Helene Beaumont and her husband, Louis Dudley Beaumont, the heir to a huge American department store fortune, were among the most dazzling denizens of the Cote d'Azur in the late Twenties and Thirties when the South of France was at the peak of its glamour, a magical, hedonistic playground of the very rich. Their house, Villa Eilenroc in Cap d'Antibes, was regarded as one of the most beautiful in that part of the world, filled with 18th century French furniture, much of which, according to Sotheby's, was "acquired at the great Rothschild sales in England in the Twenties."
Furniture wasn't all the Beaumonts acquired. Along with the fine French furniture, Helene Beaumont collected jewels, a treasure trove now valued at over $7 million, comparable to the jewels of two other Americans who married "up" -- way "up" -- the seductive Duchess of Windsor and the alluring Countess Mona Bismarck, one of whose husbands, Harrison Williams, came within a few bucks of being a billionaire -- when having a billion dollars meant something.
These three ladies are dead and gone now, but jewelry is forever.
Sotheby's sold the Duchess of Windsor and Countess Bismarck's jewels in Geneva, and that is where Helene Beaumont's magnificent cache, said to "evoke all the romance...and the extravagant abandon of the French Riviera during the pre-war era" (wow), will be auctioned at the famous Hotel des Bergues on the evening of May 18. Come early. Stay late.
The most important piece in the Beaumont collection is the Jonker Diamond No.2, 40.46 carats worth, expected to fetch in excess of $2 million. It was cut from the 726 carat Jonker stone found in South Africa in 1934 and sold to Harry Winston for $800,000, who spent 14 months trying to figure out the best way to cut it up and finally decided to split it in 12 pieces. Helene Beaumont's Jonker No. 2, currently set in a ring between two diamond baguettes, was the second largest stone in the litter and must be classified as one of the historic diamonds of the world.