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Famous Collections: The Duchess of Windsor

Apr 30th, 2018

The Duchess of Windsor

A king without a throne, an American socialite, a relationship shrouded in suspicion, and a $50.3 million jewelry collection. Who else could it be but the inimitable Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson? This month we lift the lid on the Duchess’s jewelry box and take a look at some of her finest moments.

Born Bessie Wallis Warfield in 1896, Wallis Simpson became the Duchess of Windsor when King Edward VIII abdicated his throne and married her. The King’s relationship with a twice-divorced woman caused a widespread scandal, and suspicions about Wallis Simpson have never been fully quelled. What drove her to seduce the King of England–love of the man or love of the power?

One thing about their relationship is not in question, and that is the size and scope of the Duchess’s extraordinary jewelry collection. Prince Edward began showering Wallis with jewels early in their relationship, while Wallis was still married and their affair was still a secret. Known throughout the world for her passion for emeralds, Edward–known as David to his friends and family–proposed to Wallis Simpson on October 27, 1936 with a 19.77 carat emerald ring by Cartier, inscribed with the message, “We are ours now.”

This also began a lifelong love affair with Cartier, and her collection included a great number of custom-designed pieces by the famous jewelry house. Among them is a sapphire bracelet from 1945, valued at nearly $300,000, an amethyst, turquoise and diamond ring valued at $14,500, and a custom-made diamond and onyx panther bracelet, which sold at auction for $1.27 million in 1987 and an extraordinary £4.5 million in 2010.

Other famous pieces in the Duchess of Windsor’s collection include the Prince of Wales Brooch, given to Wallis during their courtship in 1935. This piece has special significance as it was commissioned by the Prince himself and symbolizes his royal status and demonstrates his commitment to Wallis. After the death of the Duchess in 1987, the brooch was purchased by Elizabeth Taylor for more than $623,000 and was sold again in 2011 for $1.3 million.

The jewelry collection of the Duchess of Windsor is too extraordinary and expansive to do it full justice here. After her death in 1987, a portion of her collection went to auction at Sotheby’s where it brought in a jaw-dropping $50.3 million, the second-largest jewelry auction in the history of the company. It included some of the world’s most stunning natural pearls, custom pieces designed by Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels, and personalized items that the Duke and Duchess exchanged as gifts.

Feeling inspired by the Duchess of Windsor’s fabulous collection? Get started on your own custom jewelry pieces now, with the designers from Koerber’s!

 


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