A Captivating History

The Brooch of the Duchess of Argyll

As jewelry history goes, discovering provenance of a jewel remains a most exciting feat, for jewelry truly takes on its meaning when worn. Through the ages, jewelry has been given as a token of love and a display of wealth. Flower jewels and posy brooches were often given as tokens of affection. In portraits and now photographs, we look to find the original wearer of unique and important jewels. 

Margaret of Argyll, 1930

This brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels finds its story in the painting Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, by Gerald Brockhurst, the most sought-after portrait painter of the early 20th Century. The Duchess of Argyll, a socialite, fashion icon and popular topic of the daily gossip columns of the 1930s and 40s in London, brings great intrigue to the jewel. At the time of this sitting, circa 1931, she had been named Debutante of the Year and is around 19 years of age. First engaged to the Earl of Warwick, Charles Greville, but first married to the amateur golfer, Charles Sweeney of Pennsylvania, her escapades were hard to track. 

Did one of these suitors give the Duchess this lovely brooch? We may never know how the Duchess came to own or wear the present lot, but the exquisite design is memorialized in her portrait that now hangs in the Tate Modern