Arts

Jewelry That Gleams With Wicked Memories

Published: April 13, 1997
(Page 2 of 3)

Correction Appended

Her delight in jewels is well known and of stylistic import: one of her Cartier purchases, a 17.27-carat rose-colored diamond known as the Tete de Belier, or Ram's Head, inspired the color known as shocking pink. As for the collier hindou, the exhibition catalogue repeats the tale that Fellowes wore it only once, 15 years after its creation, at the Beistegui costume ball in Venice in 1951. But a friend, Grace, Countess of Dudley, recalls that the necklace was one of Fellowes's favorite pieces of jewelry and was worn frequently.

In a telephone call from her home in southern Florida, Rosamond Fellowes, 76, the youngest of Fellowes's four daughters, remembered that most of her mother's jewelry had come from Cartier's shop at 13 rue de la Paix in Paris. ''She had a few things made by a jeweler in London, but Cartier was her favorite,'' she said. ''She tended to go in for exotic pieces. Ladylike jewels probably bored her.''

The collier hindou surely fit the bill. Indian-style baubles took top billing in Jazz Age jewelry design, a fad fueled by Cartier's 1925 to 1928 revamping of the crown jewels of the Maharajah of Piatala. And luckily for Cartier, Indian-inspired jewelry was not only covetable, it was lucratively elaborate.

THE NUMBER OF STONES USED in the Fellowes necklace is staggering. By recycling a simpler necklace and two mismatched bracelets that she bought at Cartier in the late 1920's, Daisy Fellowes supplied 785 gems, including 594 diamonds. Cartier rounded out the order with 238 diamonds and 8 rubies.

In May 1936, after toiling for nearly a year, it delivered to Fellowes an adaptation of a necklace that had been made for the Maharajah of Patna: a crescent bib of jeweled vegetation, diamond stems sprouting leaves and fruit made of carved rubies, sapphires and emeralds. And the equatorial glamour was T-shirt-simple ingenuity. The necklace hung from a pencil-thin silk cord that thanks to a slide mechanism reminiscent of a cowboy dandy's bolo tie, enabled it to be fixed tight to the throat or relaxed for a low display.

Correction: Sunday, April 13, 1997 An article on page 41 of the Arts and Leisure section today about a Cartier necklace misstates the surname of the great-grandson of its original owner. He is Amaury de la Moussaye, not ''de a Moussaye.''