© Courtesy of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
LONDON. Twenty‐three years after the legendary auction of the “Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor” – still the most valuable single‐owner jewellery collection ever sold* – Sotheby’s will offer twenty pieces for sale in London on 30 November 2010, including some renowned examples illustrating both the exquisite taste of the famous couple and memorialising key events in their historic relationship. Together the pieces are estimated to fetch in the region of £3 million**.
Speaking of the sale, David Bennett, Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery in Europe and the Middle East, said: “It is an extraordinary honour to bring once again to sale these jewels worn by a woman who was a leader of fashion and the epitome of elegance and sophistication for her generation and beyond. The offering comprises not only incomparable examples of the genius of Cartier in collaboration with the Windsors, but also pieces whose inscriptions tell the story of perhaps the greatest love story of the 20th century, the romance that led Edward VIII to abdicate the throne of Great Britain.”
The Windsors and the House of Cartier
Throughout the Prince of Wales’s courtship of Wallis Warfield Simpson, during his brief period on the throne, as well as during their married life, the couple commissioned exquisite jewels from the great European jewellery houses. The sale will comprise a comprehensive array of pieces commissioned from Cartier, one of the most favoured jewellers of the Duke and Duchess. With the Duke’s encouragement, the creative genius Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s High Jewellery Director, produced some of her most extraordinary work, among them a realistic onyx and diamond panther bracelet designed in 1952 – perhaps the finest among her three‐dimensional “great cats” jewels. A further testament to the admiration of the Duke and the Duchess for Jeanne Toussaint’s avant‐garde designs is found in a splendid flamingo brooch, ablaze with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines and diamonds, bought by the Duchess in 1940. Through the 1987 sale, this brooch caught the imagination of the world and became the emblem of the sale.
The Story in the Inscriptions
While representing important examples of the art and creativity of the 20th century as well as the style of the Windsors, the jewels also give an insight into the life of the famous couple and many pieces in the sale are dated and bear inscriptions of an intimate nature. Among these are a delightful heartshaped emerald, ruby and diamond brooch by Cartier applied with the initials W.E. (Wallis, Edward) commissioned by the Duke in 1957 to mark their 20th wedding anniversary. Another jewel of great personal significance is seen in the Duchess of Windsor’s favourite diamond bracelet by Cartier which supports nine gem‐set Latin crosses, each representing special moments of her life during the years 1934‐44. One cross was inscribed for the marriage (“Our Marriage Cross Wallis 3‐V‐37 David”); another was a reminder of an assassination attempt against the King (“God save the King for Wallis 16.VII.36”). Other inscribed pieces include a diamond dress suite made by Cartier in 1935, engraved with the initials W and E and the inscription “Hold Tight” – a phrase often employed by the Duke and the Duchess in their correspondence before their marriage. In 1935 the Duchess gave the Duke an 18‐carat gold and gem‐set cigarette case by Cartier inscribed with “David from Wallis Christmas 1935” and engraved with a map of Europe and North Africa with routes applied in enamel to show their various holidays together and a gemstone set at the various meaningful locations.
In addition to the Cartier creations, the selection will present a gold mesh, ruby, turquoise and diamond purse by Van Cleef & Arpels and a series of silver items and medals, once property of Edward, the Prince of Wales.
A diamond bracelet by Cartier that once belonged to Wallis Simpson. AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
An emerald, ruby and diamond brooch by Cartier, that once belonged to Wallis Simpson, is seen displayed at Sotheby's auction rooms in London, Thursday, July 22, 2010. The brooch, one of twenty pieces that belonged to Wallis Simpson and King Edward VII that are being auctioned, is expected to realise 100,000-150,000 pounds (US$ 152,000- 230,000) at the sale on Nov. 30. AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth.