Janet is a friend who sent me this lovely letter and I would like to share it with you.
I have just read most of your recent email about Marie Antoinette's jewels being on display in NY. Wonderful! So, I thought you might enjoy my story on another great jewelry collector and her relationship with my mother.
In the book, Famous Jewelry Collectors, by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes, you will find one of the collectors is Lady Lydia Deterding, wife of Sir Henri Deterding, the Dutchman who amalgamated Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Oil all over Europe. Lady Deterding was his second wife, born in Russia and had ties to the Russian royal family and obtained some of the Royal Jewels in her collection. Lady Deterding owned the fabulous "Polar Star" diamond. Many of her jewels are shown in the above book. The family is an interesting one. Lady Lydia and Sir Henri had two daughters, one also named Lydia, my mother's best friend, and the other named Olga. The term "jet setter" was said to have been coined for Olga as she was always flying around the globe for the next party, and season. Flying on a whim was not common in those days with little air travel. Olga also went to work with Albert Schweitzer in Africa. One of the Deterding's homes had belonged to Henry VIII. My mother visited Lydia at this home on a return visit to England.
During WWII in England, ALL had to do their service and rich people were NO exception. Not like today. Sir Henri tried to get his daughters out of the country but was not in time. So the younger Lydia joined the Royal Navy. She arrived for service in her rail car! She also had NO idea how to make beds, etc. My mother helped her with these activities of daily living and became her best friend.
My mother and father met because of Lydia. My father had been an Italian prisoner of war and was captured in North Africa by General Montgomery's forces and taken as a prisoner back to England. After about 9 months, Italy surrendered and the Italian prisoners were let go but had to remain in England until war's end. During that waiting time, the Italians were given small desk jobs and got to know the Royal Navy's personnel.
There was to be a Halloween party. It was rumored that an heiress would be at the party. Supposedly my father decided it would be wise to stay by the door and watch who put down the most expensive purse upon entering. My mother Beatrice and Lydia entered together and Lydia put down a plain satin handbag. My mother put down a fancy jeweled handbag which she had borrowed from her "clothes horse" sister Kate. My father decided that my mother was the heiress and asked her to dance. This is supposedly the story, but in fact, my mother was beautiful. My mother and Lydia kept in touch after the war and after my family immigrated to America in 1954.
In the book I mention above, the daughter that is quoted in the Deterding story is Lydia, as Olga died rather young in her early 50's at a party in NY. I thought you would enjoy this story and our connection to one of the greatest jewelry collectors of all time and owner of one of the largest diamonds in the world, The Polar Star. I hope you will look for or order this book as it contains many great collectors, their stories and their fabulous jewels: Merle Oberon, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Ava Gardner, The Duchess of Windsor, Helena Rubinstein.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your son.
The book is available on Amazon. Please check is out
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The world of gemstones. Interesting and fascinating at the same time and the depths of which are deeper than the oceans and higher than the skies. It is only a matter of diving within!
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