‘Once you’ve seen them, you’ll never forget them’: Anne Eisenhower’s spectacular jewels
Marlene Dietrich’s iconic Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond bracelet stars in the collection of the late philanthropist, interior designer and granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower
When asked by Architectural Digest in 1990 — the same year she was named one of the publication’s Top 100 designers — to describe her interior design style, Anne Eisenhower responded, ‘Traditional, but for today’s living: comfortable, with a “lived-in” look; uncluttered without appearing austere.’ As known for her humble character as for her undeniable glamour, the late philanthropist and designer approached all aspects of her life with that same sense of effortless grace.
‘She was the sort of person that when she walked into a room you noticed her, not because she was over the top, but because she sailed in and was simply an elegant presence,’ recalls Lisa Hubbard, Christie’s Jewellery Senior Advisor, who shared a decades-long friendship with Eisenhower. In addition to Anne’s ‘wicked sense of humour’, Hubbard bonded with her over a deep appreciation for jewellery. But it was only later in life that the advisor would discover her friend’s trove of treasures worn during her heyday on the New York City social scene, chockful of black-tie charity galas.
More than 30 of these jaw-dropping pieces will be featured in the Magnificent Jewels of Anne Eisenhower on 7 June during Christie’s Luxury Week in New York. Hubbard expects the public to be as awestruck as she was by the collection, which brims with ‘the big four’ — diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds — as well as exceptional historic and contemporary jewels: ‘Anne had the wherewithal to acquire incredible pieces of jewellery that once you’ve seen them, you never forget them.’
Inside Anne Eisenhower’s jewellery collection
Anne may have been ‘a great New Yorker’, as her friend former mayor Michael Bloomberg described her, but her jewellery is the stuff of Hollywood legend. The star of Eisenhower’s collection is Van Cleef & Arpels’s ‘Jarretière’ ruby and diamond bracelet purchased in 1937 by none other than Marlene Dietrich. The German actress and screen siren famously wore the piece in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 film, Stage Fright, followed by the 1951 Academy Awards. Eisenhower acquired the bracelet directly from Marlene Dietrich's estate in 1992, giving the jewel a doubly esteemed provenance.
‘Marlene Dietrich’s bracelet is so high drama, so Hollywood, the ultimate of everything — the greatest rubies, diamonds, mounting. It’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen,’ says Hubbard on what can be considered one of the most important pieces of jewellery of all time. ‘Who would have thought that Anne, who was reserved by nature, would be the one who would take it over from Marlene Dietrich?’
After purchasing the bracelet at auction, Eisenhower enlisted Van Cleef & Arpels to make a complementary necklace and earrings. All three works are being offered in this dedicated sale, along with other contemporary creations bought directly from the jewellery houses. Among Hubbard’s favourites is a sapphire and diamond ‘Waterfall’ necklace and earrings, also by Van Cleef & Arpels. ‘I’d not seen that pattern before, and they’re so flattering,’ she says. ‘They show what good jewellery is all about.’
Another historic highlight of the collection is Tiffany & Co.’s diamond and multi-gem ‘Moonlight Rose’ bracelet, which dates to circa 1925. During the Art Deco period, monochromatic geometric designs reigned supreme, making this jewel’s use of coloured stones and its pictorial design extremely rare.
‘This is a beautifully executed piece of jewellery. It reminds me of a Chinese scroll painting. It’s miniature art,’ says Hubbard, praising the ingenious use of buff-top rubies that form the flower and a rose-cut diamond that represents the moon. ‘For Anne to have both the staggeringly gutsy Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet next to this quiet Tiffany & Co. one, she had all-encompassing taste and saw merit across the board.’
It’s rare for an impeccable eye to be matched in generosity and character, but Anne Eisenhower was just that. As her granddaughter Camila Mendoza tells Christie’s, ‘While these jewels are indeed breath-taking, my grandmother is the real gem that we are celebrating today — and that we will celebrate always.’