Monday, February 19, 2018

Wearing Diamonds Babe Paley Style

A portrait of Babe by Richard Avedon.

I have been reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin, so have had Babe Paley on my mind quite a bit the past few months. In my online research for books or articles about her I came across a Town & Country article called “Babe & I” by Carol Prisant in the December 2010 issue. Ms. Prisant worked as an au pair for the Paley family one summer and her essay included her observations about Babe, William S. Paley, and of course, Truman Capote. I really loved this passage about a tenth anniversary present Babe received from her husband, which I thought I’d share:

Babe’s rivière Necklace. Magnificent! Photo by Richard J. Carson.

“To a college freshman from the Midwest who’d been hired to be the summer replacement for vacationing Zelly (Mademoiselle), they seemed a golden couple in a golden world. And when, on that hot July night, they exchanged anniversary gifts at dinner, I hung awestruck on every smiling word.

“The willowy, aristocratic Babe had given her husband a brilliantly patterned Vuillard. The powerful, roguish Bill had given her an exquisite diamond rivière necklace. First thing next morning, the Vuillard was hung above the mantel. The necklace reappeared that morning too.

Babe’s customary breakfast attire was one of two kimono-style robes. Each was of heavy matte silk with a wide, obi-like sash. One was daffodil yellow lined in milk-shake pink; the other, swimming-pool aqua lined in lavender. The sleeves of these robes were wide, and Babe always rolled back the cuffs to reveal the contrasting lining and her tan, fine-boned arms. On this Monday morning, she came to breakfast wearing her yellow-and-pink robe and her magnificent diamond necklace. She wasn’t wearing it on her neck, though. No. She’d wrapped it twice around her wrist.

I thought I’d die.”

What a great description of an unusual way to wear a rivière necklace! I found a few photos of it online but couldn’t find a picture of Babe wearing it. I did come across this photo of her wearing big pearls and fur, which I just love.

Not wearing the necklace but I love this picture of her in pearls and fur.

I read that the diamond necklace was made by Harry Winston and consisted of nineteen old-mine cut diamonds, with a smaller diamond between each, set in 18K gold. It came to auction at Christie’s in December 2010. It is divine!

A diamond rivière necklace owned by Babe Paley. Photo by Christie’s.

Let me know if you’ve ever worn a necklace as a bracelet!


Rosie said...

You can tell from the fabulous photos that Babe was such a babe.

I was surprised that I enjoyed "The Swans of Fifth Avenue" so much. I could see it as a mini-series. Capote was such a back-stabber, though.

Babe also tied a scarf around her handbag & started a trend. Years ago, I did wear a delicate silver and turquoise necklace as a bracelet.

Dawn Collings said...

I am new to your site and not sure where to post my question (it doesn't relate to this post). In looking through your archives How I Wore My Embellishment...I thought that your friend Rosie shined above all the others and wonder if she has a Blog of her own?

Jill said...

Hi Rosie, I finally finished the book. I really enjoyed it. I am going to read the book about Babe and her sisters now. Did you see that someone wants to know if YOU have a blog? Maybe you should start one! xx

Jill said...

Hi Dawn, what a nice compliment to Rosie! Maybe you and I can convince her that she ought to start her own blog. I would be reading it right alongside you!

Dawn Collings said...

Jill, I hope Rosie does start a Blog. Thanks for encouraging her.

Rosie said...

Hi Jill & Dawn,

I am so flattered for all your kind words. If I ever decide to start my own blog, you two would be the first to know. I am humbled.

Dawn Collings said...

Rosie, thank you for responding and I hope you do decide to do a blog (soon). :)