Thursday, 5 May 2011

A CARTIER ivory brooch with an incredible history!

This is a beautiful brooch made by Cartier in the 1960's set as a carnation flower with delicate ivory petals and set with sapphires and diamonds. However, the most interesting feature about it is the story of its provenance!. It was a gift from the Duke of Windsor to his nurse. Very rarely we get such an detailed and moving explanation like this one in the Sotheby's Geneva catalogue. I though about writing an abstract but it is too good to cut it, so here it goes:

Oonagh Toffolo was raised on the West Coast of Ireland in the 1930s. Her father, a farmer, was an enlightened man of faith who taught her the importance of being lavish with love and hospitality. 'Love freely given connects with the life force in another.' It was perhaps not surprising therefore that, aged sixteen, she was called to enter an order of nuns who looked after the elderly poor. They trained her as a nurse and sent her to various parts of the world, including Calcutta, where she knew Mother Teresa. It was while in India she realised that young mothers and their children should be her first concern and, gaining special Papal dispensation to leave the convent, she moved to London and retrained as a midwife in 1965.

After a period of new and exciting experiences and, by this time, working as a nurse in Paris, she was specially chosen to care for the Duke of Windsor during his final illness. She nursed him partly in hospital after an operation and then at the Windsor's home in the Bois de Boulogne. On her first morning, she joined the Duke and Duchess in their drawing room. The Duke was wearing a carnation in his button hole and the Duchess explained it was his favourite flower. Presenting Oonagh with this brooch, a miniature carnation of ivory, sapphires and diamonds, the Duchess explained the Duke had had it designed especially for her as a token of his love. 'Now we want you to have it as a token of our gratitude for coming home with us to care for him,' she said. Oonagh looked after the Duke until he died five weeks later but, for ever after, has treasured the brooch as a gift imbued with love and hospitality, from two people who loved each other very much.

Later, after marriage to the architect, Joseph Toffolo, and living in the Middle East, Oonagh discovered acupuncture and finalised her studies in China in 1979, one of the first foreigners to visit the country at the end of the Cultural Revolution. Since then she has written a memoir called The Voice of Silence (Random House). She has also lived and worked between Paris and London, having many well known clients, helping them heal both physically and spiritually. Throughout all, her focus has been love –the heart of life –something this brooch represents. Now is the time to pass it on to another, together with the sentiments –and the history –it carries with it.