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Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix

Once called the "Supreme goddess of Spanish language cinema," by the New York Times, Maria Felix was no doubt a super star. Maybe not here in the US, but in Mexico and in her adopted France, she was a mega star. And mega stars need? Mega jewels, of course.
Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
Maria Félix with some of her many jewels.

Once called the “Supreme goddess of Spanish language cinema,” by the New York Times, Maria Felix was no doubt a super star. Maybe not here in the US, but in Mexico and in her adopted France, she was a mega star. And mega stars need? Mega jewels, of course.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
Maria wearing a snake bracelet and other jewels while in Venice. Photo: Getty

Nicknamed “La Dona” or the Grand Dame, after the character of her breakthrough 1943 film “Dona Barbara,” Maria Félix rose to fame, eventually starring in nearly 50 films from 1943 to 1971. And with her fame, so grew her jewelry collection. Seemingly never interviewed or photographed without a bevy of her jewels, the real centerpieces of her collection, her snakes and alligators, came to fruition beginning with a one-of-a-kind fully flexible snake necklace designed by Cartier.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
Maria’s great articulating snake by Cartier.

The actress, having relocated her main residence to Paris in the 60’s, sauntered into Cartier and requested the snake necklace. The necklace was almost life sized (22″) and made up of 2,473 brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds, weighing a whopping total of 178.21-carats. Having requested it in 1966, it took Cartier two years to make it (figuring out how to make a fully articulating snake necklace was no small feat) and once it was finished, Maria was out of town. It’s reported that she was so excited her masterpiece was ready, she chartered a plane back to Paris to retrieve it.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
Maria’s Cartier turquoise and gold snake hoops have ruby eyes.
Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
Maria wearing the snake hoops at a horse race in Paris in 1972.

The animal theme didn’t stop with the snake necklace. There was soon to follow a pair of turquoise and gold snake earrings with ruby eyes. Then in 1975, Maria took a pet baby alligator INTO Cartier (yes, into the store in Paris) and asked them to create a piece in his image. What resulted was a pair of alligators that could be worn as two separate brooches or as an articulating necklace. One alligator is covered in 1,023 brilliant-cut fancy intense yellow diamonds weighing 60.02 carats and navette-shaped emerald cabochons form the eyes. The other is covered in 1,060 emeralds weighing 66.86-carats and it has ruby cabochon eyes.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Felix
The alligator necklace, designed and made for her by Cartier, is set with emeralds and yellow diamonds.
Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
Another alligator bracelet owned by Maria.
Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
A panther/puma piece, collected reportedly because her husband referred to her as a puma, due to her ferocious personality.

There were pumas and more alligators – the animal theme was strong with this one. When she died on her 88th birthday in 2002, her collection was that of an icon. Mysteriously before she died in 2002, Félix sold the alligator and snake necklaces. Why, no one really knows for sure. She still had plenty of money and her late husband had left her his racehorses. The earrings remained in her collection but the two necklaces made it into Cartier’s collection. Recognizing her as one of their star clients, the year before she died, the first director of the Cartier Collection, Eric Nussbaum, couriered the necklaces to Mexico for her to wear in a documentary about her life. Much of the rest of her collection was included in an auction in July of 2008, along with many works of Art, held by Christie’s in New York.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Maria Félix
“They say that pearls make women cry, but the only pearls that make cry are the fake ones!” – María Félix

Our question for you is which is your favorite piece? Tell us in the comments below.

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