Saturday, January 16, 2010

Part III of III: CARTIER and AMERICA, San Francisco

Part III of III


Featuring an 143 carat emerald, this platinum, emerald and diamond necklace was owned by Lady Granard (nee Beatrice Mills) a descendant of the founders of the town of Millbrae.
Cartier London 1932.


Photos: Tobacco heiress Doris Duke, left photo, wore this platinum, diamond and pearl bandeau, at her "coming out" party, which she inherited from her mother. Cartier Paris 1924.

Note to readers: "Coming out" had a different meaning back in those days, as in debutante. For more on the subject go to

Doris Duke was the only child of James Biddle Duke, founder of the American Tobacco Company (and benefactor of Duke University). Upon her birth the press named her the "Million Dollar Baby."

According to legend, her father on his deathbed said to his daughter: "Trust no one. They all want your money."

Ms. Duke liked to say: You can't buy a person. But you sure can rent one for a while."

She once worked for $1.00 per week in the war relief effort, donating the balance of her salary to charity. I've discovered," she said, at the time, "That it's fun to work, I guess."
But mostly she indulged in philanthropy. According to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ms. Duke gave away $400 million during her.


Left: Doris Duke in 1978 at the storied Studio 54 in New York with Steve Rubel (co-founder of Studio 54 with current hip hotelier Ian Schrager), and dancer and choreographer Martha Graham on the right (founder of the Martha Graham Dance Company, the oldest and most celebrated modern dance company in the world).

Center: Crowds throng 54th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue) outside Studio 54 in its hey day, with 'wanna-be' patrons jockeying for position and a chance at a highly coveted 'admittance nod' (i.e. "your in") from the door keepers. My sister and I made it in once, and now 32 years later my daughter lives next door in a new high rise building. Small world!

Right: Doris Duke with Imelda Marcos her close friend, and neighbor to her famed home Shangra La in Hawaii.

In 1988, The New York Times reported that Doris Duke posted the $5 million bail of the former Philippines first lady, Imelda Marcos, who was charged along with looting her country. A lawyer for Ms. Duke, was quoted as saying that his client had been "happy to help a friend."

Miss Dukes gesture of friendship followed the loan of her personal Boeing 737 to fly Mrs. Marcos and her entourage from Hawaii to New York.

This is an image of a Boeing 737 jet, the type owned by Doris Duke as her private aircraft, from the Boeing website. The caption for this image says, "seats 112-132 passengers."

Nice flight...if you can get it.

Mrs. Marcos was described as being "grateful and tearful" at Ms Dukes gestures.

How sweet! Oh pulleeze


Ms. Duke collected treasures, homes pets, even including two camels and a pet leopard. She died at 80 in 1993, at her home, Falcon's Lair in Beverly Hills, once the home of Rudolph Valentino, leaving an estate worth an estimated $1.3 billion.

Photo: Falcon's Lair built by actor Rudolph Valentino

In the end, she made her butler, the executor of her massive estate. He got $5 million in fees plus $500,000 a year. Other beneficiaries were Ms. Duke's camels, which were kept for life, and her dog, which got $100,000 a year.

Photos: Two of the many beneficiaries of Doris Duke's vast estate

Left: Bernard Lafferty, the Butler, $5 million, plus $500,00 per year

Right: Her two camels


Doris Dukes legendary Islamic inspired home, Shangra La (photos below) is possible to tour. Contact the Honolulu Academy of Arts (

Photos: Shangra La, Dukes home on the island of Oahu.
Left: The Dining Room
Center: The Baby Turkish Room, purchased from a Syrian palace required the demolition of a room of the house in order to accommodate its size. Duke installed Persian silk carpets, ceramics and textiles from the Ottoman Empire (particularly from the 14-15th century).
Right: Dukes private bath inspired by her visit to the Taj Mahal, with inlaid marble walls and floors, designed and made for her in India.


Photo: The Playhouse at Shangra La, quite possibly the most coveted of invitations by friends of Ms. Duke.


Here is a tidbit that is quite possibly more interesting to me than my readers, but I'll give it a try: As I researched the jewels on display at the exhibition and the history of those that once possessed them, I learned about a rare necklace owned by Doris Duke, that she purchased from Madame Ganna Walska (as in Lotusland fame--see Part II of III)

The Doris Duke/Ganna Walska Indian Arya Necklace

The Doris Duke/Ganna Walska Arya Necklace has great historical significance not only because it was designed and created in the 19th century, but also because it came to be owned by two of the most prominent and illustrious ladies in history, Madame Ganna Walska, the renowned Polish soprano and Doris Duke, the American tobacco heiress, philanthropist and art collector.

The Indian Arya Necklace is an extremely complex example of the goldsmith's art, made up of diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies and seed pearls set in gold "kundan settings", the method perfected for setting stones during the Mughal empire prior to adopting the "claw" settings from the west.

Left: Portrait of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan
Center: The Taj Mahal in Agra, was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal
Right: Portrait of Mumtaz Mahl, wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan

The elaborate "Arya" necklace is made in two halves, a narrower upper half which fits around the neck, and a wider lower half which rests on the upper part of the shoulders and chest.
The necklace, was a part of the exquisite jewelry collection of Madame Walska, who was a nature lover and garden designer. Walska sold part of her jewelry collection in order to finance one more shipment of plants which included the worlds most rare Cycad plant for her final creation, the "Cycad Garden" at her 37-acre estate, Lotusland, at Montectio (Santa Barbara), CA. She bequeathed her personal gardens and her fortune at the time of her death to the "Ganna Lotusland Foundation."

Photos, above: The worlds most famous Cycad Garden, at Lotusland, for which the benefactor, Madame Walska, sold her jewels to complete.

Thus the name if the necklace quite appropriately reflects the names of the two previous owners of the necklace.

I seem to get to know the Madame better on almost a daily basis.


Okay, I've had enough, and written enough for Part III, but I'm not finished! I'll have to right an epilogue to this series in order to get in the jewels owned by Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace, and someone I knew nothing about, but whose jewelry was the most outrageous jewelry on display, the Mexican actress Maria Felix (see the snake pic, below!).

Now you believe me?


Good night moon

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