Monday, March 4, 2013

Vintage Celebrity Jewelry: Mary Pickford’s Sapphires (Part 3)

'Star of India' Sapphire
Photo taken by Daniel Torres, Jr. on January 14, 2007.
Photo Source: Wikipedia
by Angela Magnotti Andrews
It is at this very point of unraveling that the woman who had everything supposedly received one final, over-the-top gift from Mr. Fairbanks. On the verge of divorce, rumor has it that the silent film star, making one last attempt to atone for his infidelity, purchased what some refer to as “the most famous star sapphire in the world,” the ‘Star of India’.

Though several authoritative sources claim that Mary Pickford owned the ‘Star of India’, the historical record of the 563.35-carat star sapphire does not support this rumor. According to Mr. Douglas Preston, writing on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History, the Sri Lankan treasure was first brought to the States by gemstone expert, George Frederick Kunz sometime in the late 1800s.

Between 1890 and 1901, the wealthy banker, financier, and philanthropist, J.P. Morgan purchased all of Kunz’s treasures. Morgan promptly donated the “golfball-sized star sapphire” to New York’s American Museum of Natural History in 1890 {Preston, p. 210}. Unique even among star sapphires, if cut properly, the ‘Star of India’ demonstrates three cross-bars which create a six-pointed star beneath its surface. This, combined with its size and lineage, make it one of the most valuable gemstones in the world.

According to the Museum’s records, the unique and priceless gemstone, has been displayed in the museum’s Hall of Minerals and Gems for most of its American repose*.

While it is possible that Mr. Fairbanks purchased a blue sapphire for his wife while they were separated, it is clear that it was not the ‘Star of India’, as some suppose. It is also clear that his final gift was insufficient to mend the wounds he inflicted upon his marriage. In 1935, Hollywood’s favorite couple filed for divorce. Ms. Pickford is recorded to have bequeathed the ‘Star of Bombay’ to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and the stone was given to a Smithsonian representative in 1980. Accounts of her estate make no mention of the ‘Star of India’ sapphire.

Both gemstones remain on public display at their respective museums.

*I say most of its life, because there was a brief period when an infamous robbery placed it in the hands of celebrity jewel thief, ‘Murph the Surf’(Jack Murphy), on October 30, 1964. The jewels were recovered from a locker in the Miami bus terminal a few days after Murph and his cohort were picked up by the FBI {Doherty, p. 179-80}.


1. Doherty, Phil. The Miami Police Worksheet. Xlibris, 2012.
2. Kunz, George Frederick. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones. Philadelphia & London: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1913.
3. Leavey, Peggy Dymond. Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart. Toronto: Dundurn, 2011.
4. Murphy, Elliott. “Murph the Surf.” Spin, July 1985, p. 50-51.
5. Preston, Douglas J. In the Attic: An Excursion into The American Museum of Natural History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986.
6. Price, Judith. Masterpieces of American Jewelry. New York: Running Press, 2004.
7. Schou, Solvej. “Mary Pickford: The Angelina Jolie of her day, but much more famous.” Inside Movies, September 4, 2012,
8. Stone, Tammy. “The Silent Collection, Featuring: Mary Pickford.” Things and Other Stuff, accessed January 15, 2013.
9. TheDeadGuy. “Mary Pickford.” Everything2, January 17, 2002.
10. Waterbury, Ruth, ed. Photoplay Magazine, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, June, 1920. Untitled Story, p. 73.
11. Whitfield, Eileen. Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007.

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