Doris Duke

This past week, some of the Schepps vintage jewelry was taken out of our vaults for an upcoming exhibition in Hong Kong! I had the opportunity to see the famous grape brooch (made in 1937) in sapphire, emerald, and diamond that belonged to the heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke–part of an amazing sapphire suite that also includes a bracelet and earrings. The grape brooch is fantastic–one forgets the scale of it; there’s nothing diminutive or quaint about it. It measures almost 5 inches high!

Looking through the Christie’s auction catalogue at Miss Duke’s collection, one is just in awe of the breadth of it. It was clear that Miss Duke acquired her jewelry as she did all the objects in her collections- with devotion, enthusiasm and a perceptive eye. Her appreciation and taste in jewelry was constantly evolving, from her admiration of classical designs to her fascination with Indian motifs. When she first started buying jewelry for herself, she followed her mother Nanaline Duke’s tastes and chose a lot of diamond pieces from the principal jewelry maisons, such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. In the 30s, she started championing the rising designers of the time, such as Paul Flato, Fulco di Verdura, Seaman Schepps, and David Webb, to create one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces and refashion her older jewels into the current style.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the life of Doris Duke. The pictures tell a tale of a woman who was adventurous, intelligent and independent. She was determined not to be defined by social expectations or her vast wealth and was an active supporter of the arts, historic preservation, and the environment. However, she did it all whilst dressed fabulously!

More of Miss Duke’s Schepps jewels to come!