Gifted in 1876 to Consuelo Yznaga upon her marriage to George Montagu, Viscount Mandeville, this necklace was likely the star of a similarly-designed parure. Featuring an impressive row of emeralds spaced by delicate scrollwork motifs, this design exemplifies the Victorian fashions favored by the group of women now known as ‘The Million Dollar American Princesses,’ a group pioneered by the Duchess of Manchester herself. As the corset helped make the décolleté the focal point of women’s fashion, layers upon layers of jewels were called to conceal yet draw attention. Necklaces such as the present lot would have likely been partnered with additional rivièrès and gem-set floral creations to accessorize the bustled gowns worn to the innumerable events dotting the social season.
Born in Louisiana in 1853 to a plantation owner of Cuban descent, Consuelo Yznaga was known for what The Pittsburgh Press referred to as,’…the Spanish type of beauty,’ with jet-black eyebrows and abundant golden blonde hair. Her marriage to a member of the British aristocracy was an unfamiliar union that required sufficient time for both families to endorse. The 1876 wedding at Grace Church in New York City was described as, ‘One of the most brilliant affairs of the season,’ by The New York Times. Crowds crammed into the chapel to get a glimpse of the bride, who wore an ornate satin design with diamond starburst brooches in her hair. The New York Times dually noted that, ’the presents received by the bride were very elaborate and costly.’ Wall Street tycoon Mr. Leonard Jerome gifted the young bride with ’heavy gold bracelets,’ while Mrs. William Vanderbilt presented a, ‘point lace fan.’ It is important to note these two wedding guests in particular when observing the influence of Consuelo’s marriage; Mr. Jerome’s daughter Jennie, a friend of Consuelo, later went on to become Lady Randolph Churchill via marriage (and was mother to Sir Winston Churchill); Alva, known as Mrs. William Vanderbilt, named her own daughter Consuelo in the hopes she would receive the same marital rank as her longtime friend (and indeed she did become the Duchess of Marlborough).
As a social pioneer Consuelo became a sort of matchmaker, inspiring her friends from America to find suitable husbands; husbands that needed American fortunes to maintain their decaying estates in exchange for noble titles unavailable to American girls of even the highest social rank. Demure yet powerful in design, this necklace exemplifies the quiet confidence that defines the ‘Dollar Princesses.’
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