Iconic jewels and the women who have worn them

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Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

After the former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis was diagnosed with cancer in 1994, she decided to auction off a number of her jewellery pieces. Among the items put under the hammer by Sotheby’s was this triple-strand faux-pearl necklace. The piece – best known from a photo of JFK Jr affectionately tugging at the strands – was estimated to bring in between US$500 and $700 (up to Dh2,500). Instead, the single item sold for an astounding $211,500 (Dh776,800), while the total auction garnered an impressive $34.46 million (Dh126.6m). While Kennedy Onassis owned a number of pearl necklaces, this particular piece was said to be her favourite and the one she wore most often. Believed to have been inherited from her mother, the necklace features faux pearls – a popular trend among the wealthy at the time – and the strands were set in the same manner as those owned by Coco Chanel. By allowing a space between the inner strand and the outer two, the pearls lie comfortably on the neck without lumping, a design style that has eventually come to be known as Channeling.

Grace Kelly

When Prince Rainier III first proposed to Grace Kelly, he did so with a Cartier eternity band of rubies and diamonds. But when he saw other starlets in Hollywood sporting flashier pieces, he quickly reconsidered his original offering. The new ring, also by Cartier, would feature a 10.5-carat, emerald-cut diamond, flanked by two baguettes. The gifting of the ring would not only signify the start of their 26-year marriage but a long-standing relationship between Princess Grace and Cartier. It is for this reason that Cartier was the jeweller of choice to recreate some of the princess's most iconic pieces for Olivier Dahan's film Grace of Monaco.

Princess Diana

When Lady Diana married Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981, she would sport, on the first of many occasions, the Spencer Tiara. A Spencer family heirloom that is said to date back to the 1800s, the diamond and silver tiara features different elements created by various jewellers over the years. In 1919, the centre element was a wedding present from Lady Sarah Spencer to Lady Cynthia Hamilton, wife of Albert, Viscount Althorp, Diana’s grandfather. The centrepiece would eventually be remounted to add four matching pieces in 1937. The tiara is often mistaken as a royal item because of the frequency with which Diana wore it. As it was only on loan to the princess while she remained part of the Windsor family, the tiara went back to Diana’s father following her divorce and was passed on to her brother. For a time it was on display as part of a travelling exhibit on Diana’s life and is meant to eventually make its way back to the vaults at Althorp.

Elizabeth Taylor

While shooting Cleopatra in Rome in 1962, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton took a stroll to Bvlgari's flagship store. Burton would frequently buy Taylor lavish jewellery and Bvlgari was one of the her favourites, leading Burton to quip: "I introduced Liz to beer, she introduced me to Bvlgari." On this occasion, Taylor was presented with two emerald necklaces. After trying both on several times, Taylor opted for the smaller of the two: an emerald and diamond brooch suspended from an emerald and diamond necklace, with the emeralds hailing from Colombia and Zimbabwe. In a 2012 Christie's auction held in New York, the necklace sold for $6.13m (Dh22.5m). The sale was part of a larger collection featuring a number of Taylor's favourite pieces and would set a new world auction record of $137,235,675 (Dh504m), toppling the $50,281,887 (Dh184.7) amassed for the Duchess of Windsor collection, which was sold in 1987 at Sotheby's Geneva.

Queen Victoria

The day before Queen Victoria’s wedding, Prince Albert presented her with a large, oblong sapphire brooch set in gold and surrounded by 12 round diamonds. The piece, named Prince Albert’s Sapphire Brooch or Queen Victoria’s Wedding Brooch, was worn on her wedding day and frequently thereafter until Albert’s death. In her will, the queen left a number of pieces to the Crown, including a pair of stud earrings, a diamond necklace and earrings set, and the Sapphire brooch. Queen Elizabeth II herself has often been photographed wearing the stunning piece. The brooch was not the only piece of jewellery gifted to Queen Victoria by her beloved Albert over the course of their marriage. An emerald and diamond tiara – created in 1845 by Joseph Kitching for £1,150 (Dh6,200) – was one of the more memorable items. Unlike the sapphire brooch, however, Victoria did not designate this piece to the Crown. Instead, it remains in the hands of her descendants.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie is known for her chic yet simple wardrobe choices, usually consisting of monochrome or all black. It’s no surprise, then, that the Hollywood actress chooses to wear an equally understated, though no less chic, timepiece – most frequently The Cartier Tank Louis. It is, incidentally, the same timepiece favoured by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Louis Cartier himself, adding a historical element to the already classic piece. The watch itself features a rectangular frame in 18-carat gold with a circular-grained crown and sapphire cabochon. The understated Cartier Tank Louis also includes a 057-calibre quartz movement, silver-grained dial, blued-steel sword-shaped hands and alligator-skin strap. Jolie is also known to own a number of other classic timepieces, including a Chanel Premiere Ladies and a Patek Philippe Minute Repeater, a surprise wedding gift from Brad Pitt.

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