Enjoy Dazzling Jewels and Dresses at the Hillwood Estate


Jewels and dresses.

What more does a museum need?

My favorite museum in Washington, D.C., the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens (perhaps it's my favorite because I'm a docent there), has two perfect ladies-who-lunch exhibits right now:

Marjorie Merriweather Post was the owner of the Postum Cereal Company, which later became the General Foods Corporation, and one of the richest women in the United States before her death in 1973. She also was a renowned collector -- her beautiful Georgian home in the midst of 25 acres of trees and gardens in Northwest D.C. is the museum she left for all of us to enjoy her French and Russian Imperial decorative arts collection. Here you can see the furniture, porcelain, and tapestries that once belonged to European nobility and that Post used to entertain and educate congress people, ambassadors, high school students, and returning Vietnam War veterans.


Her collecting enthusiasm extended to her clothes and jewelry.

"Spectacular," which will be in the Adirondack Building behind the house until Jan. 7, 2018, gathers together 50 of her most notable pieces of jewelry, including the mammoth pear-shaped diamond earrings that once belonged to Marie Antoinette and the Cartier emerald-and-diamond brooch with its 250 carats of 17th century Mughal emeralds. Post's collection is notable because of the historic origins of some of her pieces, the designers she worked with (like Cartier, Henry Winston, and Van Cleef & Arpels), and the fact that she chose most of the pieces herself, rather than having them gifted to her. Always the philanthropist, Post donated many of the pieces to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum, where they are usually displayed in the National Gem Collection Gallery.

We docents are very happy to have these beautiful pieces back home for a visit.

Post also worked with some of the top fashion designers of her day, and the exhibit "A Perfect Fit: Oldric Royce and Marjorie Merriweather Post," currently displayed in Post's bedroom, shows off 11 beautiful dresses that Royce created for Post during their 25-year relationship. Royce designed dresses for Mamie Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, and ultimately Marjorie Merriweather Post. They had the kind of relationship where they sent each other thank you notes for thank you notes, where Royce designed her dresses even after he retired, where he walked fabric samples over to Bob Shoes so her shoes would perfectly match her dress. "I always try to please my customers," Royce wrote to Marjorie, "but you are one of the very few who take the time to tell me that I succeeded."

No better words describe this beautiful, powerful, dazzling lady. 

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens


On Thursday evenings throughout October, Hillwood will be hosting the Spectacular Lecture Series where renowned jewelry experts will discuss aspects of historical and contemporary jewelry. Tickets for the theater are sold out, but Hillwood will be providing a live simulcast in an adjacent building for $5.