Wallis Simpson’s Jewellery Collection
Wallis Simpson’s Jewellery Collection is a famous assembly of highly valuable jewellery, once owned by the late Duchess of Windsor.

Bessie Wallis Simpson

'Bessie Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor'
'Bessie Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor'
wallis-simpson
Bessie Wallis Simpson, née Warfield (1896-1986) was an American socialite and wife of Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor – formerly King Edward VIII of Great Britain.

Simpson is a notable figure in British monarchical history because of the constitutional crisis caused by her proposed marriage to the King.

The King’s position as Supreme Governor the Church of England disbarred him from marrying Simpson, who had twice been divorced.1

As such, the King abdicated on 11th December 1936. They married in June 1937, Simpson becoming the Duchess of Windsor.

The collection

'Wallis Simpson's Diamond Flamingo Clip'
'Wallis Simpson's Diamond Flamingo Clip'
flamingo-clip

Simpson’s jewellery collection has been described as "the most important … put together in the 20th century".2

A good example is her gem-set and diamond cross bracelet. Made by Cartier, the bracelet is set with circular and brilliant-cut diamonds, and suspends nine gem-set Latin crosses.3

Appearing in many key photographs, it was worn regularly by Simpson, most notably at her wedding to the Duke. In addition, there are a number of personalised inscriptions on the crosses.

A highlight of the collection is a ruby, sapphire, emerald, citrine and diamond flamingo clip. Designed by Jeanne Toussaint and Peter Lemarchand of Cartier, the piece was created using others in the Simpson collection.

Several pieces were unmounted so that the stones could be re-used in the flamingo clip, including jewels from a necklace and four bracelets which supplied 42 calibré-cut rubies, the same number of sapphires and emeralds and 102 diamonds.

Another noteworthy piece is an onyx and diamond panther bracelet, again made by Cartier, in Paris, 1952.

The extremely striking piece was designed to encircle the wrist and to assume a stalking attitude. Pavé-set with brilliant and single-cut diamonds and calibré-cut onyx, the eyes are each set with a marquise-shaped emerald.

Another important piece is a heart-shaped emerald, ruby and diamond brooch with the initials WE (Wallis and Edward), commissioned by the Duke for the couple's 20th wedding anniversary in 1957.4

Sale

In 1987, a large proportion of the collection was sold for a record £31m - six times the total expected and setting a new world record for a single-owner jewellery collection.

On 30th November 2010, 20 pieces from the collection were auctioned at Sotheby's, London, in a sale entitled "Exceptional Jewels and Precious Objects formerly in the collection of The Duchess of Windsor".5

The top lot sold was the onyx and diamond panther bracelet, which realised a price of £4,521,250 – nearly 4 times the estimate. In addition, the flamingo clip was sold for £1,721,250, over £200,000 above its estimated price.

David Bennett, Chairman of Sotheby's Jewellery in Europe and the Middle East, commented: "It is an extraordinary honour 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.”

See also

Main article: list of notable jewellery collectors

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