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All That Glitters

Wallis Simpson, the woman who infamously turned king from country, was also one of the most talked-about jewellery collectors in history.

What Wallis Simpson gathered in jewellery was vast. So substantial, in fact, that just part of her collection achieved a world-record price ($53,5 million when sold in 1987 by Sotheby’s in Geneva) for a single-owner jewellery sale. The Wallis Simpson collection consisted of 214 pieces and, more recently, further coveted items went up for sale.

The Duchess of Windsor’s devotion to Cartier pieces has made her one of their most famed clients. In 2010, the Cartier jewels from the Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII collections were again auctioned by Sotheby’s, and the Cartier Cross Bracelet she wore on the day she married the Duke of Windsor was among the pieces. It reached a cool £601 250. But this was a mere trifle, both in aesthetics and price. While the diamond bracelet is fine-looking (reportedly one of her favourites, it sports nine gem-set crosses), it’s certainly nothing like her more exotic pieces. These are, as marketers today say of their celebrity ambassadors, how she ‘lived the brand’.

All That Glitters 1The striking Onyx and Diamond Panther Bracelet (a stalking panther encircling the wrist to form a cuff) went for a whopping £4,5 million. The vibrant Flamingo Brooch, ablaze with rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds, was the star lot of the 1987 sale, where it fetched more than £498 000. Of course, the princely sum wasn’t simply because of its beauty alone: it’s the tale of a gift from a fallen royal to his beloved that was the real jewel.

An extract from the original article by Helen Clemson shortened for online publication


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