The Art of Jewels Sale to be held by Bonhams on 4 December in London is shaping up to be a star-studded event. A stunning 18th century diamond, ruby and emerald ring, given by Vivien Leigh, the female star of the Hollywood blockbuster Gone with the Wind, to her life-long friend, is expected to fetch £1,500-2,000.
The “giardinetto” ring, designed as a bouquet of flowers, was a gift from the actress Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) to the vendor’s grandmother, the actress Mercia Swinburne (1900-1993). The pair became life-long friends after they were introduced by Vivien’s husband, Sir Laurence Olivier.
Mercia and her husband George Relph acted in many performances with the Oliviers, including a number of plays during a six-month tour with the Old Vic Theatre Company of Australia and New Zealand in 1948. The writer George Cotterell in his book Laurence Olivier, London, 1975, records, “The Old Vic touring party comprised ten administrative and technical staff and forty actors, including some of the Oliviers’ closest friends, most notably George Relph and his wife Mercia Swinburne”. Swinburne and Leigh performed alongside one another in The School for Scandal and in the Old Vic’s revered performance of The Skin of Our Teeth. The tour was met with high acclaim.