If you have been following along on Wednesdays, I’ve been covering all eight of Elizabeth Taylor’s weddings. And some of her jewelry. She was quite the collector and one of these Fridays, I’ll discuss her collection in detail. But today, we’ll talk about a woman, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who’s jewelry collection put Liz’s to shame.
When you’re the daughter of a wealthy manufacturing magnate, and also one who inherits the whole shebang at age 27, no less, you can damn nearly have anything you want. Including amazing and historic jewelry.
Marjorie’s father was the founder of Postum Cereal company. You may know them for their Grape Nuts and Post Toasties. All that cereal, along with other investments, had made him a very wealthy man when he committed suicide, as the result of a long illness that was apparently incurable. It was then that Marjorie became the owner of the company and worth an estimated $250 million in 1914 dollars (about $6.5 billion in today’s dollars).
Marjorie Merriweather Post, like Elizabeth Taylor, was making an art of marrying well by that time. At age 18 she married an investment banker named Edward Close (the paternal grandfather of actress Glen Close, via his second marriage). They had two daughters and divorced in 1919.
Marrying again in 1920, Marjorie married EF Hutton (a name you may recognize). EF was also a financier and helped to take the Postum Cereal company to new heights, by developing a wider variety of foods, including the Birdseye Frozen Foods line. In 1929, under his direction they changed the name of the company to General Foods Corporation and then in 1935, Marjorie and Mr. Hutton divorced. They had one daughter together (who later went on to become an actress, whom you may recognize – Dina Merrill) but her other two daughters had also been adopted by Hutton and now shared his last name. It was also during her marriage to Hutton that Marjorie commissioned the building of a large estate in Palm Beach, Florida, naming it Mar-a-Largo. You may have heard of it, as it has an equally famous owner at the moment.
Tying the knot for a third time Marjorie married Joseph E Davies, a Washington lawyer. Their marriage spanned 20 years and during that time, Davies became the second ambassador to represent the US in the Soviet Union. This was after he had been the first chairman of the FTC and prior to becoming a special advisor to Harry Truman. Marjorie and Joseph had no children and he passed away three short years after their divorce was final.
Once they were no longer married, Marjorie was looking for a new home in the DC area and settled on an estate named Arbremont, renaming it Hillwood and gutting the entire interior and even included moving the library doors to frame a view of the Washington Monument. Today Hillwood is a museum that houses a significant part of her art collection and can be toured by the public.
Marjorie would marry one last time in 1958 to a man named Herbert May, a wealthy Pittsburgh businessman. But when that marriage again ended in divorce in 1964, Marjorie reclaimed her maiden name and was known as Marjorie Merriweather Post until her death.
But the big question is did she buy all of the jewels or did the men in her life buy them for her (we know at least two of the pieces shown here were purchased by various husbands)? Perhaps in the end, it matters not. Many of her most outstanding pieces were donated to the Smithsonian, forming the foundation of their gem gallery. Other pieces have made their way into private collections. And still others remain at Hillwood, like an emerald and diamond pendant brooch that’s described on Hillwood’s website as the following:
“One of the most significant and well-known jewels in Marjorie’s collection, still housed at Hillwood, is an emerald and diamond pendant brooch made by the London branch of Cartier in the 1920s. This iconic piece, emblematic of the marriage of historic gems with innovative design, features more than 250 carats of carved Indian emeralds from the Mughal period, including a large emerald carved with a seventeenth-century Mughal motif of a flower, with a Persian inscription on one side.”
There are so many glorious pieces, there’s no way to get you photos of them all in one post. Maybe sometime in the future we’ll break them down one by one in a series. But for now, I’d just like to know which of the pieces shown here is your favorite? Tell me in the comments, I know I have mine. 😉