The last flicker of a lost age

Maddi Puleston of Duke's auction house in Dorchester with a historic necklace that is estimated to sell for £60,000.

Maddi Puleston of Duke’s auction house in Dorchester with a historic necklace that is estimated to sell for £60,000.

A stunning diamond and ruby necklace that belonged to one of the great beauties of the late 19th century is to go under the hammer at auction in Dorset.

It was bought for Mary ‘Mae’ Cuyler, a vivacious American who bewitched the British aristocrat Sir Philip Grey-Egerton 12th Bt during a holiday to the fashionable resort of Deauville in 1892.


The spectacular sautoir has been handed down through the Grey-Egerton family and is estimated to sell for £60,000 when it goes under the hammer at Duke’s of Dorchester.

Sir Philip and Mary married in 1893 six months after meeting and there was huge amounts of press coverage that was eagerly devoured by the public. Shortly afterwards Mary had twin sons, Philip and Rowland.

However, the couple divorced in 1906 following Philip’s numerous infidelities and it scandalised polite society.

Worse was to come for the couple during the Great War when both their sons were killed.

And further tragedy followed when the Grey-Egertons’ ancestral home – the magnificent Oulton Hall in Cheshire – burned down in 1926 with the loss of six lives.

It was one of the most beautiful Palladian mansions in the whole of England, with scores of servants and a magnificent deer park.

Guy Schwinge from Duke’s said: “This necklace harks back to a lost golden age, but one that can be glimpsed through the rubies and diamonds.

“It belonged to Mary ‘Mae’ Cuyler who was greatly envied at the time because of her looks.

“One contemporary wrote that, ‘In a crowded room, Mae could make a man feel they were quite alone’.

“She married into British aristocracy, but like so many families the estate declined after the Great War to due to a variety of factors, and then the fire finished off the house.

“This piece has come down the family line and we have received plenty of interest in it.

“The exuberant style of this necklace set with sparkling diamonds and untreated Burmese rubies recalls the Belle Époque before the world changed forever.”

The ruby and diamond necklace being sold at Duke's of Dorchester with an estimate of £60,000.

The ruby and diamond necklace being sold at Duke’s of Dorchester with an estimate of £60,000.

Sir Philip died in 1937 and Mary passed away in 1959. They auction takes place on June 9.


Captions: The necklace and a photo of Mary ‘Mae’ Cuyler.