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Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post

If you have been following along on Wednesdays, I've been covering all eight of Elizabeth Taylor's weddings. And some of her jewelry. She was quite the collector and one of these Fridays, I'll discuss her collection in detail. But today, we'll talk about a woman, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who's jewelry collection put Liz's to shame.
Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post in a 1946 portrait by Frank O. Salisbury, featuring a necklace set with an exquisite 58.33 carat cushion-cut kashmir blue sapphire, which was originally gifted to Marjorie by husband EF Hutton in 1920 and set in a bracelet by Cartier. Like most of her jewelry from this time, the stone was mounted and remounted, coinciding with different decades and marriages and eventually was made to be convertible, allowing it to be taken out of the bracelet and set in this necklace, as well as another ring designed by Harry Winston in the 1950’s.

If you have been following along on Wednesdays, I’ve been covering all eight of Elizabeth Taylor’s weddings. And some of her jewelry. She was quite the collector and one of these Fridays, I’ll discuss her collection in detail. But today, we’ll talk about a woman, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who’s jewelry collection put Liz’s to shame.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
The spectacular Maximilian emerald ring that Marjorie wore to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Upon getting into her car after leaving festivities at the Buckingham Palace, she realized the emerald was missing. It was found and the ring is now the property of The Smithsonian.

When you’re the daughter of a wealthy manufacturing magnate, and also one who inherits the whole shebang at age 27, no less, you can damn nearly have anything you want. Including amazing and historic jewelry.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
This antique ruby and diamond brooch is modeled as a hummingbird in flight. Post acquired it in 1952 and wore it frequently. After it was sold, along with other Post jewelry, at Christie’s in 1982, it disappeared from the public eye and only recently appeared once again. The brooch is French and bears a resemblance to a late nineteenth-cen­tury hummingbird piece from the longstanding Parisian jewelry firm of Chaumet.

Marjorie’s father was the founder of Postum Cereal company. You may know them for their Grape Nuts and Post Toasties. All that cereal, along with other investments, had made him a very wealthy man when he committed suicide, as the result of a long illness that was apparently incurable. It was then that Marjorie became the owner of the company and worth an estimated $250 million in 1914 dollars (about $6.5 billion in today’s dollars).

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
An antique ruby and diamond necklace and earrings, 19th century from Marjorie’s collection. Maker unknown.

Marjorie Merriweather Post, like Elizabeth Taylor, was making an art of marrying well by that time. At age 18 she married an investment banker named Edward Close (the paternal grandfather of actress Glen Close, via his second marriage). They had two daughters and divorced in 1919.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
Marjorie wearing her famous turquoise necklace to the Red Cross ball in Palm Beach in 1967. The necklace, by Harry Winston, was commissioned to compliment a diadem in Marjorie’s possession that once belonged to Napolean’s wife Marie-Louise.

Marrying again in 1920, Marjorie married EF Hutton (a name you may recognize). EF was also a financier and helped to take the Postum Cereal company to new heights, by developing a wider variety of foods, including the Birdseye Frozen Foods line. In 1929, under his direction they changed the name of the company to General Foods Corporation and then in 1935, Marjorie and Mr. Hutton divorced. They had one daughter together (who later went on to become an actress, whom you may recognize – Dina Merrill) but her other two daughters had also been adopted by Hutton and now shared his last name. It was also during her marriage to Hutton that Marjorie commissioned the building of a large estate in Palm Beach, Florida, naming it Mar-a-Largo. You may have heard of it, as it has an equally famous owner at the moment.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
The iconic invisible set Van Cleef & Arpels ‘Marguerite’ ruby and diamond brooch, which is also on the cover of the book highlighting her jewels.

Tying the knot for a third time Marjorie married Joseph E Davies, a Washington lawyer. Their marriage spanned 20 years and during that time, Davies became the second ambassador to represent the US in the Soviet Union. This was after he had been the first chairman of the FTC and prior to becoming a special advisor to Harry Truman. Marjorie and Joseph had no children and he passed away three short years after their divorce was final.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
A Diamond and platinum necklace by Harry Winston, Inc., New York, 1965-1966.

Once they were no longer married, Marjorie was looking for a new home in the DC area and settled on an estate named Arbremont, renaming it Hillwood and gutting the entire interior and even included moving the library doors to frame a view of the Washington Monument. Today Hillwood is a museum that houses a significant part of her art collection and can be toured by the public.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
A diamond engagement ring by Harry A. Meyers, New York, c. 1958 given to Marjorie by her last husband, Herbert A May.

Marjorie would marry one last time in 1958 to a man named Herbert May, a wealthy Pittsburgh businessman. But when that marriage again ended in divorce in 1964, Marjorie reclaimed her maiden name and was known as Marjorie Merriweather Post until her death.

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
The last grand set of contemporary jewelry Marjorie Post acquired consisted of a necklace and earrings; the creation of Lexington, Kentucky-based de­signer George Headley in 1966, it was made of large and unusual baroque Burma pearls and moonstones. Headley sent the pieces to Post’s Palm Beach residence, Mar-a-Lago, for her ap­proval. Enchanted by the set, she wrote back, “The lovely necklace and earrings are going to live with me.”

But the big question is did she buy all of the jewels or did the men in her life buy them for her (we know at least two of the pieces shown here were purchased by various husbands)? Perhaps in the end, it matters not. Many of her most outstanding pieces were donated to the Smithsonian, forming the foundation of their gem gallery. Other pieces have made their way into private collections. And still others remain at Hillwood, like an emerald and diamond pendant brooch that’s described on Hillwood’s website as the following:

“One of the most significant and well-known jewels in Marjorie’s collection, still housed at Hillwood, is an emerald and diamond pendant brooch made by the London branch of Cartier in the 1920s. This iconic piece, emblematic of the marriage of historic gems with innovative design, features more than 250 carats of carved Indian emeralds from the Mughal period, including a large emerald carved with a seventeenth-century Mughal motif of a flower, with a Persian inscription on one side.”

Great Jewelry Collectors: Marjorie Merriweather Post
The hardcover book “Spectacular: Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection” I happen to own this book and it’s worth every penny spent on it!

There are so many glorious pieces, there’s no way to get you photos of them all in one post. Maybe sometime in the future we’ll break them down one by one in a series. But for now, I’d just like to know which of the pieces shown here is your favorite? Tell me in the comments, I know I have mine. 😉

Comments

11 Responses

  1. Dear Wendy , love looking and hearing about beautiful jewellery. Love the Pearl and Moonstone necklace . If I ever go to USA I’ll visit this museum.

  2. Absolutely the hummingbird! Fascinating, elegant and so understated! I’m not usually a big fan of rubies but this brooch truly speaks to me.

  3. Dear Wendy Kate,
    My favorite is the Ruby Necklace and Earrings. Rubies are my Favorite Stones. I only wear Vintage Jewelry.
    Allison

    1. Thanks for the comment, Allison. I love rubies too – they happen to be my birthstone. And I wear mostly vintage jewelry with an exception or two here and there.

  4. Nice article though one correction is needed. Dina Merrill (the actress) was MM Post’s third daughter and her father was E.F. Hutton.

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