The emerald Corrigan bracelet, so named in the Mount Stewart archives was noted for its central emerald of immense size that was understood to have been acquired by Cartier directly from an Indian Maharajah. Cartier’s association with India began as early as 1901 when they received a private commission from Queen Alexandra to reset Indian jewels in the Royal Collection for the Queen to wear with Indian gowns sent to her from Mary Curzon, the Vicereine of India. Jacques Cartier, the brother who ran the London branch visited India the year of the Delhi Durbar in 1911, in part as a buying trip, where he purchased many antique Indian jewels that they later sold both as antique jewels, as well as unmounting some items for the use of the principle stones
Cf.: Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels, Sotheby's Geneva, 14th & 15th May 2012, pgs. 88-193, lots 480-488, for a collection of jewels and objects from the collection of Lady Londonderry, including items gifted from Mrs Laura Corrigan.
Edith Londonderry, wife of Charles, the seventh marquess was one of London’s great social and political hostesses in the period between the two wars. Wearing the fabulous Londonderry Jewels, most of which still belong to the family and today on loan to the Jewellery Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, she presided over the fabulous Eve of Parliament Receptions held at Londonderry House in Park Lane before its sale and demolition shortly after her death at the age of 80 in 1959.
Among Edith’s many friends was an American socialite, Mrs James Corrigan who was as generous as she was famous in London society for her legendary malapropisms. A recent arrival, Laura Corrigan had hired the house of Edith Londonderry’s great friend, Mrs George Keppel in Portman Square and paid extra to have access to her landlady’s social contacts.
Edith Londonderry also found Laura bright and amusing befriending her and with typical generosity made Mrs Corrigan a part of her own intimate circle of exalted friends. In gratitude, the wealthy American showered lavish presents on her London friends. Some of her gifts to Edith were simply extravagant on a scale that is impressive even today. The extraordinary cabochon emerald mounted to be worn either as a broach or set in a wide band of diamonds as a bracelet was one such gift, by repute taken from a maharaja’s turban and remounted by Pierre Cartier in Paris.
Edith was proudest of as a Dame of the Order of the British Empire, awarded to her in 1917 alone among women in the Order’s Military Division for her work in the war founding and commanding the more than 30,000 recruits of her Women’s Legion. Today Edith is better known for the creation, beginning in 1921, of the fabulous gardens that flourish the microclimate of her husband’s family estate in Country Down in Northern Ireland at Mount Stewart. One hundred acres of horticultural creativity, including formal gardens topiary and stone statuary whimsically inspired by the animals of her Ark Club. In 1955 she and her daughter donated Mount Stewart to the National Trust with a view to preserving it rarities of semi-tropical exotica and a large collection of rhododendrons for future generations.
Edith’s own sense of splendour had been with her from birth at Stafford House, the London residence of her grandfather the Duke of Sutherland. In Sutherland’s day was famous for Queen Victoria’s remark to her Mistress of the Robes, Millicent Sutherland, and “Duchess I come from my house to your Palace!” Much of Edith’s childhood was spent in the Scottish Highlands at the Sutherland’s picturesque Dunrobin Castle where gardens on a truly ducal scale, provided her with inspiration for part of her creation at Mount Stewart.
For all her accomplishments on the political scene of in the world of women’s rights, as an equestrienne of great kill of a garden designer and plants woman of genius, Edith would also have been pleased to be remembered for the beauty and elegance she brought to wearing the legendary Londonderry Jewels.
Edith’s beauty enhanced all of these family treasures and so impressed and delighted was she by her dear friend Laura Corrigan’s extraordinarily generous and seriously beautiful present of such a magnificent emerald that she included what she called The Corrigan Emerald Bracelet in her album of The Londonderry Jewels.
Mrs Laura Mae Corrigan
Mrs Laura Mae Corrigan was born Laura Mae Whitrock on the 2nd January 1879, the daughter of a Wisconsin handyman. From humble origins, she was to become known as "America's Salon Queen" and later "London's Social General". Her meteoric rise on both the American and London social scenes began with her marriage to a Dr MacMartin. Although they were not particularly wealthy, the couple took their vacations where they would meet the people whom Laura Mae wished to emulate. In 1913 she met James Corrigan, heir to a steel fortune, at a party at his Dry Island home where she stayed until dawn. A divorce from Dr MacMartin and marriage to James Corrigan followed in quick succession, however acceptance within Cleveland society was not forthcoming and she was similarly snubbed by the "Knickerbocker crowd" of New York. Shortly after the First World War, the Corrigans moved to London.
During the Second World War, she focussed her attention on the war effort, financing her charity work by selling her jewellery and art. She was awarded the King's Medal by the British Government, and the Croix de Guerre, Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Combattant from the French Government. Fleeing from occupied France through Portugal she returned to London in 1944 where she set up the "Wings Club" for allied aviators, with the Duchess of Kent as the patroness. She was to die in San Francisco on a trip to visit her sister over Christmas in 1947/48 aged 69.
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