Dame Nellie Melba, Opera singer and thence by descent
Sale: Sotheby’s Geneva, 16-17 November 1998, lot 395
A silver-gilt pill box of circular form, overall decorated with translucent white enamel over a guilloché ground, the lid applied with a jewelled pansy composed of three old-cut diamonds, one emerald and two rubies set in a gold mount, the thumbpiece set with a single cabochon ruby and two small rose-cut diamonds, the base centred with a red enamel star.
The box comes from the collection of Dame Nellie Melba, one of the most celebrated opera singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Australia, Nellie Melba gained international fame; she performed in the principal opera houses of Europe and the United States, particularly Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera, excelling in Delibes’s Lakmé, as Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust, and as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata.
She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1918. In 1926, she was appointed president of the Melbourne Conservatorium.