THE GOLD, RUBY, TURQUOISE AND DIAMOND PURSE, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS, NEW YORK, 1942
- gold, ruby, turquoise
Cf: Sotheby's, The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, Geneva, Friday 3rd April 1987, Lot 128.
Mrs Jane Donahue's jewels possibly gifts referred to in the text were lots 41, 148, 175 and 251 in the above sale catalogue.
According to the archives of Van Cleef & Arpels, New York, this purse, numbered 3320, was made in 1942 and purchased the following year in 1943 by Mrs Jane Donahue.
Based in New York, Mrs Jessie Woolworth Donahue (1886-1971), was one of Frank W. Woolworth's three daughters. She was the last surviving daughter and heiress to the Woolworth fortune, which mainly derived from her father's well known chain of stores. Jessie, known also as Jane, was an intimate friend of the Duchess of Windsor. In 1918 she married James Donahue, who sadly gambled most of his life away before committing suicide in 1931. They had two sons; one of whom, James (1915-1966) also known as Jimmy, was a friend and constant companion of the Duke and Duchess in the 1950's.
Being a great patron of Van Cleef & Arpels in Paris, Mrs Donahue was instrumental in the firm establishing a branch in New York. Several items were to be found in the Duchess of Windsor's collection that were located in the Van Cleef archives as being purchased by Mrs James Donahue; most were by Van Cleef & Arpels and were all purchased in November or December of the year specified for each jewel, in this case 1942. It therefore can be assumed that these jewels including this purse, an invisibly-set sapphire ring dated 1950, a fancy link bracelet, 1955, a tinted rock crystal reverse intaglio tie clip, 1951 and a Movado travelling watch, 1950 were all Christmas presents to the Duchess either from Mrs Donahue or her son.