Jewelry from the collection of Victoria, Lady de Rothschild goes on sale next week at Dreweatts, a British auctioneer based in Newbury, a market town about 60 miles west of London. Fans of modernist design, it’s time to dust off your paddles (as it were).
Known for her impeccable taste, her philanthropy and her high society connections, the renowned American socialite was born Victoria Schott in 1949. She grew up in Florida, the daughter of an American property developer, Lewis Schott, and his wife, Marcia Lou Whitney Schott, a descendant of the Daughters of the American Revolution. After graduating from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., with a degree in economics, Victoria married the British banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and together they returned to England, where they established homes in London and in the Rothschild family house in Buckinghamshire.
Victoria died in January 2021, leaving behind a vast collection of furniture, art and decorative items. Part of her personal collection was auctioned at Christie’s online in November and December, while a selection of her silverware and jewels goes on the block March 8-9 at Dreweatts’s Fine Jewellery, Silver, Watches and Luxury Accessories sale.
“Dreweatts were asked to sell part of her estate which centered around her collection of mostly modern, and a small selection of antique, silverware,” James Nicholson, deputy chairman of Dreweatts’ Jewellery, Silver & Watches Department, tells Robb Report. “At the same time, we were introduced to a group of jewelry, which we felt hugely complimented the modern silver, as both the jewelry and silver were collected by Victoria from the early 2000s when she developed a very keen interest in modern jewelry and silver designers, and she built a fascinating, but highly curated and disciplined collection.”
The sale includes 550 lots, 120 of which are jewelry, and 56 of those lots are from Victoria, Lady de Rothschild’s collection.
For all her wealth and easy access to the finest luxury houses, Victoria embraced a more art-centric style of jewelry distinguished by its design, as opposed to its intrinsic value.
“Victoria was most definitely not drawn to ‘high’ jewelry, brands or big, important stones,” says Nicholson. “Her taste was very much focused on a simple but disciplined look. She was very drawn to up-and-coming designers who were making highly individual, but extremely chic, modernist jewels.”
“This tied in with her interest in modern silversmiths, potters and ceramicists, whose works also form part of the Dreweatts sale, and who were at the forefront of 21st-century design and craftsmanship,” adds Nicholson.
Among the highlights of the sale are pieces made in Italy by the British studio jeweler Jacqueline Ryan, such as an 18k gold and lapis lazuli necklace (lot 375) that demonstrates the recurring themes of repetition and movement signature to her work, as well as five pieces by IBU (Irena Borzena Ustjanowski), an American modernist designer of Polish/Ukrainian descent, including a dramatic gold disc pendant on a large link necklace (lot 386).
“There are quite a few lots of silver and table wear by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co, in the sale,” Nicholson says. “Elsa Peretti’s love of natural forms and revolutionary style very much appealed to Victoria, as did their shared love of the traditional crafts of Bali and Japan, especially wicker work and basket weave work.”
That interest is best represented by lot 367, a woven golden bamboo bag with black silk lining designed by Peretti in 1980.
Victoria was, by all accounts, a master scene setter, especially when it came to creating tablescapes. “The drinks trays in all her houses will stay in my memory for many years to come,” her longtime friend, Virginia Fraser, wrote in a tribute on the Dreweatts site.
“Victoria’s signature Baccarat decanters would stand proud; around them a cluster of delicate early 20th century glasses engraved with the Rothschild crest. Highly polished Elsa Peretti silver condiments and mother of pearl spoons would be ready for the preparation of cocktails and various delicacies like caviar and creme fraîche spread on toasted blinis.
“This same inimitable style informed the way Victoria dressed,” Fraser added. “Her simple elegant way of presenting herself, almost Japanese in its restraint, allowed her to wear Philip Treacy hats and trademark modernist necklaces; Angela Pintaldi and Jacqueline Ryan with her theme of lapis lazuli sticklets were amongst her favorites.”