Powerful Women, Beautiful Jewels

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Brains, beauty, eccentricity. Business acumen, audacity, devotion. Work ethic, generosity, charm. These are just some of the qualities in which women can be formidable – and formidably powerful. In the spirit of Fortune’s newly released list of the 2016 Most Powerful Women, Sotheby’s pays homage to some of the most influential figures whose jewellery we’ve had the privilege of selling. With their interests ranging from music and business to health and education, these nine trailblazers have changed the world for the better. Click ahead to discover more about these inspirational women and their incredible jewels.

Powerful Women, Beautiful Jewels

  • © Victor Skrebenski
    Estée Lauder
    While growing her company from an initial four products in 1946 into today’s cosmetics powerhouse, Estée Lauder (1906–2004) always knew that beauty also comes from helping others. Her family’s philanthropic tradition led her sons and co-chairmen, Leonard A. and Ronald S. Lauder, to found the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation in 1998, which directs 100 per cent of all donations to research to accelerate the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease.  

    Jewel from Estée Lauder’s Collection
    : 18 karat gold, platinum, coloured stone and diamond brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels, France, circa 1965 . Sold for $43,750 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • Evelyn H. Lauder
    With her spirit, compassion and grace, Evelyn H. Lauder (1936–2011) touched the lives of millions, but her greatest legacy may be her tireless commitment to the battle against breast cancer. After creating the now ubiquitous Pink Ribbon with SELF magazine in 1992, she became founder and chairman of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation which has raised more than $390 million since 1993 to advance the most promising breast cancer research worldwide.  

    Jewel from Evelyn H. Lauder’s Collection
    : Magnificent platinum, fancy intense pink diamond and diamond ring, Oscar Heyman & Brothers . Sold for $8,594,500 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • Mamdouha Bobst
    A health expert with degrees from the American University of Beirut, the University of Birmingham in the UK and the University of California at Berkeley, Mamdouha Bobst (1925–2015) worked at the World Health Organization and served as Lebanon’s youngest ever female delegate to the United Nations. The Elmer Holmes and Mamdouha Bobst Foundation she founded with her husband in 1968 supports causes ranging from medical research and animal welfare to cultural programmes and higher education.

    Jewel from Mamdouha Bobst’s Collection
    : Platinum and diamond ‘Galaxy’ brooch, Marianne Ostier, circa 1955 . Sold for $250,000 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • Matilda Dodge Wilson
    After graduating from business school in Detroit in 1902, Matilda Dodge Wilson (1883–1967) began working as a secretary for automative pioneer John Francis Dodge, who soon became her husband. An accomplished civic and business leader, she continuously championed women’s rights, social causes, higher education and the arts. Upon her election as the first female chairman of the board of Fidelity Bank & Trust Company in 1931, Time magazine declared her the most prominent woman in US banking.    

    Jewel from Matilda Dodge Wilson’s Collection
    : Platinum, emerald and diamond ring, Cartier, New York, circa 1933 . Sold for $521,000 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • Eydie Gorme
    A Grammy- and Emmy-award winning vocalist, Eydie Gorme (1928–2013) had her break on The Tonight Show in 1953, when she could be seen in living rooms all across America and was introduced to her co-star and love of her life, Steve Lawrence. For more than 55 years, Steve and Eydie performed in night cubs and concert halls, on television and on Broadway. Eydie’s fluency in Spanish also helped her cross over to the Latin charts, most notably with “Blame It on the Bossa Nova.”

    Jewel from Eydie Gorme’s Collection
    : Platinum and diamond ring . Sold for $677,000 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • Elisabeth Lewyt
    Born in Chartres, France, and nicknamed “Sainte Babette” for her kindness and devotion to animals, Elisabeth Lewyt (1913–2012) married inventor and entrepreneur Alexander Lewyt. With him, she became one of the most important patron of early Modern art. A champion of organisations that followed a no-kill policy for strayed and abandoned pets, Lewyt helped save countless animals through her personal involvement and charitable donations.  

    Jewel from Elisabeth Lewyt’s Collection
    : 18 karat gold, blackened gold, coloured diamond, diamond, citrine and ruby dog brooch, René Boivin, France . Sold for $257,000 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo Lerner
    Corsican aristocrat Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo Lerner (d. 2012) moved to Paris with her mother following the death of her father, a French army general. Having entered law school at eighteen and graduating in two years time, Muselli Pozzo di Borgo became the youngest attorney in France. Working as a criminal defense lawyer during the German occupation, she risked her life to save others. In 1957, she married celebrated lyricist Alan Jay Lerner of Gigi, My Fair Lady and Camelot fame.

    Jewel from Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo Lerner’s Collection
    : Gold and diamond rivière necklace, Van Cleef & Arpels . Sold for $245,000 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • Adele G. Bergreen
    Adele G. Bergreen (1922–2015) graduated from Vassar College and Yale Law School before opening New York City law firm Bergreen & Bergreen with her husband in the early 1950s. Thanks to her fluency in Italian, the firm started representing Italian companies, including Bulgari. A champion of the arts, Bergreen supported countless institutions throughout her life, including the Palm Springs Art Museum, Oxford University School of Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

    Jewel from Adele G. Bergreen’s Collection
    : 18 karat gold, sapphire, citrine and diamond pendant-necklace, Bulgari, circa 1970 . Sold for $231,250 at Sotheby’s New York. 

  • © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
    Brooke Astor
    The Astor fortune was built in New York, so Brooke Astor (1902–2007) chose to be generous to New Yorkers. She didn’t just head the Vincent Astor Foundation; she became personally acquainted with each organisation it supported. She channelled childhood ties to China to help build Astor Court, a Chinese-style courtyard, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In later years, the New York Public Library was her focus, and its main entrance, Astor Hall, was named in her honour.  

    Jewel from Brooke Astor’s Collection
    : Platinum, 18 karat gold, emerald and diamond necklace, Bulgari, 1959 . Sold for $686,500 at Sotheby’s New York. 

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