Albina Du Boisrouvray is an anomaly. A woman from incredible means, who gave up a significant part of it, including some otherworldly jewels, to help those with nothing.
Born into a life of privilege, Albina Du Boisrouvray was the granddaughter of Simon Patiño, the Bolivian tin-mining tycoon, who was once one of the richest men in the world. One of her cousins? Prince Rainier of Monaco. An old friend? None other than Jackie O. She was a jet setting model, actress, journalist and French Leftist protestor, who had grown up in New York. To say she had a life of privilege would be an understatement.
And then everything changed. Her father died in 1980 and then five years later, her son, a rescue helicopter pilot, died in a crash at the age of 24. She had inherited the world (not literally, but figuratively – real estate, business holdings, gem stones and amazing jewelry when her parents passed away), but she still contemplated suicide after the death of her son.
Instead of taking her own life, she decided to honor his by creating a foundation, Francois-Xavier Bagnoud or FXB International, an NGO devoted to lifting some of the world’s very poorest people out of poverty. To fund the foundation, she sold her film production company, the priceless works of art and the jewelry (via Sothebys), which in and of itself accounted for $31.2 million dollars in 1989 (at the time it was the largest single collection of jewels auctioned off in the US and second only to the Duchess of Windsor’s collection).
Before you start to think she’s lived a life of poverty, fear not, as she summers in Portugal and winters in Switzerland, with homes in both, as well as Paris and New York. But lest we begrudge her that, let’s focus on th good she’s done in the last 25 years. In an article published in the Independent in 2014, she was asked how many people she’s helped, “She shrugs and says she does not know for sure but estimates, her eyes sparkling, it must be in the order of, ’17 million in 20 countries.'”
Do yourself a favor and go read the Independent article. It will restore your faith in human kind. Meanwhile, I’ll just be here staring at the jewels, wondering where they’ve gone (some we now know – the ruby ring, which was purchased anonymously at the time, showed up at auction several years later, being sold by Lily Safra) and being glad that women like Albina Du Boisrouvray still walk this earth, while also contemplating which piece I would most like to find in my jewelry box. How about you?