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Great Jewelry Collectors: Linda Lee Porter

When you're the wife of one of America's best loved composers, it's expected you'll have a few pieces of lovely jewelry. But what happens when you're a wealthy woman in your own right? You buy your own amazing jewelry AND let your husband by you amazing jewelry. Linda Lee Porter did.
Linda Lee Thomas and Cole Porter.

When you’re the wife of one of America’s best loved composers, it’s expected you’ll have a few pieces of lovely jewelry. But what happens when you’re a wealthy woman in your own right? You buy your own amazing jewelry AND let your husband by you amazing jewelry. Linda Lee Porter did.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Linda Lee Porter
Linda Lee Thomas (at the time) in a passport photo in 1919.

Born Linda Belle Lee in Louisville in 1884, she married early (at age 17), to a wealthy man, Edward Russel Thomas, who would later abuse her mentally and physically. They lived lavishly with houses in Palm Beach, Manhattan and Newport, however, the marriage ended in divorce in 1912 and Thomas offered Linda one million dollars in exchange for her silence about the abuse she suffered at his hands.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Linda Lee Porter
Linda Lee Porter photographed by Man Ray in 1926.

Linda left the states and headed to Paris where it was at a wedding reception there, at the Hotel Ritz Paris, that she met Cole Porter, in January of 1918. We don’t know much about their courtship but we do know they were married, with no family in attendance, at city hall in Paris (in the 18th arrondissement) on December 18, 1919.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Linda Lee Porter
Tutti Frutti Cartier Strap bracelet owned by Linda (Mrs. Cole) Porter in platinum, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, onyx and enamel now in the Cartier Collection. (photo: Cartier)

Theirs was an unconventional marriage. It’s worth the time spent down the rabbit hole to read about their life together. It’s hard to say when Cole let Linda in on the secret that he was gay, but judging from their close 34 year marriage and his absolute despair after she died, one would assume she knew and was ok with it. But we’re not here to talk about their life together. We’re here to talk about the jewels!

Great Jewelry Collectors: Linda Lee Porter
The iconic Belt Buckle Necklace, commissioned by Linda Lee Porter and made by Fulco di Verdura for Paul Flato in 1935 is considered an American work of art.

Given that both came from significant families, Cole eventually matched his wife in worth but initially it took an inheritance to do so. But then his musical career took off. They lived the high life, entertaining the likes of Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine and Jimmy Stewart. Each spring for a number of years, they headed to Venice and spent the summers there entertaining. And you can not entertain in Venice unadorned.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Linda Lee Porter
The “Eye of Horus” Bracelet by Cartier was commissioned by Linda Lee Porter in 1928 (left). The Scarab Belt Buckle Brooch, also by Cartier, was commissioned by her in 1926 (right). Photo credit: Siegleson, New York.

Linda had a flair for design and asked Cartier to create several pieces for her that are outstanding. And then there’s the iconic “Belt Buckle” aquamarine and ruby necklace by Paul Flato. Described by many as the most important piece of American jewelry, it now belongs to actress Jennifer Tilly. And yet still, let’s also not forget the King Tut inspired pieces, at least one of which contains actually Egyptian artifacts. When money is really no object, the world is your oyster, I suppose.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Linda Lee Porter
Linda Lee Porter later in life in her New York apartment at the Waldorf.

While theirs was an unconventional marriage, who’s to say what works and what doesn’t? But the jewelry on the other hand, that we can say was outstanding!


7 Responses

  1. Well, Wendy, the level of snark and sarcasm you responded with to both Brenda and Chandler seems quite excessive to me. I suppose that just graciously acknowledging that a mistake was made and actually correcting it would never have occurred to you? That you prefer to get defensive and justify the error with letting them know you have more important things to do than to concern yourself with maintaining a standard of accuracy on this site, since it’s just a side gig or hobby for you, leaves quite the impression. While that’s certainly your prerogative, you may want to consider how such unprofessional and insulting responses might reflect on both the website and the company it respresents. It doesn’t take much to imagine the kind of service a prospective customer might expect given the way you clapped back at the two above, so as the young folks say, “good luck with that.”

    1. Actually, Grace, what I tire of is people hiding behind their keyboards, seemingly looking for others to critique, chastise and berate, knowing full well they wouldn’t say the same things to someone if they found themselves face to face. What the world (and we small business owners, who are barely keeping our heads above water these days) could use is some understanding. Instead of folks who aren’t even actually interested in becoming clients in the first place tearing us down.

    1. Well, Chandler, thank you for pointing that out to me. I would have hoped that my readers were less judgmental
      but I guess you can’t win ’em all. Given I do also have a day job and the blog isn’t the main focus of the website, some error corrections get lost in the shuffle of taking care of kids, making dinner, working full-time and having aging parents. But I’m eternally grateful to the perfect folks, such as yourself, who like to point out my shortcomings.

      Given that I didn’t know Linda or Cole personally, I had to rely on the internet to suggest photos of them and the one in question was labeled as a photo of the two of them. I’ll let you go find the original offender and chastise them, as you’re MUCH better at it than I am and seem to have more time on your hands.

  2. I am very sorry but you have a photograph of NOEL COWARD and actress GERTRUDE LAWRENCE! THIS IS NOT THE PORTERS

      1. Sorry, I didn’t realise “caps” were shouting. Just thought you would have known your subjects before posting 🙏

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