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Great Jewelry Collectors: Hélène Beaumont

There are famous folks who want to remain in the shadows. I get that. What I don't get are those that become ghosts. In trying to research today's post, I looked high and low for information and images about American Socialite Hélène Beaumont but there was little to find. Thank goodness there's a magnificent piece of jewelry being auctioned off by Sotheby's in May, having once belonged to her, or she may have slipped into obscurity for most of us commoners.
Great Jewelry Collectors: Hélène Beaumont
An undated photograph of Hélène Beaumont.

There are famous folks who want to remain in the shadows. I get that. What I don’t get are those that become ghosts. In trying to research today’s post, I looked high and low for information and images about American Socialite Hélène Beaumont but there was little to find. Thank goodness there’s a magnificent piece of jewelry being auctioned off by Sotheby’s in May, having once belonged to her, or she may have slipped into obscurity for most of us commoners.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Hélène Beaumont
Bracelets very similar to this were listed in the collections of both Mrs. Beaumont and The Duchess of Windsor, all made by Van Cleef and Arpels in the 1930s and all auctioned off by Sotheby’s (their photo).

Born Hélène Thomas is 1894, she trained in her early years as an opera singer, making her debut in London in 1917. But her opera career was not long lived, and soon she became the second wife of Louis Dudley Beaumont. Mr. Beaumont, born in Ohio in 1857 as Louis Dudley Schonenberg, was a department store magante, as one of the founders of May Company, one of the most important department stores of the time.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Hélène Beaumont
Magnificent and highly important emerald and diamond necklace, circa 1935 being auctioned off by Sotheby’s in May 2019. The front set with a line of graduated sugarloaf cabochon emeralds of truly exceptional quality, with the center weighing 18.09 carats, alternating with hexagonal-shaped diamonds, framed with similarly cut, dart-shaped and baguette diamonds, the detachable back formed of a tapered row of marquise-shaped, oval and square-cut diamonds. The necklace front may be worn as a bracelet and the two detachable segments at the back could also be worn as a necklace together with the diamond bracelet, lot 521 from The Magnificent Jewels of Mme Hélène Beaumont Sale, May 1994.

It was when he moved to France in that he changed his last name to Beaumont and became one of the early patrons of aviation. He was president of the American Aeroclub in France and a major supporter of the aviators during WWI, earning him the title Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. 

Great Jewelry Collectors: Hélène Beaumont
A cultured pearl and diamond bracelet, formerly in the collection of Mrs. Beaumont. Auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1994 and again in 2008 (their photo).

After their marriage, the Beaumonts moved to Cap-d’Antibes, where they became a fixture. Hélène was a close friend of the Duchess of Windsor (they even had many matching or similar pieces of jewelry) and Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont were known as great entertainers, throwing lavish parties there on the French Riviera in the 1920s and 1930s. Their residence, Villa Eilenroc was deemed one of the most beautiful villas of the Riviera, situated in a 22 acre park on the tip of the Cap. In the Sotheby’s write up for the upcoming auction it’s described, “This magnificent villa had been built in the 1860s by the architect Garnier, for Hugh Hope London, formerly governor of the Dutch Indies. It was he who named the Villa Eilenroc from the anagram of Cornelie, the name of his wife. The original “neo-baroque Côte d’Azure style” of the villa was later transformed by successive owners into a more neo-classical building, and in the hands of Englishman James Willie the park was landscaped by Ringuissen. The Beaumonts guided by Wells Bosworth filled the villa with exquisite objects, including the finest 18th century French furniture, much of it acquired at the great Rothschild sales in England in the 1920s.”

Great Jewelry Collectors: Hélène Beaumont
Sapphire and Diamond Double Clip Brooch, Van Cleef and Arpels c. 1935. formerly in the collection of Mrs. Beaumont. (photo: Sotheby’s)

It was with the death of Mr. Beaumont in 1942 that the continued collecting of art and furnishings for their home ceased. After the second World War, Mrs. Beaumont moved back to France with her sister and they moved into a smaller house on the property. Villa Eilenroc was then donated in 1982 to Municipality of Antibes, and Hélène spent her remaining days between a flat in Monaco and her chalet in Vaduz.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Hélène Beaumont
A ruby and diamond necklace by Van Cleef and Arpels, having belonged to Mrs. Beaumont and of a similar design to one commissioned for The Duchess of Windsor by the Duke of Windsor for her 40th birthday in 1936.

With a jewelry collection that was rumored to rival Mrs. Simpson’s, I’m certain there’s so much more that’s not easily found online. It will be fun to watch the Sotheby’s auction on May 14th to see for what sum of money the fabulous emerald necklace is sold. Want to wager any guesses?

Comments

2 Responses

  1. Helen is my great great aunt. It’s so much fun to read about my family and the interest people had in her jewels.

    1. Oh goodness! I would love to know more about her, if you’d be willing to share. I was thinking about this post the other day and how until I started looking for great jewelry collectors, I’d never heard of her or her husband. It sounded like they had a very glamorous life. I hope it was as lovely as I imagine it to be. Her jewelry collection was amazing.

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