Marella Agnelli might be a role model for thoughtful jewelry buyers.
One of Truman Capote’s circle of socialite “swans” and a beacon of jet-set glamour, Ms. Agnelli wore her signature jewel — a multistrand necklace of ruby and emerald beads accented with seed pearls — from the 1950s to her death last year at the age of 91.
Valentino Garavani, a friend who designed for Ms. Agnelli long before his first-name-only brand became a global presence, wrote in an email that the necklace was “her pièce de résistance. When she had a doubt on what to wear, she would pick any dress and wear it with it.”
Indeed, many photographs over the years show that she paired the necklace with Courrèges shift dresses, simple button down shirts and sparkling formal gowns.
She received the necklace in 1955, a gift from her husband, Gianni Agnelli, the Italian industrialist who was president of Fiat for 30 years and also known for his style.
Its origin received a mention in her 2014 autobiography “Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan.” She wrote: “Gianni, who loved buying jewelry, had scoured the Gem Palace in Jaipur looking for something unique.” His search ended when “his eyes had finally stopped on several long strings of rubies and emeralds,” which he had restrung as a necklace.
As it turns out, Mr. Agnelli did not buy the entire stash of gems. The remaining stones were discovered and strung into two necklaces of the same design. They are now for sale.
Their discovery surprised even members of the Kasliwal family, owners of the Jaipur jeweler. Samir Kasliwal, a member of the eighth generation to lead the family-owned store and workshop, found the gems in a sealed box after his father, Sanjay Kasliwal, died last year. The elder Mr. Kasliwal had been a partner and creative director in the business as well as the founder of his own namesake boutique in New York City.
Samir Kasliwal said he instantly realized the material came from the same lot as Ms. Agnelli’s piece. “We have collected so many pictures of her wearing the necklace at every kind of occasion,” he said. “It was a pleasant discovery.”
Owing to their handmade character, the two necklaces have slight differences, but each is about 50 inches long and features finely enameled 22-karat gold beads set with more than 15 carats of diamonds and more than 500 carats of emerald beads. One necklace has more than 1,800 carats of rubies and the other more than 2,500 carats of the same gems. Their color is particularly impressive, according to Mr. Kasliwal: “This kind of color in rubies is extremely difficult to find now — intense pigeon’s blood red.”
The necklaces are more than a throwback to the classic style of a high-profile socialite, they are remnants of an earlier age of Indian royalty. The Kasliwals began serving Indian elite in 1728, and Ms. Agnelli’s necklace, as well as its two counterparts, were “originally part of a sash commissioned by a maharajah” in the 19th century, Mr. Kasliwal said. Later the jewelers reacquired the piece — “we bought it back,” he said, although he does not know exactly when.
The necklaces are $80,000 each. One is still in Jaipur; the other at the Sanjay Kasliwal boutique on Madison Avenue in New York City, which is accepting inquiries, although the shop is closed as part of the efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
When asked who he envisions as the target client for these necklaces, Mr. Kasliwal responded diplomatically: “They’re for someone with a lot of taste.”