Our upcoming Jewellery sale features a gorgeous Art Deco rock crystal and diamond lapel brooch once owned by a New York socialite. We sit down with Head of Jewellery, Sarah Duncan G.G., who talks us through the striking features of this brooch and the life of Mary Augusta McCagg.
The brooch was made circa 1925 and was formerly owned by the New York socialite Miss Mary Augusta McCagg. It has not appeared on the open market since its purchase in the mid 1920s, making it a rare example to be maintained within one family for nearly a century.
The brooch is a fantastic example of the early influence Indian art had on the jewellery being created by Cartier. The finely pierced setting shows Indian themes while embracing a highly monochrome colour palate, typical of early Art Deco jewellery. This combined with Cartier’s pioneering use of rock crystal makes this a striking example from arguably the firm’s most important period.
Mary Augusta McCagg, known as Augusta to the family, was born in New York in 1895 to Louis B. and Edith E. King McCagg. The family split their time between Newport, Rhode Island and New York City. Augusta was related to some of the most prominent families in America including the Kings, the Fishs, the Browns and the Vanderbilts.
In 1923, she traveled to Egypt with her cousin John Nicholas Brown II, dubbed by the press “The Richest Baby in America” following the death of his father when he was just 3 months old. Together they celebrated his 23rd birthday at the Great Pyramids.
John Nicholas Brown and Augusta McCagg and party in Egypt, 1923. Image courtesy of Brown University
In April 1924, Augusta was one of eight bridesmaids to her relative Cornelia Vanderbilt when she wed John Francis Amherst Cecil at Biltmore, North Carolina for the society wedding of the year.
Cornelia Vanderbilt collecting her bridesmaid Augusta McCagg (centre) from the station before the wedding, 1924. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
During the Second World War, Augusta led civilian defense and organized the ambulance service of the Newport Chapter of the American Red Cross. Later she was a member of the Newport Country Club where she won golf championships.
Augusta McCagg (far right). Image courtesy of the Life Magazine, 26 April 1943.
Augusta McCagg never married and passed away in 1965. The brooch has since been passed down through the family. We are delighted to have a dozen pieces consigned by her descents on offer, including an early 20th century pocket watch by Tiffany & Co. (estimate £1,200-1,500) and an Art Deco 3 carat diamond ring (estimate £7,000-9,000).