Several years ago, I was in a store in Palm Beach that was having a book signing along with an exhibition of some of the most unique one of a kind pieces of jewelry I have ever seen. They were beyond description. Rare, over sized gems set into the finest gold, with settings that resembled rays of sunlight. I was mesmerized by their colors and fine detailing. Who was the creator of such beauty?
The man was Tony Duquette (1914-1999)
I was instantly obsessed with finding out everything I could about this incredibly talented person. I purchased the book which was signed by the author, Hutton Wilkinson (and also co-written by Wendy Goodman)To my surprise, I learned that, not only was this man a celebrated jewelry designer, but he was a legend in the glory days of Hollywood. He was a set designer, a costume designer and was especially known for his “over the top” interior designs among the Hollywood and social elite.
The Duchess of Windsor was among his clientele and below is a photo of her wearing one of his custom necklaces.
Hutton Wilkinson began working for Mr. Duquette while still a teenager. He also became a jewelry and interior designer. Mr. Wilkinson carries on the legacy of Tony Duquette Inc. and is president of the Elsie De Wolf Foundation. Elsie De Wolf, known as “the first Lady of Interior Decoration” is credited with discovering Tony Duquette. She was completely in awe of his creations and in the 1940’s, Elsie gave him free rein to decorate her entire new home she purchased in Beverly Hills. The most famous result of this project was a custom made secretary that Tony had painted in black and green lacquer. It was heavily adorned with typical Duquette detailing and has come to be known as one of his finest works.Tony’s creation were not just limited to inside the home. Tony and his wife “Beegle” owned a house which they named “Dawnridge”. Together they created an outdoor sanctuary with buildings and sculpture that were in typical Duquette style.
“Phoenix Rising from it’s Flames” was an illuminated sculpture standing twenty eight feet tall!
Over the years, Tony and Beegle would buy properties and turn each one into a fantasy land of creations inside and out. Each one would have a theme and the properties would take on lives of their own. Huge parties were held regularly; a who’s who of Hollywood always in attendance. The Duquettes were in such demand by the “A List”.
Tony started to gain a following in Europe, especially in Paris. He moved there at one point and earned the distinction of being the first American to exhibit a one- man show at the Louvre. Of course while living there, he indulged himself in the very ornate and grand details well known to the French.
I must say, I am so glad I wandered into that store that very hot day! I had the pleasure of seeing and holding several pieces of Tony’s jewelry. I was lucky to have a piece of Hollywood history in my hands and to also discover the man who was the creator of it all. Tony Duquette is truly a design legend!