Ronald Reagan's name is invoked, mantra like, during every presidential election. Nancy, his fiery waif of a spouse, tends to get less airtime, but this fall that might change: On Sept. 21 and 22, and in an online auction that concludes on Sept. 28, more than 700 objects from the former first lady's estate are up for auction at Christie's New York, carrying an estimate in excess of $2 million.
A few pieces of Reagan's jewelry have already been shown in London, but on Aug. 18, all her jewels from the live sale (along with a few from the online sale) will be shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the classic car event for which Christie's International Real Estate is a major sponsor. There are 83 jewelry lots in total, carrying a total high estimate of more than $280,000.
The pieces, which range from from relatively subdued earrings to brooches whose full-throttle 1980s style might not translate to today, all carry estimates that barely crack $50,000. If those prices seem low, that's because the estimates are based on the jewels' market value; provenance is largely left off the table, even though provenance is what will attract many bidders to the sale in the first place. "It's the wonderful thing about this collection," said Gemma Sudlow, the Christie's specialist in charge of the sale. "We get to work closely with the Presidential Foundation to go through their archives and imagery and find images of the first lady wearing some of these jewels on iconic occasions."
And those iconic occasions are what might push bidding well past the auction house's stated estimates: There are a lot of golden necklaces out there, but only one that brushed up against Margaret Thatcher on a 1988 state visit.
Check out some highlights of Reagan's jewels below; proceeds of the sale will go to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute.
1. A Diamond and Gold Pendant-Brooch Necklace, $30,000 to $50,000
Designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, the pendant-brooch is detachable. Reagan is documented wearing the set during a 1988 state visit to the U.K.
2. Gold and Diamond Ear Clips, $15,000 to $20,000
These earrings, part of the same set designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, were worn frequently by Reagan and were also documented in the same 1988 state visit.
3. Gold and Diamond Evening Bag, $10,000 to $15,000
The estimate for the bag, made with 18-karat gold and baguette-cut diamonds, is based on a similar one that sold at Elizabeth Taylor's estate sale, which had a high estimate of $6,000 and fetched $218,500.
4. A Diamond, Sapphire, and Ruby Ring, $5,000 to $8,000
The origins of this ring, made by Bulgari, are unknown—did Nancy Reagan commission it? Did she receive it as a present? One thing is for sure: She wore it a lot. There's a photo of her holding it to her chest, pledging allegiance to the flag, on the USS Iowa in New York's harbor in 1986.
5. Diamond and Platinum Ear Pendants, $5,000 to $7,000
Made by Van Cleef & Arpels, the diamond and platinum pendants were worn by Reagan on a variety of official occasions.
6. A Gold and Diamond Bracelet, $5,000 to $7,000
This bracelet, designed by Bulgari, was favored by Reagan for state dinners.
7. A Gold, Diamond, and Platinum Bracelet, $5,000 to $7,000
The maker of this bracelet is unknown. Before her life in the White House, Reagan, as a governor's wife and, even earlier, a Hollywood doyenne, regularly patronized numerous L.A. jewelry stores.
8. A Black Star Sapphire and Diamond Brooch, $3,000 to $5,000
A sapphire and diamond brooch, maker unknown. The full catalogue of the Reagan estate sale will be released Aug. 22.
9. A Coral and Gold Brooch, $2,000 to $3,000
Most of the pieces were used by Reagan while in the White House. After their second term they moved to Bel Air, where Nancy lived until her death in March.
10. Cultured Pearl and Diamond Ear Clips, $1,000 to $1,500
Reagan wore these during a 1982 reception at the Capitol Mall, marking the first edition of the newspaper USA Today.