ended Result
Nov 2010
  • London (United Kingdom)

  • address: London

Sotheby's to auction  Duchess of Windsor's jewellery on 30th November in London. A story of love told in jewels is perhaps the best way to describe the 20 fabulous brooches, diamond-studded panther, cigarette boxes and golden evening bags that once belonged to Mrs Wallis Simpson (below), the Duchess of Windsor. Even after 75 years, the 1936 abdication of King Edward VIII to be with the woman he loved, continues to fascinate. Remembered as the man who gave up more than any other  for one woman,  this is a love story that endures. The beauty as well as the enormous sentimental value embedded in each  gift still has the power to raise goosebumps: and high bids. The Sotheby's 1987 sale of the Duchess of Windsor's collection,  in which many of these pieces were first sold, raised $53.5 million, the world record for any single-owner jewellery collection. Some of the Duchess's favourite pieces have once again come up for sale and will come under the hammer at the end of November at an evening sale at Sotheby's in  London. The fluid-limbed 1952 Cartier panther (top) with an estimate of £1,000,000 - £1,500,00 is perhaps the most iconic piece and the Duchess wore two, one draped around each wrist.  Jean Toussaint who was in charge of Haute Joaillerie for Cartier at the time of its creation was particularly fond of panthers and is remembered for her 'big cat' jewels which were to become a favourite of the Duchess and always linked to her bold style of dress. The first Cartier panther brooch was created for the Duchess of Windsor in 1948 and many others followed. Look out for the heart-shaped diamond brooch that was a twentieth wedding anniversary present from the Duke to his wife  (above) with an estimate of £100,000 to £150,000. It is in the shape of a heart topped with a gold and ruby crown that despite its regal appearance is soaked in sentiment. The two X's in blood red rubies perhaps allude to kisses and their initials in emerald are forever entwined in a swirling and flamboyant embrace. The flamingo brooch from Cartier (estimate £1,000,000 - £1,500,00) is proudly plumed in rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds with a glossy yellow citrine beak. Made in 1940, the piece was a commission from the Duke of Windsor and Cartier's archives record that several of the Duchess' own jewels were unmounted to create this splendid fowl. The original design for the piece still exists in the house archives with a realistic sketch of the bird alongside intricate hand-penned notes on the precious stones and relevant calculations. The Duchess was often photographed wearing it to balls and in it was sold in the 1987 Sotheby's auction. Though not the most eye-catching lot, but one of the most personal items, is the gem-set and diamond cross bracelet (estimate £350,000 - £450,000). This bracelet is a history of the Duke and Duchess's relationship in jewels. Nine crosses set with coloured stones and diamonds each bear brief,  cryptic inscriptions  referring to incidents, some major, others trivial, during their life together. The aquamarine cross commemorates their wedding, the emerald one recalls one of Mrs Simpson's X-rays and the amethyst, her appendectomy. The plain platinum simply declares their love: "WE are too" that puns on their initials W and E.  Often photographed wearing the bracelet- you can see it on her wrist in the photograph at the top of this page - it was first seen by the public while the King was on the Nahlin cruise in the summer of 1936 leading to speculation about their true relationship just months before he abdicated. The opulence of the royal couple's lifestyle is evident in the roll-shape ribbed gold evening clutch, set with diamond flowers and butterflies (estimate £50,000 - £70,000). Bids can be made in person, on the phone or online. For more information, visit Sotheby's website.


  • London: United Kingdom
  • address: London

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