No buyer for JFK’s rosary beads in NY sale

While Kim Kardashian reported to have bought Jackie’s Cartier watch for $379,500

 

The late president John F Kennedy’s rosary beads – valued at up to $400,000 (€356,000) – failed to sell at auction in New York last month.

In this centenary year of his birth, mementoes associated with JFK continue to attract intense interest but, for once, bidders baulked at the steep estimate ($300,000-$400,000). The rosary, described by auctioneers Christie’s as “one of the most important and personal possessions” of America’s first Catholic president, had “impeccable providence”, having been later given by JFK “to his best friend and special assistant, David Powers”.

Following his death, his family discovered a hidden cache of mementoes

The rosary beads are made of onyx (a black, semi-precious stone) and are attached to a silver crucifix with the name “John F Kennedy” engraved on the reverse. The decade beads are connected to the antiphon beads by a silver circle containing an image of the Holy Spirit inside of a triangle.

So how did such a personal artefact end up at auction?

Powers, the Irish-American son of emigrants from Co Cork, died in 1998 aged 85. He had been a friend of JFK’s since the 1940s and was appointed to the White House staff in 1961. He accompanied JFK on his visit to Ireland – the first by a US president – in June 1963 and five months later was in the motorcade in Dallas when the president was assassinated. Powers later became the first curator of the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Washington DC.

Following his death, his family discovered a hidden cache of mementoes of his time with JFK during the house clearance. Some of these items were sold at auction in 2013 including an Air Force One leather bomber jacket worn by JFK that made $570,000, more than 14 times the top estimate; and, a photo of the presidential motorcade on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, dated June 26th, 1963 signed, and inscribed by the president, that sold for $12,650. At the same time, the Powers family sold the rosary – for an undisclosed sum – to an unnamed private collector who, four years on, consigned it to Christie’s.

When President Donald Trump visited Pope Francis in the Vatican last month, his wife Melania was photographed presenting her Rosary to the Pontiff to be blessed

As so often in the world of collecting, the rosary is not unique. The Kennedy Homestead at Dunganstown, New Ross, Co Wexford has a set of rosary beads in its museum that was reputedly in the president’s pocket on the day he died.

By chance, another set of “White House rosary beads” has also come to light in recent weeks. When President Donald Trump visited Pope Francis in the Vatican last month, his wife Melania was photographed presenting her Rosary to the Pontiff to be blessed. Afterwards her spokesman confirmed that the First Lady is a Catholic – the first to live in the White House since the Kennedys. Mrs Trump’s religious affiliation had not previously been publicly known. Mr Trump is a life-long Presbyterian.

Who bought Jackie’s Tank?

A Cartier Tank watch owned by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – the former US first lady – sold at auction in New York last month for $379,500, way above the estimate ($60,000-$120,000). The auction house did not reveal the name of the buyer but unconfirmed media reports claim that the anonymous bidder was the US reality TV personality Kim Kardashian.

The Tank was designed by Louis Cartier in 1917 based on the shape of the Renault tanks he had seen on the Western Front during the first World War

Christie’s said the price, achieved on June 21st, was a new world record for a Cartier Tank. The Tank was designed by Louis Cartier in 1917 based on the shape of the Renault tanks he had seen on the Western Front during the first World War. It has been a best-selling model for the luxury watchmaker ever since.

The 18 carat gold, square-shaped wristwatch with a black lizard strap was originally given to Jackie by her brother-in-law Prince Stanislaw “Stas” Radziwill in 1963, and she was often photographed wearing it.

The watch is engraved “Stas to Jackie 23 Feb. 63 2:05 am to 9:35 pm”. The times refer to the start and stop times of the famous “50-Mile-Hike” in Palm Beach in 1963. The watch was sold along with an original painting that Jackie made in 1963 as a gift for Stas Radziwill celebrating the hike with the dedication “February 23, 1963 2:05 am to 9:35 pm/Jackie to Stas with love and admiration”.

Two of the most important historic artefacts to surface in recent years from the golden era of the Kennedy presidency

The 50-mile hike became a short-lived fad in early 1963 after Kennedy publicly asked the American people to accept the mentally and physically gruelling challenge of walking this long distance. His inner circle of family and friends were some of the first to attempt the hike including his friends Stas Radziwill and Chuck Spalding, featured in the painting.

The watch was sold by the Radziwill family who are donating some of the proceeds of the sale to the National Endowment for the Arts. Christie’s described the watch and the accompanying painting, previously unknown to the public, as “two of the most important historic artefacts to surface in recent years from the golden era of the Kennedy presidency”.

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