Lady Mary Stewart died aged 97 in May 2014, items from her estate to be offered this winter include a unique Cartier brooch (illustrated right), designed as a crescent moon and commissioned by Lady Mary after the publication of her novel Moon Spinners the brooch is valued at £20,000-£30,000, alongside a Cartier diamond ring made out of the 'spare diamonds' left over from the commission of the brooch valued at £5,000-£7,000.
Other jewellery being sold comprises a double strand necklace made from graduating opal beads separated by discs of rock crystal; an antique opal and diamond crescent brooch; an antique 'ruby/garnet ' and diamond crescent brooch; and an oval cluster ring - centre stone pink tourmaline surrounded by diamonds. View our upcoming Select Jewellery & watches auction here.
Her estate includes a selection of the Asian works of art collected by Lady Mary Stewart in the 1960’s and 70’s. One particular item, a blue and white Meiping vase, rose to become one of the top lots in our recent 02 December Fine Asian Art auction achieving a final price of £289,250 after an fierce bidding battle. Another key piece from Lady Mary's collection, a carved rhinoceros horn libation cup, fetched £51,650. Read more about our Fine Asian Works of Art auction here.
From her library there are a number of books including a first edition Darwin’s Origin of Species valued at £15,000-25,000, as well as a lovely collection of works illustrated by Arthur Rackham, and other illustrated and children’s books. Rackham was one of the leading illustrators of children’s books at the time and a major influence on her work.
Mary Stewart was born on 17 September 1916 in Sunderland, County Durham, she graduated with a double first at Durham in English and French, then a teaching Diploma and after teaching in schools for a couple of years she was invited back to the university when all the young lecturers were being taken by the army and the war where she lectured in English, French and Anglo Saxon. This reflected her love of language and the basis of where our language and words sprang from, and during that time in Durham she was awarded an MA in English. It was also in Durham that she met and married her husband, Frederick Stewart, a young Scot who lectured in geology. They married in 1945, only three months after they met at a VE Day dance.
“It’s an extraordinary collection, especially with their links to my aunt. She had a great eye and a wicked sense of humour. She always said she wrote for the love of it and this collection of items in the sale reflect her love of beautiful things. It was a very difficult decision to sell the collection, and we hope that every single item goes to someone who will really treasure it.” - Jennifer Ogden, niece to Lady Mary Stewart
Mary, in her own words, was a "born storyteller" and had been writing stories since the age of three. When she and her husband moved to Edinburgh, she submitted a novel to the publishers Hodder & Stoughton. Madam, Will You Talk? was an immediate success.
Lady Stewart's niece, Jennifer, continued "having also done Latin and Greek at school she had a masterful understanding of words and of their roots and meaning, her grammer was perfect and this was reflected in her writing career. Hodders, her editors, never edited her books - they went straight to print from her own final draft. They only tried it once and that was with her first offering Madam, Will You Talk? but even as a new and prospective author she knew her strengths and she crossed out all their editing and sent the manuscript back as was and told them "if they wished to publish her work never to do it again"! They obviously knew what they had discovered and where she would be going and respected that. She never moved publishers for the whole of her writing career.”