Diamond Ring Hidden in a Bar of Soap during Spanish Civil War

A beautiful 1930s diamond ring, which was hidden in a bar of soap by the renowned classical Spanish dancer, Emma Photiades (1913-1999), as she fled from Spain to France to escape the Spanish Civil war, will be sold in the Fine Jewellery sale at Bonhams in New Bond Street on Thursday 27 September 2007.


Bought for £300 in 1934, “la Marques”, acquired the diamond ring from a jewellery shop in Barcelona. Two years later, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War forced the dancer to leave Spain. Concealing the diamond ring in a bar of soap as valuables were prohibited from leaving the country, she fled to Paris and later to London where she was able to pursue her theatrical career, appearing with Vera Lynn, Peggy Ashcroft, John Mills, John McCormack and Terry Thomas, among others. Today, the diamond ring, (lot 12) which she often wore when she danced, is estimated to fetch £7,000-9,000.

A Georgian diamond tiara, realistically designed as two branches of myrtle and estimated to fetch £20,000-30,000. In antiquity and the Renaissance, the shrub was an attribute of Venus and symbolic of everlasting love and conjugal fidelity and the motif was revived in tiaras made during the Empire period. In England, Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, took the lead in wearing the tiara. Aristocracy followed and soon the tiara took the most prominent place among the jewelled ornaments of English women, so much so, that the Lady’s Magazine in 1799 asked: “How can a woman even of the most illustrious descent expect people to acknowledge her importance if she wears nothing more than a silk ribbon round her head”.

Another antique highlight is a late 19th century emerald and diamond bangle, lot 156. The impressive step-cut emerald, weighing 18.15 carats, is estimated to fetch £40,000-50,000 and is accompanied by a certificate stating it is of Colombian origin.

The sale also boasts a large collection of art deco diamond-set watches, by Cartier.

The cocktail watch was a product of the high life in the 1920s and 1930s and got the real go-ahead when women stopped wearing long sleeves (a tell-tale sign that the relationship between fashion and jewellery was a very close one). Designed mainly to display diamonds, the watches were usually set in white gold and platinum and were made possible with the development of the small movement. Bezels were rectangular, octagonal or circular diamond-set and were often further embellished with onyx and occasionally with coloured gemstones. Straps were generally of black silk cordette, metal mesh, silk or diamond links.

Examples in the sale include :
An art deco diamond wristwatch, by Cartier, circa 1930 (£5,000-6,000)
An art deco sapphire and diamond bracelet watch, by Cartier, circa 1920 (£20,000-25,000)
A lady’s diamond-set watch, by Cartier/Jaeger-leCoultre, circa 1950 (£6,000-8,000)
An art deco diamond watch, by Cartier, circa 1925 (£5,000-7,000)
A sapphire and diamond bracelet watch, by Cartier, circa 1925 (£6,000-8,000)

These ladies’ watches allowed jewellers a freedom of their fantasies. Each is a unique masterpiece and should be considered a jewel rather than a watch. The women who were fortunate enough to wear them bring to mind the words of fashion king Charles Frederik Worth spoken to Louis-Francois Cartier: ” We have a common mission, that of living in, and for, luxury…”.

Deco dress watches as these have one common Art Deco denominator: form. 1920s objects still possess a strong personality today and can be identified immediately. It is almost possible to say that designs of this decade are immortal as they continue to be imitated.

One of the watches (an sapphire and diamond watch by Cartier, circa 1920, £20,000-25,000) belonged to the renowned Italian fashion designer, Mimmina, who is also selling a selection of fine quality period jewels, including:
An Art Deco onyx, emerald and diamond bracelet, by Cartier, circa 1925 (£15,000-20,000)
‘Ludo-Hexagone’ dress clip, by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1930 (£6,000-8,000)
Art Deco enamel and diamond eternity ring (£6,000-8,000)
A gold, sapphire and diamond bracelet watch, by Lacloche, circa 1940 (£6,000-8,000)
An Art Deco diamond and sapphire ring, circa 1920 (£6,000-8,000)