On April 24th and 25th, Sotheby’s is selling an extraordinary collection of magnificent jewels, the private treasure trove of a single owner, the late Janice Levin. The superb pieces are estimated to fetch between $7 million and $10 million, placing the lot among the top 15 jewelry collections ever sold at auction.
Janice Levin was not just another vastly wealthy New York widow around town living in a luxe apartment at the Pierre, wintering in Palm Beach, lunching at the best restaurants and dancing the night away at glittering charity balls, where her gowns were from the couture and her jewels outshone the chandeliers. She was a charming, down-to-earth woman known not only for her keen business acumen, her art collection and her boundless philanthropy, but for her great love of New York City. Through her foundation, she contributed generously to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a gallery there bears her name and a number of her paintings have been so bequeathed), the Museum of Modern Art (where she created a fellowship to develop young scholars and curators) and the Central Park Conservancy, endowing a playground in memory of her son, James Michael Levin.
The Sculpture Garden at London’s Winfield House, the residence of United States ambassadors to the Court of St. James’s, was given by her. She was a patron of the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. When she died last year at age 87, she was still slender, still blond and still wearing her magnificent jewels, which range from those once owned by royalty to elegant pieces perfect for complementing a fashionable and sophisticated wardrobe.
Among the most dazzling white diamonds to be sold are her 37.25-carat marquise ring bought from Harry Winston in 1964 of top color and clarity (estimated to bring between $1 million and $1.5 million), a rare pair of pear-shaped 22-carat pendants bought from Van Cleef & Arpels in 1968 (estimate $1.6 million to $2 million) and a stupendous Harry Winston diamond cluster necklace, circa 1965, expected to fetch between $700,000 and $1 million.
Then there is the staggering emerald and diamond necklace (Harry Winston, 1955), once the property of the Maharaja of Indore, Yashwant Rao Holkar, adding an exotic history and provenance to its beauty. Set with 12 emerald-cut emeralds weighing approximately 107 carats and 341 marquise, round and baguette diamonds weighing 153 carats, the estimate is between $900,000 and $1.5 million. Don’t forget that every good girl deserves a showstopper. Even some bad ones.
How do you feel about an invisibly set ruby and diamond bracelet from Van Cleef & Arpels made in Paris circa 1965, yours for between $125,000 and $150,000? Or maybe a cabochon sapphire (193.73 carats) bracelet surrounded by about 180 multishaped diamonds at $400,000 to $600,000? It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s to faint for.
Then there are numerous jeweled clips, earrings, brooches, rings, all beautiful, all chic, but of more moderate valuations, including striking designs by Tiffany, Cartier, Boucheron, David Webb, Bulgari, Chaumet, Lalaounis, Marina B., Gerard and Fred Leighton, famous jewelers with whom Janice Levin dealt personally. Well, I should hope.
In Palm Beach, everyone is giving a holiday party. And of such fabulousness, friends. Because in PB, all has returned to normal and everything worth doing is really worth doing. It started with Barton Gubelmann’s 85th birthday party given by her loved ones, Kate and Jimmy and Shelly Gubelmann. Big, sumptuous dinners in other big sumptuous houses were given by Marjorie and Max Fisher, Emilia and Pepe Fanjul, Pauline Pitt at her beautiful house on Lake Worth, Terry Kramer chez elle featuring a steel band, and Jean Tailer, also chez elle. Nobody stayed home.
Out celebrating with everything but holly in their hair were such as Mila and Brian Mulroney, Kate Ford (who will be moving into her new 23,000-square-foot PB house any minute, along with all the fine French furniture from the Ford house in Grosse Pointe), Judy and Al Taubman, Christina de Caraman, PB Mayor Lesly Smith, Serena and Samantha Boardman, Averell Fiske, Wendy Vanderbilt, Tina Fanjul, Virginia and Freddie Melhado, decorator Joseph Pricci, Maria and Raymond Floyd, Ande and Dinny Phipps, Alexandra de Borchgrave, Cynthia Boardman, Alfie Fanjul, Victoria and Minot Amory, Brucie Hennessey, Marianne and John Castle, Frank Shields, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and, really, who’s left?