Sotheby’s to Again Auction Duchess of Windsor Jewels

Sotheby’s to Again Auction Duchess of Windsor Jewels

London—Some 23 years after its record-setting $50.3 million auction of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewelry, Sotheby’s is once again planning to sell 20 pieces of jewelry that once belonged to the wife of the the man who gave up being King for “the woman I love.”

The pieces, including some that were acquired in at the 1987 “Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor” sale in Geneva, will be auctioned in London on Nov. 30. The auction house estimates the piece could fetch more than $5 million. The owner who plans to sell the pieces wasn’t disclosed.

The jewels associated with what has been called “the greatest love story of the 20th century” makes them highly prized. When King Edward VIII renounced the throne of Great Britain and abdicated in 1936 to become the Duke of Windsor and married American divorcee Wallis Simpson, he showered her with lavish jewelry since the Duchess never received a royal title.

Included in the Nov. 30 sale are 11 Cartier pieces the Duke commissioned for his wife, including an 1952 onyx-and-diamond panther by Jeanne Toussaint for Cartier and a1940 f flamingo brooch with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines and diamonds that became the emblem of the sale. Indeed, the widespread publicity surrounding the 1987 sale lead to renewed interest in estate pieces and spurred an array of replica costume jewelry sales.

David Bennett, chairman of Sothebys Jewelry, said today: “It is an extraordinary honor 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 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 heart-shaped 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 Windsors favorite diamond bracelet by Cartier which supports nine gem-set Latin crosses, each representing special moments of her life during the years 1934 to 1944. 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” and an 18k 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 that shows locations meaningful to the couple.

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.

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Jeff Prine

Jeff Prine, Editor at Large, Accessories Magazine
Jeff returns as a regular contributor to Accessories magazine. Initially Jeff worked as senior editor at Accessories more than 20 years ago and his love of the industry has followed him until present. Since his tenure here, Jeff has continued to report jewelry, watch and other luxury goods trends as executive editor at Modern Jeweler magazine, fashion director at Lustre, and as contributor on products and trends for consumer and trade publications and websites. In addition to his editorial experience, Jeff also served as an adjunct instructor for accessories merchandising at Fashion Institute of Technology. jeffp@busjour.com