Fashion Heroes: María Félix

Some friends told me that pearls make people cry. The only pearls that have made me cry are false pearls.

This quote sums up the love affair that famed Mexican actress María Félix had with jewellery. This week, THE FIFTH COLLECTION delves into her world to understand her obsession with baubles.

Famed for creating some of the most unique pieces in the world with the house of Cartier, Félix's strong personality shone through in her outstanding style. She was adored by designers like Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga and Hubert De Givenchy. Even French fashion house Hermès created custom ready to wear looks just for her. They include the 'Ammunition' coat which was auctioned off in her estate sale at Christie's in 2007.

Naturally, with such a passion for clothes, her enthusiasm for jewellery was not to be dulled in comparison. While other celebrities and wealthy socialites owned massive, intricate pieces, María Félix commissioned some of the most technically complex and uncommon pieces to date (even Alber Elbaz of Lanvin has named a series of their sought after costume jewellery lines after her).

There is a famous tale of her walking into Cartier one afternoon carrying her baby pet crocodile and instructed the shocked jewellers to create a piece in its likeness. The result: a magnificent set comprising two twin bejewelled crocodiles that could be worn separately, as brooches, or together, as a necklace (pictured). In order to be made to scale, 1,023 yellow diamonds and 1,060 circle-cut emeralds were used.

Another famous piece that she commissioned with Cartier was an incredible serpent necklace (pictured), which was crafted using more than 2,000 diamonds and emeralds. The inside portion of the necklace was then enhanced with red, green and black enamel . To mimic the flexibility and fluidity of a real serpent, this masterpiece took a total of two years to finish and was adapted from an aeronautic alpine system.

All that to create one of the most incredible pieces of jewellery - It is no wonder that Cartier paid tribute to their treasured client with "La Doña de Cartier" collection. It must be said that no other actresses have ever received such an honour.

All that is good, of course, but one of the most famous stories about María Félix had to do with that marriage to the late popular Mexican singer and actor, Jorge Negrete. He died shortly after their marriage but not before giving her the most extravagant and expensive suite of cut emeralds mounted with diamonds from Cartier. The suite included a necklace, a bracelet, a pair of earrings and a very big ring. And this was before big rings were the in thing. After he died, Félix discovered that the jewels hadn’t yet been paid for and, of course, the jewellers came to her for the money.  She refused to pay and then was asked to return the suite of emeralds and diamonds. 

Being the strong-headed woman that María Félix was, she famously deadpanned: "Lo dado es dado (What is given is given)".