Sunday, August 19, 2018

Peggy Hopkins Joyce by Raymond P.R. Neilson and the Portuguese Diamond

A portrait of Peggy Hopkins Joyce by Raymond P.R. Neilson.

This past spring at Sotheby’s the personal collection of Fred Leighton was offered at auction and included jewelry, furnishings, and art. Fred Leighton (real name Murray Mondschein) was known as a jeweler and if you have ever watched a red carpet in the past twenty years you know his work because he became famous for putting vintage and estate jewelry on stars like Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz, and Michelle Williams, among many others. He died in July 2017.

The jewelry offered in his personal collection contained all the great houses—Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Tiffany & Co, to name a few—and his furnishings showed his love of both travel and color.


One of the paintings in his collection was this portrait of Peggy Hopkins Joyce by Raymond Perry Rodgers Neilson (1881-1964). I could not take my eyes off of it! Neilson did a superb job of capturing an elegant lady and I loved the details of her dress and jewelry. I read over at the Frick Collection website that Neilson was a New York City portraitist. I think he was so talented!

Love these jewelry details.

Wearing the Portuguese Diamond.

Have a look at the gem around her neck. What I did not realize at the time when I first saw this painting is that Peggy is wearing a very famous diamond. I read that it is known as “the Portuguese Diamond,” is an Asscher cut, and weighs 127.01 carats, with a clarity grade of VS1. The name was given to the stone by Harry Winston, who acquired the diamond from Peggy in 1951. Wikipedia says Peggy got it from Black, Starr & Frost in February 1928 for the trade of a $350,000 pearl necklace and $23,000 in cash. Winston traded it in 1963 to the Smithsonian Institute for 3,800 carats’ worth of smaller diamonds. It is on display in the Gem Gallery at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The diamond has strong blue fluorescence, which appears even in daylight or incandescent light. GIA says the blue fluorescence masks the faint yellow color of the stone. They graded it an M in color when they examined it in 1997. Fascinating! You can read even more details on the Smithsonian site.

The Portuguese Blue Diamond. Photo by Harold and Erica Van Pelt, courtesy of GIA.

There was a reference to Peggy in the book I read recently Wallis in Love: The Untold Story of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton. He called her “the international gold digger and sometime actress” who traveled to the South of France with Lady Furness’s husband, Lord Marmaduke Furness. Lady Furness was born Thelma Morgan, and her twin sister was Gloria, who later became a Vanderbilt. In retaliation for her husband taking off with Peggy, Lady Furness began her campaign to seduce the Prince of Wales, which was a success. They were lovers for five years. Thelma was the only who introduced him to Wallis Simpson.

But back to Peggy, “international gold digger,” what a moniker! I didn’t realize she was an actress but sure enough, IMDB credits her with a few roles. Her photos don’t look nearly as fine as the Neilson portrait of her. I read that she was married six times and was known for her affairs with wealthy men. This probably explains how she was able to afford the Portuguese Diamond! Being the jeweler that he was, I am sure Fred Leighton knew all about the diamond Peggy was wearing in the painting and possibly even bought the picture because of it!

Let me know what you think of this painting of Peggy Hopkins Joyce or if you know anything about her or the artist Raymond P.R. Neilson or have visited with the Portuguese Diamond.

2 comments:

PinkCheetahVintage said...

This is seriously amazing.

rosie said...

Peggy was the inspiration for Anita Loos' character, Lorelei Lee (the original ambitious blonde gold-digger) in the 1920's book "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". Apparently, Peggy's multiple marriages, affairs, liaisons, scandals & love of diamonds provided Ms. Loos with much material.

There was a biography about Ms. Joyce called "Gold Digger". Title says it all.

The portrait I think is much more flattering than the photos of her at about the same age.