Jackie, Oh! Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ Athens Brooch

In 1996, when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ items went up for auction, it was such a spectacle that Sotheby’s issued lottery tickets to manage the crowds. Even the catalog itself has since become a collector’s item. So when one of the pieces from that sale resurfaced, Connecticut estate jeweler Betteridge jumped on the opportunity. 

The brooch—centered on an ancient Greek gold coin from the time of Alexander the Great (about 330 B.C.) depicting Athena, the goddess of wisdom, nestled in an 18k yellow gold and emerald spray—was worn by the then–first lady on a trip to Athens. “Being able to so easily trace the lineage and the fact that she was photographed wearing it was an extraordinary thing,” says Win Betteridge, chief marketing officer for his family’s business. “For me that was the amazing significance. It was part of my dad’s personal collection. He had bought it from one of his Greenwich customers who bought it from the auction. It’s a very special piece.” 

Betteridge said his family hoped to find the mark of a renowned jewelry maker on the piece—it resembles Buccellati—but to no avail. Like many other items in the auction, the brooch was likely not very valuable. As with the strand of pearls worth a few dollars that sold for more than $100,000 at Sotheby’s, it was Jackie who gave the brooch its real provenance. 

Fun fact: Betteridge sold the brooch for “tens of thousands of dollars” to a Chicago collector two years ago.