Famous Collections: Huguette ClarkFeb 26th, 2018
Our fabulous new blog series, Famous Collections, continues with a look inside the life, times and jewelry box of copper heiress Huguette Clark. (Did you miss the first installment of Fabulous Collections? Catch up on the series here!)
Huguette Clark was born in Paris, France in 1906 to United States Senator and famed industrial tycoon, William A. Clark and his much-younger second wife, Anna. She moved with her family to New York in 1910, was educated in Manhattan, and lived in a mansion on Fifth Avenue until the death of her father in 1925. After her father passed away, Huguette and her mother moved from their Upper East Side mansion to a stately apartment on Fifth Avenue. Huguette would own an apartment in that building until her death in 2011.
During her early life, Huguette was noted for her beauty, grace and talent on the violin. She was everything you would expect a 1920s debutante to be, including a great philanthropist. Wealthy and beautiful, she was popular in social circles and generous with both her time and money. She married a Princeton-educated lawyer in 1928 and, in 1929, exhibited seven original paintings in a New York City art gallery.
Then her life took an unexpected turn. No one is entirely sure what changed in Huguette Clark’s life, but her marriage evaporated in 1930 and Huguette faded from public view. She wouldn’t be seen again for nearly 80 years. During this time her housekeepers reported that her mansions sat empty and unused, and her circle of friends dwindled to just her private employees. Huguette Clark would have passed away in relative obscurity – she was hospitalized under a false name and in a room with a false number – had it not been for the surprising investigation into her personal affairs, undertaken in 2010.
Just months before she passed away, Huguette Clark’s personal accountant and attorney were both investigated by the New York County District Attorney for suspicious gifts they received from the heiress. Wallace Bock, her attorney, claimed he received $1.5 million after the attacks of 2001 for a bomb shelter in Israel, and a paralegal in Bock’s office gave evidence that Mr. Bock had attempted to get Huguette to sign a new version of her will which named Wallace Bock as a beneficiary. The investigation was closed in September 2010, and in May of 2011, Huguette Clark passed away.
After her death, in an effort to help alleviate expenses, 17 pieces of Huguette’s extensive jewelry collection were auctioned off at Christie’s New York, fetching a whopping $20 million total. Included in the auction was a Cartier diamond ring, discovered in the original Cartier box from the 1920s, which sold for $2.7 million, and an art deco diamond bracelet, also by Cartier, which sold for $578,000. However, the star of the auction was a Belle Époque pink diamond ring. Belonging first to Huguette’s mother, Anna, and measuring over 9 carats, the ring was certainly unique and sold for a staggering $16 million.
Ultimately, the story of Huguette Clark is sad. Isolated and reclusive, Huguette was never suited to the limelight that came with her social position, and her collection of jewelry, enamel frames, and other fine home decor reflected a personality that craved familial intimacy and quietude. She cherished the pieces of jewelry she was given by her father, and held nothing more dear than the pink diamond ring she inherited from her mother.
To begin collecting heirloom-quality jewelry that reflects your own personality, consider a unique piece of jewelry featuring an unexpected gemstone! Learn more here.