The Ten Most Valuable Celebrity Jewels
From movie stars to socialites, reclusive billionaires and real-life royalty – here are ten of the most valuable and spectacular jewels owned by famous women.
Jackie Onassis' diamond engagement ring
You might think the Van Cleef & Arpels engagement ring senator John F. Kennedy presented to his soon-to-be-wife would be the top selling item of Jackie’s jewels - but it was actually the ring given to her by her second husband, Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
The ring featured a 40.42 carat flawless diamond cut from the famous Lesotho III diamond – a 600+ carat rock bought by world famous jeweller Harry Winston and later cut into several pieces.
It made $2.5m as the top lot in the sale of her estate in 1996.
The buyer of the ring was later confirmed to be Irish entrepreneur Tony O'Reilly, a former rugby international and chairman of the Heinz food group, who bought it for his wife Chryss Goulandris, herself a member of a wealthy Greek shipping family.
Lily Safra's Burmese ruby and diamond ring
This huge 32 carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring once belonged to the wealthy Brazilian philanthropist Lily Safra, whose net worth is estimated at $1.3 billion.
Safra has acquired much of her wealth through her four marriages, and has donated tens of millions of dollars to charities around the world.
She is also a renowned art collector, and in 2010 purchased the Alberto Giacometti sculpture L'Homme qui marche I for £65 million (US$104.3 million), setting a new record as the world's most expensive sculpture.
In 2012 Safra sold her jewelry collection at Christie's in Geneva, with all the proceeds benefitting 32 charities such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Hope and Homes for Children in Romania.
The leading lot of the sale was her ruby and diamond ring, which became the most expensive ruby ever sold at auction with a final price of $6.7 million.
Wallis Simpson's Cartier panther bracelet
Wallis Simpson is renowned as the woman who lured British King Edward VIII from his throne, with the pair escaping royal duties to live a charmed life of luxury across Europe and America.
The couple became renowned as fashion icons of their era, and Simpson amassed a unique, stylish and extremely valuable jewelry collection through her life.
As a token of Edward’s love, he commissioned Cartier's designer Jeanne Toussaint to create this onyx and diamond panther bracelet in 1952, and it remained in her personal collection until her death in 1986.
In 2010 a collection of 20 pieces from the Duke and Duchess' collection sold at Sotheby's in London, achieving a total of £8 million.
The centrepiece of the sale was the panther bracelet, which sold for £4.5m ($7.4 million) to an anonymous buyer believed to be the pop star Madonna.
Ganna Walska's Briolette diamond brooch
The Walska Briolette Diamond is a world renowned natural yellow diamond that was once owned by Polish socialite and opera singer Ganna Walska.
Walska married six times during her life, including four extremely wealthy husbands such as the carpet tycoon Alexander Smith Cochran and industrialist Harold Fowler McCormick.
McCormick funded his wife's ambitions to become an opera singer, despite her lack of discernible talent, and their story later inspired a plotline in Citizen Kane.
Walska's fifth husband was the eccentric British inventor Harry Grindell Matthews, who claimed to have invented a 'Death Ray' in 1920, and attempted to sell it to various governments around the world despite the fact that it didn't actually work.
Throughout her life and various marriages, Walska assembled one of the world's most remarkable private jewelry collections.
The Briolette Diamond was set in an elaborate phoenix-shaped brooch featuring emeralds, diamonds and a cabochon sapphire, which sold at Sotheby's in 2013 for $9.6 million.
Albina Rodriguez de Patino's Emerald and diamond necklace
The wife of Bolivian industrialist Simon Iturri Patino, one of the wealthiest people in the world upon his death in 1947 (nicknamed “The Andean Rockefeller”), Albina Prodriguez de Patino was certainly no stranger to the lap of luxury.
Just part of her collection went up for sale at Christie’s in November 2013, with an emerald and diamond necklace by Cartier making $9.9m.
The emeralds were cut from the legendary 45 carat Andean Cross that once belonged to Queen Eugenia Victoria of Spain.
Elizabeth Taylor's La Peregrina pearl necklace
The auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s breathtaking jewellery collection in 2011 was one of the greatest ever held, totalling a staggering $116m at Christie’s New York.
The centrepiece of the sale was La Peregrina, a 16th century pearl which had previously been owned by several Spanish kings, Charles II, Mary I of England and Napoleon III.
It was given to Taylor as a Valentine's Day gift by her husband Richard Burton, who bought it at a Sotheby's auction for $37,000.
Taylor once recalled how the pearl fell out of its original setting, and she had to rescue it from the jaws of her pet puppy. She later commissioned Cartier to re-design the necklace, and surrounded La Peregrina with pearls, diamonds, and rubies.
Following her passing in 2011, the necklace sold at Christie's for $11,842,500, setting a new auction record for any pearl.
Huguette Clark's pink diamond
This 8.72 carat cushion brilliant-cut fancy vivid pink diamond has a truly regal provenance, having once belonged to Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, niece of Napoleon I and a relative of both King George III and The Tsar of Russia.
Princess Mathilde's jewels were sold at auction in Paris in 1904, and the diamond was later acquired by William A Clark, a former US senator and businessman involved in mining and railroads.
He gifted the gem to his daughter Huguette, who lived a reclusive life of luxury and was the subject of much rumour, after reporter Bill Dedman found that none of those employed at her residences had seen her in decades.
Clark was a notoriously private patron of the arts and a prodigious collector, who lived the last 20 years of her life in a New York hospital. When she died in 2011 at the age of 104, she left behind a fortune of more than $300 million, most of which was donated to charity.
Her personal jewelry collection was then sold at Christie's, including the pink diamond - now known as the Clark Pink – which realized $15.7 million.
Barbara Hutton's jadeite necklace
By the time she was 21, Barbara Hutton was already one of the richest women in the world, dubbed the “poor little rich girl” due to her lavish debutante ball during the Great Depression, which outraged the American public.
The heir to the FW Woolworth fortune, she married Prince Mdivani (known as one of the “Marrying Mdivanis”) in 1933, and was presented with this necklace in the same year by her father as a birthday present.
The necklace is believed to have originally belonged to a Chinese empress, and is renowned as the most important jadeite item in existence, with the beads of an unusually large size and extreme clarity.
Initially estimated at around $12 million, the necklace sold at Sotheby's in 2014 for an incredible $27.4 million, setting a new world record for any piece of jadeite jewelry.
Shirley Temple's Blue Diamond
For more than 70 years this spectacular 9.54 carat blue diamond belonged to former Hollywood child star Shirley Temple.
Temple began acting on-screen in 1931 at the age of three, and by 1935 she had become the biggest name in Hollywood. She starred in 44 films throughout her career, and was the world's biggest box-office star for three years running, from 1935 until 1938.
In 1940 her father bought her the blue diamond as a gift, after she completed filming of the The Blue Bird, a fantasy film which 20th Century Fox intended as an answer to The Wizard of Oz.
The film proved to be the first flop of Temple's career, and marked the beginning of a decline in popularity with audiences which saw her retire from acting at the age of 22.
However, in the mid-1960s she began a remarkable second career in politics, serving as a Representative to the 24th United Nations General Assembly under President Nixon.
She later served as the U.S Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia, and was appointed as the first female Chief of Protocol of the U.S in 1976.
Through her life in politics, Temple was photographed wearing the blue diamond ring at a variety of important events.
It remained in her personal collection until her passing in 2014, and in 2016 it was offered for sale at Sotheby's. Although it failed to attract a buyer, experts estimate the ring to be worth up to $35 million, making it one of the world's most valuable celebrity-owned jewels.
Marie Antoinette's pearl and diamond pendant
This stunning pearl and diamond pendant once belonged to the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette.
When the French Revolution placed the monarchy in peril, Antoinette arranged for her royal jewels to be taken to safety in Vienna.
Although the queen's jewels made it out of France, the queen herself was not so lucky.
Having been caught trying to flee Paris, Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI were executed by guillotine, and her young son Louis-Charles died in jail.
Only her daughter Marie Thérèse survived, and upon her release after three years of imprisonment she fled to Austria, where she reclaimed her mother's jewelry collection.
Those jewels later passed to the Bourbon Parma family, which has close ties to the royal families of France, Italy, Spain and Austria.
In 2018 the family's jewelry collection sold at Sotheby's for $53.1 million, making it the biggest royal jewellery sale in history.
The star of the show was Marie Antoinette's pearl and diamond pendant, which was offered with an estimate of $1 million – but sold for a world record $36 million.
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