A fascinating group of jewels and precious objects celebrating the lives and tastes of the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor soared above estimate, selling for £620,125 ($1,016,137) at Sotheby’s London (est. £351,500 – 506,700/ $575,968 – 830,279). The majority of the pieces were presented some 26 years after they were last auctioned in the legendary sale of “The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor” at Sotheby’s Geneva.
Speaking after the sale, Bryony Meredith, Head of Sotheby’s London Jewellery Department said: “Today’s results show the longstanding fascination for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, their lives, their lifestyle and their exceptional taste. On the rare occasions when they have surfaced on the market in the last 30 years, jewels from their collection have consistently set new benchmarks and today was no exception. The offering included not only masterful examples of 20th century jewellery but also pieces whose intimate inscriptions trace the life of four generations of British monarchs and tell what is perhaps one the greatest love stories of our times, the romance that led Edward VIII to abdicate the throne of Great Britain”.
Highlights included signed jewels formerly in the Collection of the Duchess of Windsor – a woman who was the epitome of elegance and sophistication for her generation and beyond and for whom Edward VIII abdicated the throne of Great Britain.
A magnificent sapphire bracelet by Cartier, circa 1945, designed as a series of oval links set with cushion-shaped sapphires in alternating light and dark shades of blue sold for £230,500 ($377,697) (lot 459, est. £130,000-180,000). The Duchess was seen wearing this stunning bracelet on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Paris in 1972, the last time the Queen was to see her uncle the Duke of Windsor prior to his death.
Other jewels by Cartier formerly in the collection of the Duchess of Windsor included a coral, emerald and diamond choker, of torsade design made in 1949 which achieved £110,500 ($181,065) (lot 456, est. £40,000-60,000, an amethyst, turquoise and diamond bracelet, Cartier, 1954 which realised £27,500 ($45,062) (lot 457, est. £ 20,000-30,000) and an emerald, ruby & diamond brooch from 1930, with a gold 20 pesos coin at its centre. Dating from 1918, it found a buyer for £18,750 ($30,724) (lot 452, est. £15,000-20,000).
Among the jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels in the sale was an exquisite pair of enamel, coral and diamond clips, each designed as a court jester’s staff which achieved £18,750 ($30,724) (lot 454, est. £15,000-20,000). Made in 1937 and purchased by the Duke of Windsor on 28th February 1939, these brooches were a Christmas gift from the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor to Miss Anne Seagrim – the Duke’s private secretary from 1950 to 1954 who assisted him with his autobiography The King’s Story.
Many of the precious objects presented today were engraved with inscriptions marking important events in the history of the British monarchy and shedding light on the life of four generations of the royal family, from Queen Victoria (1819-1901) to the Duke of Windsor (1894-1972).
A rectangular silver pocket frame engraved “From Great Grandmama V.R.I. 24th May 1899” whose cover conceals an oval photograph of Queen Victoria seated sold for £7,500 ($12,290) (lot 439). The presentation case features a stylised 80 in yellow gold on the front and was gifted to the four-year old Edward on the occasion of the Queen’s 80th birthday.
Many pieces in the collection give an insight into the life of the Duke of Windsor, when he was Prince of Wales and during his brief reign as Edward VIII (January-December 1936).
The collection comprises an ensemble of cigarette cases gifted to Edward – known to the royal family as David. Two of these cases were gifts from his mother Queen Mary and are engraved with facsimile inscriptions. The first – a silver cigarette case in Russian taste by W. Hornby which features the engraving ‘David from Mama, Xmas 1913’ achieved £5,000 ($8,193) (lot 442). The second – a rectangular case of basket weave design in silver, inscribed ‘Darling David from Mama, God bless you, 1925’ made £5,000 ($8,193) (lot 443). This cigarette case may have been gifted to Edward on the occasion of his 31st birthday, after he returned from a successful world tour.