Sotheby's to Auction the Duchess of Windsor's Jewels – Again

Twenty-three years after the legendary auction of the “Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor” – still the most valuable single-owner jewelry collection ever sold – Sotheby’s will offer 20 pieces for sale in London on Nov. 30, 2010 that include renowned examples formerly owned by the Duchess of Windsor and King Edward VIII. An unidentified owner is selling the items, which were acquired at the Sotheby’s sale in Geneva in April 1987.

Eleven Cartier pieces are included in the new sale. Among these is an onyx-and-diamond bracelet designed, with the Duke’s encouragement, in the form of a panther by Jeanne Toussaint for Cartier in 1952. This is expected to sell for between $1.5 million and 2.3 million pounds, as is a flamingo-shaped brooch by Toussaint that the Duchess bought in 1940.

David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry in Europe and the Middle East, said: “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.” A few of the other pieces offered in the upcoming auction include:

A Cartier heart-shaped emerald, ruby and diamond brooch, with the initials W.E. (Wallis, Edward)  done in emeralds and a pair of X’s in blood red rubies -commissioned in 1957 to mark their 20th wedding anniversary.

A diamond bracelet set with nine jewelled crosses is one of the most famous and personal of all the Duchess’s jewels. On the back of each cross is an inscription commemorating a significant event in the lives of the couple. Most of the crosses date from the 1930s, but two, one set with amethyst and one set with yellow sapphires, commemorate Wallis’s appendectomy and her recovery from it in 1944. The sapphire and diamond cross is inscribed “Our marriage cross Wallis 3.VI.37,” while the aquamarine cross refers to an attempt on the King’s life with the inscription “God save the King for Wallis 16.VII.36.” The sapphire cross was given to Wallis to commemorate Edward’s 41st birthday in 1935. The emerald cross is called the X Ray cross and marks the day that the Duchess had an X-ray taken. The ruby cross commemorates a vacation in Austria in 1935. The platinum cross is inscribed “WE are too” and is dated 25 November 1934, a few days before the marriage of Edward’s favourite brother, George Duke of Kent, to Princess Marina of Greece. The diamond cross, inscribed “The Kings Cross God Bless WE” and dated 1 March 1936, commemorates a time when Wallis was visiting France and when, during her absence, Edward VIII and Mr Simpson discussed the future of the King’s relationship with Wallis while Edward agreed to be faithful to her if her husband agreed to a divorce. The Duchess can be seen wearing this bracelet in the photo at the top of this post.

Also going on sale is a gold cigarette case decorated with a map of Europe showing the routes travelled by Edward and Mrs Simpson in the 1930s; the routes are enamelled and the destinations are marked with diamonds and cabochon gems. The inscription shows that this was a Christmas present from Edward to Wallis in 1935.

You can watch video from the 1987 Sotheby’s auction and access the sale catalogue here.

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