Stunning Cartier Emerald Necklace from Vita Sackwille-West Collection at London Jewels Sale

The glittering marriage of Vita Sackville-West, the daughter of the 3rd Lord Sackville, to career diplomat Harold Nicolson in 1913 was the event of the season. The Great Hall at the Sackville's ancestral home at Knole was laden with wedding presents, including a huge collection of jewellery given to Vita by her mother, Lady Sackville. The previous year, Lady Sackville had marked Vita's engagement in equally extravagant style with gifts including the Cartier rock crystal and emerald necklace that features in Bonhams London Jewels sale at New Bond Street on Wednesday 4 December. Its estimate is £50,000-70,000.

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) was a gifted novelist and broadcaster, but is best known as one of the most influential English gardeners of the 20th century. The gardens she created with her husband at their home, Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, are world famous.

Her 50-year marriage to Nicolson – celebrated by their son Nigel in his book, Portrait of a Marriage – was unconventional. Vita had many passionate relationships with women, including a lengthy affair with Violet Trefusis, daughter of Edward VII's mistress Alice Keppel. Harold, who became an MP, and wrote an acclaimed series of diaries, was also bisexual.

Vita grew up in the splendour of Knole, one of the oldest and largest country houses in England where her mother was a brilliant and much celebrated society hostess, entertaining the great and good on a lavish scale.

Lady Sackville was also a valued and regular customer of Cartier's. The necklace in the sale dates from 1912, and was considered significant enough to feature in Hans Nadelhoffer's seminal monograph on Cartier where it is noted as being by Cartier Paris, 1912.

Vita Sackville-West's granddaughter Vanessa Nicolson said, "My grandmother was very elderly when I knew her as a child, but in her youth we know that she loved dressing up and going to balls. In the early 1960s shortly before she died, Vita gave my mother half of her jewellery collection. For security reasons we have kept them in a bank vault ever since so I like to think of the emerald necklace as a lost jewel now coming back into the light."

Bonhams Head of Jewellery in the UK, Emily Barber said, "This jewel has, of course, wonderful history and provenance – it's been in the Sackville family for more than 100 years. It's an important and early example of Cartier's phase of 'Indian' jewels which flowed from his inspirational trip to the East in 1911. Cartier designers began to incorporate oriental design motifs, as well as historic gems – such as this 99-carat carved Mughal emerald – into their creations.

"At around this time – the early 1910s – the firm also started to move away from the Garland style that had characterised many of their designs for the previous 20 years. The Sackville-West necklace perfectly represents the more abstract, geometric forms that signalled the birth of the age of Art Deco."


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