Vivien Leigh’s Jewelry on Auction at Sotheby’s
There also is what Sotheby’s speculates may have been the ring from her 1940 marriage to Laurence Olivier. The flower-etched gold band is “perhaps not intrinsically valuable as a piece of jewelry but the inscription inside is so beautiful: ‘Laurence Olivier Vivien Eternally,’ ”Mr. Macdonald said.
“We think it’s a wedding ring, but we’re not sure,” Mr. Macdonald said. “Vivien had, I think, three wedding rings. One of them she lost in a cinema, gesticulating wildly. So we’re not sure whether this was a recovered one, or a replacement.”
“It feels very contemporary with the marriage, though,” he added, noting that the inscription is in Olivier’s handwriting. “It’s not a square-cut jeweler’s inscription, it’s in manuscript.”
The ring has an estimated value of 400 to 600 pounds, or $520 to $775. “With jewelry,” Mr. Macdonald said, “we tend to value it without provenance: These are the open-market values of what these things would be worth ordinarily. So £400 to £600 for a gold wedding band is par for the course.”
To Ms. Leigh’s fans, of course, that would be a steal. “There are so many people who love her,” Mr. Macdonald said during a private tour of the offerings, “and we’ve had an incredible response from around the world to the sale. They were ‘Larry and Viv.’ It’s a token of love between a couple that were theater royalty, and in that golden age of Hollywood, especially her.”
Mrs. Farrington, who died in 2015 at age 81, didn’t wear the jewelry as she lived a quiet life, Mr. Macdonald said. “We got a call to go to Coutts bank in London, to go into her safe deposit box, and we found this incredible leather jewel case. It was all inside.”
The case, made by Asprey, also will be auctioned. Its value is estimated at £800 to £1,200 but, Mr. Macdonald added, “What’s really cool about it is the date.”
The crocodile case is embossed with the initials V.L.O. and 12th October 1949, the date of the London stage premiere of “A Streetcar Named Desire” in which Ms. Leigh starred and Olivier directed. (The actress went on to play Blanche DuBois in the 1951 film version, and won her second Oscar. Her first was for the 1939 film, “Gone With the Wind.”)
The jewelry case’s history also is a bit of a mystery. But Mr. Macdonald has a theory.
“When Blanche Dubois arrives to stay with her sister, she arrives with all her luggage, the trappings of her past, glamorous life. But unlike Vivien’s, Blanche’s things are paste because she has fallen on hard times,” he said.
“And I wonder if this is a slight reference to that,” he added. “I wonder if someone said ‘Let’s give her a nice jewel case.’ It’s so hard because we don’t have the letter that says ‘I’ve given this to you.’ But you want to think that. Because it’s an unusual present for an opening night, isn’t it?”
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