Temple's Sotheby's Ring

Shirley Temple’s ‘Fancy Deep Blue’ Diamond Ring Worth $35 Million Is Up For Auction

A rare 9.54-carat “Fancy Deep Blue” diamond ring that former child star Shirley Temple wore for decades is going up for auction next month at a starting price of $25 million, Sotheby’s says. The auction house said the ring was bought by Temple’s father in 1940 for $7,210. A private buyer purchased the ring from her estate and is now putting it up for auction, BBC reports. The rare gem is estimated to be worth up to $35 million.

NBC News notes that the ring is among more than 300 lots in the “Magnificent Jewels” auction scheduled for April 19 in New York. Sotheby’s says Temple’s father bought “the cushion-cut stone” for her 12th birthday. She wore it throughout her life, as can be seen in the 1969 photograph below from the Associated Press.

“This was a treasured piece of jewelry that she wore and enjoyed her entire life,” said Frank Everett, sales director for Sotheby’s jewelry department in New York. Everett confirmed that “the ring is being sold in its original platinum and diamond setting, and a gold setting Temple had made for it will be included.”

Shirley Temple Black Sworn In 1969
AP Photo

Temple began her film career in 1932 at the age of 3 and found international fame in 1934 with the feature film Bright Eyes. At age 6, she won an Oscar, and went on to star in more than 40 feature films, most of them before the age of 12. Shirley was Hollywood’s No. 1 box office star from 1935 through 1938, and was the first white girl to dance with a black man on film (see Twitter embed below). In 1945, at age 17, she married an Army Air Corps sergeant and they had one daughter before their tumultuous union ended less than five years later.

As an adult, Shirley entered politics and became a diplomat, serving as United States Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. She became the first female U.S. chief of protocol at the State Department from 1976 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford. Her political influence earned her honors from the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

In 1950, Temple married Charles Alden Black, a WWII Navy intelligence officer, with whom she had two children. The couple remained married for 54 years until his death in 2005, from a bone marrow disease. Temple died in 2014 at the age of 85. According to her death certificate, the cause of death was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Temple was the recipient of many awards and honors throughout her career, including Kennedy Center Honors and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. There’s a life-size bronze statue of the child Temple by sculptor Nijel Binns on the Fox Studio lot. In 1935, Temple’s footprints and handprints were immortalized in the wet cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. On February 8, 1960, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Shirley Temple's Blue Diamond Will Be Up For Auction

Shirley’s handlers sued famed British author and film critic Graham Greene in 1937 after his cynical review of her movie Wee Willie Winkie highlighted how her “well-shaped and desirable little body” was being served up for her pedo-y fans and promoters. He also suggested that Fox studios procured Temple for immoral purposes.

Greene was also sued by 20th Century Fox for his review of the film, which was published in the magazine Night and Day. The review was reprinted in The Graham Greene Film Reader, and the sensational sections read as follows:

“The owners of a child star are like leaseholders—their property diminishes in value every year. … Miss Shirley Temple’s case, though, has peculiar interest: Infancy is her disguise, her appeal is more secret and more adult. Already two years ago she was a fancy little piece (real childhood, I think, went out after The Littlest Rebel). In Captain January she wore trousers with the mature suggestiveness of a Dietrich: her neat and well-developed rump twisted in the tap-dance: her eyes had a sidelong searching coquetry. Now in Wee Willie Winkie, wearing short kilts, she is completely totsy. Watch her swaggering stride across the Indian barrack-square: hear the gasp of excited expectation from her antique audience when the sergeant’s palm is raised: watch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood, a childhood skin-deep.

“It is clever, but it cannot last. Her admirers—middle-aged men and clergymen—respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire. …”

Fox viewed his commentary as libelous and sued Greene, who fled to Mexico due to the overwhelming public scrutiny from the case. In a 1938 letter to a friend, Greene wrote, “I found a cable waiting for me in Mexico City asking me to agree to apologise to that little b*tch Shirley Temple—so I suppose the case has now been settled with the maximum publicity.”

A judge found in favor of the studio, agreeing with the defense argument that Greene’s review was “one of the most horrible libels that one could well imagine.” A financial settlement was reached.

Shirley Temple is one of the very few child stars who successfully transitioned into adult life without becoming a Hollywood tragedy. She once remarked that it was “a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”

[Image courtesy Sothebys/AP]