… said the hatcheck girl to Maudie Triplett, played by Mae West in her 1932 debut film, Night After Night, which starred George Raft. “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie,” West shot back, making her an overnight sensation.
Mary Jane “Mae” West (1893-1980) not only wore prop diamonds in films but also had her own small collection of real diamond jewelry. When she died in 1980, her jewelry was left to her longtime friend Charles Krauser, a champion bodybuilder, wrestler, circus roadie, and member of West’s chorus line in her 1950s nightclub act. Krauser, who was 30 years younger than West, was devoted to her. West’s diamonds remained untouched in his safe deposit box until his death last year.
Now some of the jewels belong to Austin jeweler and Master Gemologist Appraiser Kirk Root, who can lay claim to ownership of the world’s largest private collection of Mae West diamond jewelry. Kirk purchased three pieces at the Fine Jewelry auction of Butterfields late last summer in Los Angeles. Included in the purchase were a diamond watch, circa 1920; a platinum bracelet set with a 1.95-ct. round center diamond and 7 cts. t.w. of side diamonds, circa 1930; and a platinum necklace set with diamonds and foilback diamond simulants. Eight remaining diamond pieces were sold to separate individuals.
Mae West’s diamonds no doubt hold a certain provenance, but provenance alone—even ownership by a famous movie star—doesn’t necessarily mean the jewelry is pretty, says Root. “I look for jewelry that is wearable and special,” he says. “These period pieces were the height of design in the ’20s and ’30s, and they’re gorgeous!” The collection is valued in the vicinity of a quarter of a million dollars.
For more information about the Mae West collection, call Kirk Root at (512) 458-8258, or visit Web site www.kirkrootdesigns.com. For information on upcoming auctions, call Butterfields at (415) 861-7500, or visit www.butterfields.com.