Wednesday, March 6, 2013

British Nobility Jewels: Edwina Mountbatten's Tutti Frutti Bandeau

Since we are discussing tutti frutti jewellery (namely, Princess Maxima’s set) another magnificent jewel in a similar style must be mentioned. I am talking about Edwina Mountbatten’s Tutti-Frutti Bandeau.
Countess Mountbatten of Burma's Tutti Frutti Bandeau 
Edwina, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma was described as one of the “six best dressed women in the world” and was a fashion icon between the two World Wars. Her jewellery collection was appropriately impressive.

The bandeau is a true triumph of Art Deco jewellery manufacture in England. It was designed by Cartier and created by English Art Works; the latter employed only British craftsmen to counter the depression-era unemployment in the jewellery industry. 
Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma (at the time the photograph was taken, they were styled  as Lord and Louis Mountbatten)
This bandeau is composed of platinum-set carved emeralds, rubies and sapphires representing leaves and fruit on the branches of a tree. Each branch is set with brilliant diamonds. The bandeau has two hinged ‘claws’ in the front that can be lowered to secure the jewel to the brow. It comes apart to form two bracelets. 

At some point after Edwina’s death, the bandeau was sold. Its current or previous owners are unknown, although it has had belonged to at least two different people since Edwina. We know this because after the British Government issued a ban on exporting valuable Art Deco pieces in 2004, its new owner applied for an export license. Whatever became of the license isn't known but the bandeau is still in Britain: since 2008, it has been displayed in the William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum. 
The bandeau in the form of bracelets
Just a couple of words about its original owner. Lady Mountbatten was born as Edwina Ashley and was Edward VII’s goddaughter. She was a very rich heiress (her fortune equalled about £65.8 million in today’s money, not counting real estate, jewellery and works of art) when she married Lord Louis Mountbatten, the future 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma – the Duke of Edinburgh’s uncle and Prince Charles’s mentor. 

The Countess is perhaps best remembered as the last Vicereine of India, as well as her very colourful personal life: among her alleged lovers is Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister who after her death sent two Indian destroyers to accompany her body (as per her wishes, Edwina was buried at sea off the coast of Portsmouth). Despite everything though, the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma remained very close to each other.

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