Jackie Kennedy Personal Jewelry Collection

In honor of the birthday of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (born: July 28, 1929 died:  May 19, 1994) this post will discuss several items from her personal jewelry collection that she received from her husband, President John F. Kennedy.  Jackie gained the world’s attention as First Lady and she famously oversaw the renovation and restoration of the White House but she was also known as a fashion icon with women in the 1960s emulating everything from the clothing she wore to the way she styled her hair.

1.  Jackie Kennedy Engagement Ring

Jackie and JFK met at a mutual friend’s dinner party in May 1952.  JFK was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts at the time and he would eventually become a U.S. Senator and then President of the United States.  Shortly after meeting, Jackie left to cover the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London and stayed in Europe for a few more months.  Soon after returning, JFK proposed with a diamond and emerald engagement ring and the couple announced their engagement on June 25, 1953.  (For more information on the September 12, 1953 wedding of Jackie and JFK, please click on the link)

Jackie’s engagement ring was a lovely 2.88 emerald and baguette diamond ring, in 1962 she had the ring redesigned to include not only the emerald and diamonds but it was also set with an additional 2.88 square-cut diamond and marquise diamonds, as shown in the photo below.


Special Note: Jackie’s engagement ring was donated after her death to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum along with several other Kennedy memorabilia.  (If you are interested in more information about the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, please click on the link)

2.  Jackie Kennedy Wedding Bracelet

The night before their wedding, JFK presented Jackie with a lovely diamond bracelet which she wore as her “something new”.  The bracelet features 25 diamonds and 18 pearls with two borders on either side of thin and rather whimsical nautical ropes.  Jackie wore the bracelet on her wedding day along with a pearl choker necklace and a diamond leaf brooch that she received as a gift from Joseph and Rose Kennedy, her new in-laws.  Special Note: Jackie’s wedding bracelet was donated after her death to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 

Diamond and pearl bracelet  - wedding gift from JFK  Diamond and pearl bracelet  - Jackie 

3.  First Anniversary Pearl and Diamond Earrings

For their first year wedding anniversary in 1954, JFK gave Jackie a set of pearl and diamond earrings.  The earrings are interchangeable and can be worn in a variety of different ways.  The diamond pave-set leaves can be worn alone or with either the white pearl drop or black pearl drop sets which both have diamond pave-set flower petal caps.

Pearl and Diamond Earrings - Jackie 1  Pearl and Diamond Earrings - Carolyn

The photo on the left shows Jackie wearing the earrings and the photo on the right shows Caroline wearing her mother’s earrings as her “something borrowed” on her wedding day in 1986.

4.  Schlumberger Berry Brooch

JFK had a custom of marking special occasions with extravagant gifts and shortly after the birth of their son John Kennedy, Jr. in 1960 JFK gave Jackie a lovely Schlumberger Berry Brooch.  What makes the gift more thoughtful was the fact that he purchased the brooch from the Tiffany store in New York while he was in the midst of organizing his presidential administration in the busy months before his inauguration.  The brooch was given to Jackie in January 1961 just a few days before JFK was sworn in as President of the United States.  The brooch was meant to represent the couple’s two children and Jackie absolutely loved it!

The Schlumberger Berry Brooch is set in gold and features rubies and diamonds.  At the time it was one of the few jewelry pieces that Schlumberger made for Tiffany, the exclusive jewelry store located on Fifth Avenue.  After Jackie’s death, Caroline inherited the brooch and it is currently on loan to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston where it can be seen proudly displayed with other Kennedy memorabilia.           

Berry Pin -A Mother's Day Gift from JFK for the Birth of JFK Jr.  Berry Pin - Jackie Kennedy 

5.  Vintage Sunburst Diamond Brooch

While in London in 1962, Jackie found a spectacular sunburst pin in an antique store and she knew she had to have it!  The problem was the brooch had a $50,000 price tag, so to purchase the expensive sunburst brooch Jackie quietly sold the diamond leaf brooches that were a wedding present from Joe and Rose Kennedy; she had copies made so as not to offend her in-laws.

The antique starburst diamond brooch was originally made in the nineteenth century and is set in silver and gold, it was purchased from the British Crown jeweler Wartski.  Jackie wore it often attached to one of her magnificent Oleg Cassini gowns for various White House functions but once she wore it in a very unusual way by having her longtime hair stylist, Kenneth, attach the brooch into an elegant chignon hairstyle which he attached to the top of her head as shown in the photo below.        

Sunburst Brooch
Sunburst Brooch - Jackie Kennedy  Sunburst Brooch - Carolyn

6.  Schlumberger Croisillons Bracelets

JFK purchased one of Jackie’s first Schlumberger croisillons bracelets in 1962 from Tiffany in New York City.  Jackie loved the bracelet and would frequently wear it with her casual daytime outfits; she eventually bought others to add to her collection in a variety of different colors.  In the early 1960s, Jean Schlumberger began making the croisillon bracelets using a paillonné enamel technique first used in the 19th century.  A classic Schlumberger bracelet uses a process of layering enamel over a gold bracelet and, like many women trying to emulate the style of the First Lady, the bracelets worn by Jackie made them very popular and created a new trend. 

Schlumberger Croisillons Bracelet  Schlumberger Croisillons Bracelet - Jackie

7.  Cartier Tank Watch

In 1963 JFK gave Jackie a classic Cartier tank watch and on the back he had engraved, “To Jackie, Love Jack”.  Jackie frequently wore the watch during casual activities such as horseback riding at Glen Ora, the 400 acre property they were leasing in Virginia, or sailing at Hyannis Port with other members of the Kennedy family or simply spending the day shopping in New York City. 

Cartier Tank Watch8.  Van Cleef & Arpels Emerald Ring 

For their tenth year wedding anniversary in 1963, JFK gave Jackie a special emerald ring.  JFK commissioned Van Dleef & Arpels in New York and was designed as an “eternity ring” with ten emeralds representing each year of their marriage; she wore the ring next to her wedding band.  Several years after the death of JFK Jackie had two of the emeralds removed to make two solitaire rings for her children.  One was made for Caroline and the other for John Jr. who gave it to his bride, Carolyn Bessette, on the night before their wedding.  After the death of her brother, the ring was given back and now Caroline Schlossberg owns all three rings.

Emerald anniversary ring

9.  Kunzite Ring

Sadly one of the most significant gifts given to Jackie from JFK was given to her after his death.  In August 1963, the couple had lost their newborn son, Patrick and seemed to be an experience that brought JFK and Jackie closer together in their shared grief and they were very optimistic for their future.  A few months later, JFK was in New York City and he went to Van Cleef & Arpels to order a special ring which featured a large 47 carat kunzite surrounded by 20 diamonds which he intended to give to Jackie for Christmas that year.  Sadly, before that could happen, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

In the days after the President’s death, the ring was delivered to the White House and Mrs. Lincoln, JFK’s personal secretary, gave the ring to Jackie.  The ring, a final posthumous present for her beloved husband, came to hold special sentimental meaning for Jackie.    

Kunzite and diamond ring10.  Multi-strand Faux-Pearl Necklace

Jackie Kennedy’s multi-strand faux-pearl necklaces became one of her most frequently worn jewelry item.  She owned several necklaces in a variety of different lengths ranging from the single-strand pearl choker necklace she wore on her wedding day in 1953 to her most often worn triple-strand pearl necklace 17 inches in length, she also had one 19 inches in length.  Shown below are two charming photos of Jackie’s children tugging at her pearl necklace, Caroline on the left and John Jr. on the right.  

Pearl necklace 1  Pearl necklace 2 

Jackie Kennedy – Her White House Dresses

Jacqueline Jackie” Bouvier Kennedy (born: July 28, 1929 died: May 19, 1994) was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.  She was the First Lady from 1961 until her husband’s tragic assassination in 1963.  She was young and beautiful, only 31 years old at the start of her husband’s presidency, and during her years in the White House she set the fashion style for the nation in the early 1960s. The American public was fascinated by her simple but elegant clothing, her iconic pillbox hats and bouffant hairstyle.

Her chosen designer, Oleg Cassini, was selected shortly before the inauguration just as he was just emerging in the fashion industry.  The First Lady and Cassini worked together throughout her husband’s presidency, collaborating on her wardrobe for official engagements which would reflect Jackie’s personal sense of style, with a distinctive and subtle European fashion design while being manufactured in the United States.  The dresses had simple, clean lines featuring A-line skirts, three-quarter length sleeves or most often sleeveless sheaths matching coats or two piece suits consisting of a simple straight skirt and matching jacket for daytime events. Also for daytime wear shoes, gloves and hats were custom made or purchased to match each individual outfit.  Although Halston did not originally come up with the pillbox hat design, he did make several custom hats for the First Lady.  For nighttime engagements, such as State dinners or other more formal occasions, the dresses were either knee-length or floor-length, depending on the event, and similar in their design elements but made from elegant fabrics sometimes with chiffon, beading or silk embroidery accents.  Cassini produced over 300 dresses for Mrs. Kennedy during her time in the White House and all the dresses were made by a staff of skilled seamstresses specifically assigned for making the clothing for the First Lady using fabrics of the finest linen, wool, satin and shantung silk.  Cassini was not the only fashion designer of Mrs. Kennedy’s dresses during the White House years and occasionally she collaborated with other designers.

In 2002, while on a visit to Washington, D.C., I saw the “Jacqueline Kennedy – the White House Years” exhibit which featured several of her dresses worn during that time.  It was a great experience to see these dresses that inspired and set the style for a generation and upon see the displays, the dresses were beautifully made with wonderful detailing.

So, let’s start by looking at a few of Mrs. Kennedy’s iconic dresses which she worn as the nation’s First Lady.  The dresses are listed in chronological order dating from the beginning of her husband’s presidency with the Pre-Inauguration Gala through to the end with the assassination and funeral of President Kennedy.

Pre-Inauguration Gala Dress –

For the Pre-Inauguration Gala Dress held on January 19, 1961at the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C.  The night before President Kennedy’s Inauguration Day the city was hit with a major snow storm that brought over eight inches of snow.  When Mrs. Kennedy left for the Gala from their Georgetown home, the snow was lightly falling but she was wearing no coat over her lovely dress.  Cassini designed a beautiful ivory silk sating evening gown with a fully lined A-line skirt and three-quarter length sleeves which Mrs. Kennedy worn with elbow length gloves.  The detail of the cockade (a knot of ribbon or fabric with a circular shape in the middle) which was attached at the waist was per Jackie’s request was a nod to her French Bouvier ancestry.  (Fashion Note:  Some fashion critiques think that this dress worn for the Pre-Inaugural Gala was the more beautiful than the gown that was worn for the Inaugural Ball the next day and I would have to agree with this assessment)

Pre-inaugural gala dress    Inauguaral gala dress - closeup

Inaugural ball dress 2a

Inauguration Ceremony Dress and Coat –

On President John Kennedy’s Inauguration Day, January 20, 1961, Cassini designed two separate pieces – a simple dress and coat both made of beige wool crepe.  Cassini selected the fabric for the coat specifically because he knew that the other political wives would be wearing their heavy fur coats “looking like overstuffed bears” and he wanted the new First Lady to look both youthful and fashionable.  The over-blouse dress featured a simple round neckline, three-quarter length sleeves and a notched detail at the waistline.  Worn over the dress was an equally simple knee-length coat which featured two large buttons at the front and two side pockets at the hip.  To complete her ensemble, Mrs. Kennedy wore a small sable circlet at her neck, a matching sable muff and a Halston pillbox hat which she chose to wear toward the back of her head.  (Fashion Note:  Numerous Halston pillbox hats were custom made for Mrs. Kennedy throughout her husband’s presidency and would later become a fashion accessory strongly associated with the First Lady)

Inaguruation ceremony - dress    Inaguruation ceremony - coat

Inaguration ceremony coat and dress

Inaugural Ball Gown and Cape –

On the evening of Inauguration Day; after the swearing-in ceremony, congressional luncheon and parade, President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy formally dressed for the several Inauguration Balls planned for the night festivities.  Mrs. Kennedy wore an off-white sleeveless gown made of silk chiffon over peau d’ange (satin-weave fabric) featuring a strapless bodice embellished with silver colored silk embroidery thread and seed pearl beading, a matching cape  with toggle closure at the neck was worn over the dress.  The dress was designed in collaboration with Mrs. Kennedy, who drew the sketches of her dress ideas, and Ethel Frankau of Bergdorf Custom Salon located in New York City.

Inauguaral ball dress 1    Inaguruaral ball cape

Inauguaral ball dress - closeup Inaugural ball dress 2a

Ivory Embroidered Evening Gown –

During the first year of President Kennedy’s administration, a State Visit was planned to France where the President would have several meeting with Charles de Gaulle the leader of the French Republic.  Mrs. Kennedy had been a longtime admirer of French Fashion Design but for the visit she had planned to wear American designs exclusively with the exception of a particular dress.  For the dinner at Versailles, France on June 1, 1961 she wore a stunning Givenchy evening gown of ivory ziberline (a heavy silk fabric with a twill weave) which featured an A-line skirt.  The bodice of the dress was heavily embroidered with roses and lilies of the valley created by Hurel with silk thread, ribbon and seed pearls.  (Historical Fashion Note:  The dress was worn again for a congressional reception held in the White House on April 10, 1962)

Ivory emroidered evening dress 1    Ivory embroidered evening dress closeup

Ivory embroidered evening dress 3    Ivory embroidered evening dress 2        

Blue Evening Gown –

This lovely dress was worn by Mrs. Kennedy during a State Visit to England for a dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London on June 5, 1961.  The designer was Chez Ninon and the light blue silk shantung evening dress featured a belt with a decorative bow at the waist that created soft pleats, the dress was an interpretation of a Givenchy dress.  (Historical Fashion Note:  The dress had been worn previously for a dinner with the Prime Minister of Japan, Hayato Ikeda, at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. on June 22, 1961)

Blue evening dress 1 PX 96-33:17

Red Dress –

During the Kennedy administration, Mrs. Kennedy was responsible for an extensive White House restoration.  When the project neared completion, a special CBS pre-recorded televised tour of the White House was given by Mrs. Kennedy on February 14, 1962 and was watched by millions of Americans; incidentally she won an Emmy for the broadcast.  For the televised program, Mrs. Kennedy wore a two-piece day dress by Chez Ninon featuring long sleeves and a bateau neckline (a high wide neckline that follows the curve of the collarbone ending at the shoulder seams), the dress is said to be a copy of a Christian Dior original.  To complete her ensemble, Mrs. Kennedy wore a three strand pearl necklace and pearl earrings.

White House - television tour dress 1 White House - television tour dress 2

Black Dress –

Before traveling to India for a diplomatic trip, Mrs. Kennedy stopped in Rome and had an audience with Pope John XXIII at the Vatican on March 11, 1962.  Per the strict rules of the Vatican regarding papal visits, Cassini designed a full-length long sleeve black dress made of black alaskine (a sturdy fabric that is a blend of wool and silk) worn with a stiff taffeta petticoat underneath.  To complete her ensemble, the First Lady wore a long black mantilla (a lace or silk veil or shawl worn over the head and shoulders).

Black Dress - Vatician visit    Vatican black dress 1

Apricot Dress –

Mrs. Kennedy traveled to India and Pakistan with her sister, Lee Radziwill, on a diplomatic tour on March 12-26, 1962.  Taking inspiration from the countries she was to visit, her wardrobe for the trip was designed in more colorful colors.  A perfect example of this was the bright dress she wore on March 17, 1962 which she wore for a boat ride on Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India.  She wore a Cassini designed sleeveless apricot colored, knee length dress made in ziberline (with a v-neckline which was accented with a bow at the waist.

Apricot dress 1    Apricot dress 2

Pale Yellow Dress –

During the diplomatic trip to India and Pakistan, Mrs. Kennedy wore a dress designed by Gustave Tassell.  The dress was made of pale yellow silk shantung and featured a slit opening at the neckline, cap sleeves and a three-inch wide band around a fitted waist with a full skirt.  While in Jaipur, India, where the First Lady met with members of the Peace Corps, she was joined by her sister for an elephant ride at the Amber Palace.

Yellow dress 1 Yellow dress 2

Celadon Evening Dress –

Mrs. Kennedy wore a lovely evening dress designed by Cassini in a beautiful shade called celadon (a light green color) made in a silk jersey.  The dress is very fluid in style and features a gently draped bodice and skirt forming soft pleats.  Mrs. Kennedy wore the dress to a dinner honoring the Nobel Prize winners which was held at the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1962.

Celedon evening dress 1    Celedon evening dress 1a

Celedon evening dress 2a

Pink Evening Dress –

State Dinners at the White House were always formal events and the one honoring Andre Malraux, the French Minister of Culture.  Malraux was responsible for bringing the Mona Lisa portrait by Leonardo da Vinci to the United States and a dinner was held at the White House on May 11, 1962 to honor him.  Mrs. Kennedy wore an evening gown designed by Guy Douvier made in a soft pink silk shantung, the dress wraps together in the back and is tied with a stiff Kabuki-style bow.

Pink evening dress 1    Pink evening dress 1 - back closeup

Pink evening dress 2

Pink Chanel Suit –

During a fateful political trip to Texas, Mrs. Kennedy accompanied President Kennedy scheduled for November 1963.   The trip started with their arrival in San Antonio on November 21 with additional stops in Houston and Forth Worth.  The next day, November 22 there were additional events in Fort Worth then onto Dallas and Austin followed by a weekend at Vice President Johnson’s Ranch for some relaxation.  On the second day Mrs. Kennedy wore a Chanel styled suit which was possibly purchased from the Chez Ninon ready-made collection, the outfit was a personal favorite of her husband.  The pink boucle wool suit featured two pieces, a double-breasted jacket with a navy blue collar and a straight skirt.  (Fashion Note:  It was later confirmed in a Coco Chanel’s 2010 biography that the suit was created with the approval of Chanel using fabric, button and trim supplied by the company but made in New York by Chez Ninon.  The reasoning was that for patriotic purposes the suit was made in the United States and not in France)

article-2510064-1983B6E000000578-858_634x888    article-2510064-1983B6EF00000578-245_634x765

Tragically, while the motorcade was traveling through the streets of downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963 President Kennedy was shot and fatally wounded, and later died at Parkland Hospital.  In the aftermath, Mrs. Kennedy’s pink suit was stained with her husband’s blood and when asked if she wanted to change she responded, “No, I want them to see what they have done to Jack”.  When Air Force One was on route back to Washington, D.C., with the President’s body placed in a coffin at the back of the plane, the new President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in and he insisted that Mrs. Kennedy was present by his side.  Photos taken that day show a distraught Mrs. Kennedy, hair in disarray and her hat gone missing but still wearing the blood stained pink suit.  Mrs. Kennedy never regretted her decision regarding keeping the suit on until she arrived in Washington, D.C.

article-2510064-1984284100000578-699_634x794 JOHNSON SWORN

Historical Fashion Note:  When Mrs. Kennedy finally removed her pink suit, her maid folded it and placed it in a box that was later sent to Mrs. Kennedy’s mother’s house which she stored in her attic with the simple words, “November 22, 1963”, written on the top of the box.  Eventually, the suit was given to the National Archives, transferred into an acid-free container and stored in a climate-controlled room where it has remained there for several years. In 2003, after Mrs. Kennedy’s death in 1994, her daughter, Caroline (the last remaining member of President Kennedy’s immediate family), officially deeded the suit to the National Archives with the condition that prevents it from being seen by the public until at least 2103.  An interesting point is that Caroline has declined to comment on the reasons for this restriction; it is the only item in the Kennedy assassination collection with this specific limited access and other items, such as President Kennedy’s clothing he was wearing at the time of the assassination and be viewed by researchers that meet special criteria of the National Archives.

For more information about another important dress, her memorable wedding dress, please look for an upcoming post about the wedding of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier.

For more information about the Kennedy Presidential Library located in Boston, MA where many of Mrs. Kennedy’s dresses are displayed, please click on the link.