The Story Behind the Magnificent and Legendary Stotesbury Emerald

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With its exceptional size, extraordinary shape and rich, vibrant hue, the Stotesbury Emerald would be an outstanding stone if considered only for its superb gem quality. Enclosed in this unique stone, however, is a history that includes two celebrated design houses and three incomparable women who shared an impeccable eye for renowned jewels and gemstones. Each leading lady changed it meet her specific taste, in concert with the most famed jewelers of all time. The emerald’s fabled path illustrates the legend of a gem that coincided with the heyday of jewellry collecting in the United States. Click ahead to discover more than 100 years of the Stotesbury Emerald’s renowned history, as it awaits its next chapter. –Mallory Landers

Magnificent Jewels
25 April | New York

The Magnificent and Legendary Stotesbury Emerald, in a ring by Harry Winston, weighing approximately 34.40 carats. Sold for $996,500 on 25 April 2017 at Sotheby's New York.

The Story Behind the Magnificent and Legendary Stotesbury Emerald

  • An Exalted Gem
    Of ‘ Classic Colombian,’ origin, the Stotesbury emerald is a lively shade of green, its unique shape adding to its regal nature. For millennia, emeralds have been one of the most admired and sought after gemstones in the world. Though they adorned the Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors, emeralds achieved an exalted status when they returned to Europe in the 16th Century on the boats of Spanish Conquistadors from what is now South America.  

    The Magnificent and Legendary Stotesbury Emerald, in a ring by Harry Winston, weighing approximately 34.40 carats. Sold for $996,500 on 25 April 2017 at Sotheby's New York.

  • The McLean Years
    The Stotesbury Emerald’s journey begins in 1908 in Washington, D.C. American mining heiress and socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean was a client of Pierre Cartier, who helped Mrs. McLean amass one of the world’s most impressive collections of gemstones. In 1908 Cartier was tasked with creating a bespoke jewel to showcase the Star of the East diamond, a 94.80-carat pear-shaped diamond recently purchased by Mrs. McLean. It was decided that the Star of the East was to be worn as a pendant, and Mrs. McLean wore it, on a chain below a hexagonal emerald of 34 carats and a pearl of 32 grains. 

    Evalyn Walsh McLean wearing the Stotesbury Emerald as a pendant. PhotoQuest / Contributor.

  • The Hope Diamond
    Only two years later, Pierre Cartier paid another visit to Mrs. McLean, this time with an even more irresistible gemstone – the Hope Diamond. After a mounting was approved for the 45.52-carat Deep Blue diamond, Cartier and the McLeans agreed that the first payment for the Hope Diamond would include $40,000 and the emerald and pearl pendant which housed the Star of the East. The title of the Hope Diamond was officially transferred in 1912 after a bitter court battle between Cartier and the McLeans, and the hexagon-shaped emerald now belonged to the design house. 

    A portrait of Evalyn Walsh McLean wearing the Hope Diamond around her neck. Bettmann / Contributor.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. Stotesbury
    Eva Stotesbury was born in Chicago, her father a prominent lawyer who practiced in the same circuits as Abraham Lincoln. Her 1912 wedding to Edward T. Stotesbury, known as J.P. Morgan’s right-hand man in Philadelphia, was covered by The New York Times; President Taft was in attendance and toasted the newlyweds. Mr. and Mrs. Stotesbury split their time between Whitemarsh Hall, their mansion in Philadelphia and El Mirasol, their Palm Beach property. They were known for their lavish parties as well as their widespread philanthropic efforts. 

    Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. Stotesbury. Earnest A. Bachrach/Vogue (c) Conde Nast.

  • The Stotesbury Gems
    Mrs. Stotesbury had an eye for jewellery, and when the newly married couple travelled to London, word of her impressive gem collection quickly spread. During the 1912 trip, The New York Times reported, “The Philadelphia banker’s wife loves jewels for their own sake and can discuss the good and bad points of a gem with an expert’s knowledge. All of her stones are of the finest water, and a number of them, gathered at the coast of much time and trouble, are of incomparable beauty.”  An avid entertainer, Mrs. Stotesbury was known for complaining about the headaches induced by her emerald and diamond tiara by Cartier. 

    Mrs. E. T. Stotesbury, between circa 1915–1920. Flickr Commons project, 2017.

  • The Stotesbury Emeralds
    Like many women did during the World Wars, Mrs. Stotesbury looked to Pierre Cartier to re-work her emerald and diamond tiara and add more gems to create an entire suite. Comprising a tiara, necklace and pendant-earrings, the hexagon-shaped stone was the centerpiece of the necklace. Mrs. Stotesbury was so fond of her emeralds that she wore them in 1926 for her portrait completed by British artist Douglas Chandor. Parke-Bernet Galleries sold Mrs. Stotesbury’s much admired pearls in an auction following her death in 1946. 

    Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. E. T. Stotesbury. Bettmann / Contributor.

  • The Stotesbury Emerald and Harry Winston
    Laurence Krashes states in his book Harry Winston: The Ultimate Jeweler that the Stotesbury Emerald and the suite it belonged to were sold to Harry Winston in 1943. In a practice that made him famous during the jet-set years, Harry Winston refashioned the Stotesbury Emerald suite into a variety of more contemporary creations. The Stotesbury emerald itself was mounted as a ring and sold to May Bonfils Stanton. 

    Harry Winston, November 1976. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

  • May Bonfils Stanton
    May Bonfils Stanton was an American socialite, philanthropist and jewellery collector. Her father, Frederick G. Bonfils, co-founded and published The Denver Post. Mrs. Bonfils Stanton’s jewellery collection is still regarded as one of the most magnificent private collections in American history. The 1962 auction of her jewels by Parke-Bernet Galleries included two of her greatest purchases – the Liberator I and Idol’s Eye diamonds. The Stotesbury Emerald, however, was not included in this groundbreaking sale. 

    A portrait of May Bonfils Stanton. 

  • The Stotesbury Emerald at Auction
    Although it was not a part of the legendary single owner sale of May Bonfils Stanton’s collection, the Stotesbury Emerald appeared in a 1971 Parke-Bernet sale. Sold in its present mounting by Harry Winston, the ring was part of a various owner sale, but noted as being from the Estate of May Bonfils Stanton. The Stotesbury Emerald has remained with the same owners since the 1971 auction. 

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