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The Fascinating Story Behind Marlene Dietrich’s Van Cleef & Arpels Bracelet

Jun 07, 2024

Marlene Dietrich wearing the ruby and diamond bracelet. Photo: Courtesy of Getty

When it comes to old Hollywood glamour, there’s perhaps no one more iconic than Marlene Dietrich. Celebrated for her unique voice and trailblazing style, the German-American actress captured the hearts of audiences throughout the decades, even as the industry shifted from silent films to “talkies.” Challenging the limited notions of femininity at the time, Dietrich pushed boundaries with her no- nonsense personality and bold sartorial choices, often adorning herself in eye-catching, shimmering jewels to add that extra wow factor to her photographs. One such jewel was her extraordinary ruby and diamond Van Cleef & Arpels Jarretière bracelet, which came up for auction in the recent Magnificent Jewels of Anne Eisenhower sale at Christie’s in New York that took place in June. With an estimate of between $2,500,000 – $4,500,000, the stunning piece hit the block for a whopping $4.5 million.

“Marlene Dietrich’s bracelet is so high drama, so Hollywood, the ultimate of everything—the greatest rubies, diamonds, mounting. It’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen,” says Lisa Hubbard at Christie’s.

An exceptional Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond ‘Jarretière’ bracelet. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Worn by the actress in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 film Stage Fright and at the 1951 Academy Awards, as well as numerous times off screen, the bracelet features oval-shaped rubies accompanied by round, square-cut and baguette-shaped diamonds, set in platinum.

The exceptional quality of the bracelet was recognized previously when it sold at Sotheby’s in 1992 for $990,000 to Anne Eisenhower, fetching more than triple the low estimate of $300,000. Eisenhower, an interior designer and philanthropist, was known for her love of precious stones with a particular penchant for rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, as well as Van Cleef & Arpels. After acquiring the bracelet, she had the French house design a matching necklace and earrings, both of which were offered in the sale too.

The back of the bracelet. Photo: Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

Named after, and inspired by, the French word for garter, the piece highlights how couture and fashion has been a key influence for the French maison Van Cleef & Arpels since it was founded. The ‘Jarretière’ cuff bracelet was designed to sit above the wrist, with a harmonious and unique mix of curves and geometric elements, which would have been a trailblazing design choice in the 1930s that appealed to Dietrich. The aesthetic design of Marlene Dietrich’s bracelet recalls a similar Van Cleef & Arpels piece that was offered to Wallis Simpson by the Duke of Windsor to celebrate their marriage agreement, and which she wore on June 3, 1937 for their wedding in France. The lucky new owner of Dietrich’s jewel took it home in a custom Mark Cross leather case that bears the star’s initials, adding to its starry allure.

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