art. Truly a hidden gem in the heart of the nation's capital, the exhibit runs until January 7, 2018 at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens. When visiting, be sure to stop in to see the ornately furnished Georgian mansion, one of America's most memorable homes.

Brooch (1961) + Bracelet (1966), David Webb New York. Merriweather Post sourced the peridots, including the 100+ carat bracelet gem! 

Brooch, unidentified maker (1890 France), worn with both day and evening dresses

Necklace, Cartier clasp (1936 New York) / Caro Yamaoka pearls (1963 New York)

Necklace + Bracelet, Harry Winston (!961 New York) + Earrings, Cartier (1960)

Bracelet, David Webb (1961 New York)

Necklace, Harry Winston (1965-66 New York). 209 carats with 198 diamonds mounted in platinum

[L] Bracelet (Unidentified Maker, France 1940s) + [M] Clip Brooch (Unidentified Maker, France 1940s)  + [R] Bracelet  (1940s Cartier)

Marguerite Ruby + Diamond Brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels (1969 Paris), incorporates Van Cleef's revolutionary "mystery" setting

Necklace, Cartier (1937 New York), Result of combining two diamond and sapphire bracelets. 40 carat sapphire centerpiece

Portrait of Merriweather Post by Frank O. Salisbury (1946) wearing the Cartier sapphire necklace

Pendant Brooch, Cartier (1928 New York), iconic piece featuring more than 250 carats of carved Indian emeralds from the Mughal period

Bracelets by unidentified maker with King Wilhelm Friedrich IV of Prussia and his wife, Queen Elisabeth (1840 Berlin)

Introductory Wall to Spectacular 

Exhibit includes 50+ items from Marjorie Merriweather Post's collection

Prominent jewelers on display from the Merriweather Post collection

Exhibit located in the Adirondack cabin at Hillwood--who would have guessed!?

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