Christie's is scheduled to sell a Cartier ‘devant-de-corsage’ passed down from a Victorian opera singerto the late Lady Vestey is to be sold at auction.
The 'devant-de-corsage,' also known as a 'stomacher,' was originally designed by Cartier for Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba ahead of King Edward VII's Coronation in 1902.
Christie's To Auction Historic Cartier 'Devant-de-Corsage' Linked To Victorian Opera Singer And Lady Vestey
It features natural pearls and rose-cut diamondsset in platinumand was originally designed to be worn on the central panel of a bodice. Two diamond bracelets, shown in Christie's photo of the devant-de-corsage, can be linked to form a necklace.
Dame Nellie, one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era, wore the gown to the Royal Albert Hall for a coronation concert.
Dame Nellie was well-known for the extravagant jewelryshe donned during public occasions. According to one recent media story, she is "radiant with jewels flashing and radiating with every movement."
Her Von Mendelssohn, a banker, and descendant of the German composer Felix Mendelssohn presented Dame Nellie with the central pearl of the devant-de-corsage. It is also suitable for wearing as a necklace.
The necklace was passed down to Dame Nellie's granddaughter, Pamela, Lady Vestey, after her death in 1931. Pamela Armstrong was the daughter of George Armstrong, Nellie's only child, and his second wife, singer Evie Doyle.
Pamela was spoiled by her grandma because she was the only grandchild. She was 12 years old when Dame Nellie died, and she became her only successor.
'Thereafter, the press referred to her as "Melba's heiress," according to the obituary of Pamela, Lady Vestey in the Daily Telegraph. 'A year later, when she went to England to attend Westonbirt School, Adelaide's Advertiser headlined, "MELBA'S HEIRESS GOING TO LONDON — Has No Voice, Mother Says."
Pamela married Captain Hon William Howarth Vestey, the sole son of Samuel Vestey, 2nd Baron Vestey, and Frances Sarah Howarth Vestey, in 1939. William Vestey, 1st Baron Vestey, and his brother, Sir Edmund Vestey, 1st Bt., founded the tremendously profitable meatpacking and shipping company Vestey Group.
William was named 1st Baron Vestey in 1922 after Prime Minister David Lloyd George bestowed a peerage on him for his shipping services of wartime goods during World War I.
The Vesteys possessed a number of rare possessions, including the tiara worn by Princess Elisabeth of Belgium to a royal birthday party in 2022.
Pamela and Captain Vestey married and had two boys, Samuel and Mark, in Victoria, Canada. Captain Vestey was killed in action in Italy in 1944, just a year after their youngest son was born.
When their eldest son, Samuel, died in 1954, he became the third Baron Vestey. 'In acknowledgment of her husband's death in battle, Pamela was elevated to the status of baron's widow, becoming Pamela, Lady Vestey,' according to the Telegraph.
Pamela became an advocate for Dame Nellie's legacy. She was a patron of the Melba Conservatorium of Music in Richmond until it closed in 2008, and she supported an annual scholarship for emerging opera singers through the Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust, which still exists today.
Pamela, who died in 2011, left the exquisite necklace to her daughter-in-law, Celia Vestey, Baroness Vestey, who was Prince Harry's godmother and a friend of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
From 1999 to 2018, Lord Vestey served as the royal household's master of the horse. The Vesteys frequently stayed at Sandringham and Windsor Castle.
Lord and Lady Vestey loaned Dame Nellie Melba's Cartier devant-de-corsage to the National Gallery of Australia's 'Cartier: The Exhibition' in Canberra in 2018. Following that, the item is thought to have been quietly sold. Lady Vestey passed away in November 2020. Three months later, her spouse died.
The necklace is currently up for sale as part of Christie's 'Magnificent Jewels' collection. It is expected to cost between £2.2 million and £3.1 million. Jeweler Angela Berden said:
It’s rare that statement Belle Epoque jewels by Cartier come to auction… And this garland-style devant-de-corsage is one of the most magnificent examples of the period we’ve ever offered for sale.- Angela Berden
And this garland-style devant-de-corsage is one of the most spectacular specimens of the period we've ever sold.'