Gems of duke, duchess join Jackie O's baubles

March 05, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

click images to see enlargements

RankinGems of duke, duchess join Jackie O's baubles

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - When she was the queen of Camelot, Jacqueline Kennedy often wore a gold and platinum bar pin, accented with nearly two carats of diamonds, on the lapel of her trendy blouses.

That pin is now worth $75,000 and is among several pieces of jewelry bought at a 1996 auction by Christopher Rankin, a jewelry designer and owner of Christian Caine Jewelers in Shepherdstown.

"I was fascinated by the attention the whole world was paying to the auction," Rankin said. "She had some really significant pieces of jewelry."


Now, so does Rankin.

The bar pin is one of 21 pieces he bought at Sotheby's in New York. It was the beginning of a budding collection of exquisite, historical and expensive jewels created by the most famous designers in the world.

The auction of Jackie's jewelry was followed by another for Joseph and Rose Kennedy's jewelry. There, he purchased a $50,000 crystal Madonna pendant, delicately framed by sapphires, diamonds and onyx.

His latest acquisitions - jewelry worn by the Duchess of Windsor and designed by Kenneth J. Lane and Alexis Kirk under the guidance of her doting husband - should arrive early next week in an armored car.

"The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are considered two of the most fashionable people in history," Rankin said. "Her jewelry collection is one that was unparalleled, even by museums."

Rankin's growing collection of famous jewels has attracted thousands of people to exhibitions and several buyers for the Jacqueline Kennedy collection.

"West Virginia, at the time of (John Kennedy's) election, was a pivotal state," Rankin said. "We had several people come up to us and say, 'I remember when she was here. I talked to her,'" Rankin said.

Sibby Kerby, 48, is one of the many enthralled by the Kennedys. She attended one of Rankin's shows featuring their jewelry and left with one of Jacqueline Kennedy's loose diamonds.

"They really were like American royalty," Kerby said of the Kennedys. "She was my role-model heroine."

Rankin designed a bangle bracelet for Kerby and set the stone inside. Kerby said she only wears the $6,000 adornment on special occasions.

Rankin"It looks like something she would have owned," Kerby said.

Rankin began collecting the extravagant pieces after attending the April 1996 Sotheby's auction. His 21-piece purchase was the largest collection to leave the auction.

"It was a nice mix of what I do for a living and history, which I find fascinating," Rankin said.

Rankin has sold 15 of those items - most to local buyers - through discreet offers made by those equally smitten with the Kennedys.

Only three are still for sale. The others are kept for his private collection, which is in a bank vault, he said.

Rankin said the Duchess' jewelry he bought last week was intriguing to him because of the couple's incredible love story: The king relinquished his thrown in 1936 to marry American Spencer Wallace, who was divorced and deemed an improper wife for a king.

"The man gave up his country for the love of a woman," Rankin said. "He used to spend weeks at a time with designers overseeing the creation of these pieces."

Among the nine items to join his collection is a distinctively British lion's head brooch.

"The lion's head itself is a symbol of monarchy. It has that look to it - the regalness to it," Rankin said.

On March 18, Rankin hopes to add another unique piece to his growing collection - the Cartier watch worn for years by John F. Kennedy.

The watch is worth about $5,000, Rankin said, but it could fetch up to $400,000 at auction because of the famous wrist on which it was worn for years.

Rankin has had two local shows for the Kennedy collection and plans to hold a third this spring, featuring the Kennedy jewelry and the new pieces from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The show is tentatively scheduled for late April.

The Herald-Mail Articles