"An Affair to Remember" is the fairy tale romance and life of the King of England who willingly abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. He married her much against the wishes of the Church and his Royal family since he felt he could not "live without her". We have yet to find such a worthy lover, selfless and chivalrous who made sure she lived in a style befitting a queen. The Duchess of Windsor had the best collection of jewelry amongst the British Royalty. Most of the jewelry owned by reigning monarchs and their consorts were not personally owned by them. They belonged and still belong to the State. But the Duchess of Windsor owned a huge collection of personal jewelry. It was eventually sold by Sotheby's in Geneva, after her death.
Helping them acquire the vast collection of specially designed jewelry were some famous Design Houses like Van Cleef and Arpels, Cartier and Harry Winston, the American Jeweler famous for introducing fine quality diamonds and donating the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Museum.
Harry Winston -It is difficult to write about Wallis's jewelry collection. I do not know where to begin. I shall, therefore start with the story about the anklet turned necklace belonging to the Maharaja of Baroda. The Maharaja sold the anklets to Harry Winston. This in turn was sold to the Windsors in 1953 by Harry. When Wallis Simpson learnt that it was actually an anklet worn by the Maharani of Baroda, she refused to wear it. In 1948, he sold to them a pair of fancy yellow diamonds weighing 40.81 carats and 52.13 carats respectively. They were pear shaped and were designed into lapel pins. He also sold two brilliant cut yellow diamonds 5.17 and 5.18 carats respectively and was made into earrings to match the pins. Also sold to her were two cushion shaped diamonds which Harry Winston purchased from the famous Evalyn Walsh Mc Lean, the spirited daughter of an Irish immigrant, spoilt by her dad's fortune, and a collector of jewelry and owner of the Hope diamond. They were 31.26 carats and were D color. It is believed that they were mined from Golconda Mines. The India necklace made with emerald and rose color diamonds were sold to the Windsor in 1956.This necklace could be worn as a single string or as a two row choker. In its true form it is a bib necklace.
The Duchess inherited from her mother in law Queen Mary a single row of pearls, 28 pearls, luminous and globular with a diamond clasp which contains 9.190.6 grain pearl topped by diamonds. A domical pendant topped with a diamond ring keeps it suspended at the centre.
Van Cleef and Arpels
The invisible setting by Van Cleef and Arpels, made for her became quite famous and they used this technique for crafting a clip of rubies and diamonds as two "conjoined Holly Leaves". To match this they also made a ruby and diamond bracelet in 1936. This was designed by Paulette, their famous senior designer. This famous pin or brooch is a simple design, two serrated, unmatched Holly leaves placed besides each other, one made up of rubies the other of diamonds. The left leaf is made up of diamonds while the one on the right hand side is made up of rubies. The vein of each leaf is made up a single row of thin baguette diamonds. The contrast of white and red makes it a 'piece de resistance'. This has invisible setting as the stones are held by small grooves at the back and no gold is visible from the front. This six inch long pin was special as the Duke gave this to her on Christmas when they were not together. It was designed by Lacaze.
The Ruby and diamond bracelet designed by Van Cleef and Arpels has 40 Burmese rubies. The bracelet is a simple and smart design with the inscription" Hold tight", the Duke's favorite phrase. This was presented to Wallis by the Duke, when he asked her present husband, Ernest Simpson to get a divorce from Wallis so that they could marry. The matching necklace has bunches of rubies with strands of diamonds placed at intervals. The ruby and diamond necklace given by the duke was designed by Lacaze. It was reset in 1939 when it was made into a collar and had a tassel which could be unhinged when required added. The matching earrings were also upgraded. A view of the photograph can be had at their archive.
Also designed by Van Cleef and Arpels is the sapphire and diamond bracelet. This was given on 18th May 1937 when their wedding plans were fixed. The bracelet has baguettes and diamonds made in shape of a wrist band and has a bow placed in the centre. This bow is made up of cushion shaped sapphires and is known as the contract bracelet.
The ruby and diamond pendant in shape of a heart is another creation. The heart is made up of diamonds while the hook is made up of rubies and diamonds of the finest quality.
In 1950 the Windsor's made another fantastic purchase. This was a large natural pearl and diamond pendant from Van Cleef and Arpels. In 1957 they once again acquired a pair of natural pearl and diamond earrings from Van Cleef and Arpels.
Cartier - The duchess who was quite fashionable had the best designers work for her. Naturally Cartier was one of them. As S. Papi and A. Modea note regarding Wallis Simpson's jewelry "most important and sensational examples of the 20th century jeweler's art but they were also jewels which had been chosen by a king to give to a woman for whom he abdicated his throne". The Windsor collection was a tribute of undying love of the duke for his duchess.
In 1965 Cartier re-designed the ruby and diamond necklet into clusters of flowers. They were later auctioned by the after Wallis's death. It is believed that this was the first necklace given by Edward.
In 1947 Cartier designed a lace like necklace made in gold and set with diamond, amethyst and turquoise. The filigree work is made up of step cut amethyst and turquoise and brilliant cut diamonds. To set off the look a heart shaped amethyst dangles from the center. It also has a pair of matching earrings, a pin, bracelet and a ring. It was sold by Sotheby's in Geneva.
Cartier designed a pair of gold and emerald and rose diamond earrings to match the bib necklace sold by Harry Winston. This set of earrings was placed by Wallis herself.
The Colombian emerald ring weighing 19.77 carats was bought from Cartier and once belonged to the Mughals. This was supposed to have been bought in Baghdad and was huge. It was cut into two. It carries the inscription "WE are ours now 27x36". This is the date 26th October 1937 when it was finally decided that Ernest Simpson, Wallis husband would grant the divorce, leaving them free to marry. This ring underwent change when it was reset in a leafy design. Each leaf holds a brilliant cut diamond. This was done in 1958.
After their wedding a ruby and diamond bangle was ordered and designed by Cartier with "For our first anniversary" inscription. The bangle, open ended held two large cushion shaped Burmese rubies surrounded by brilliant cut diamonds with cross over clasp.
A ruby and diamond cross over necklace made by Cartier in 1937 with two cushion shaped rubies weighing 36.15 carats were reset and redesigned by Cartier.
In 1960, a diamond double leaf necklace ordered by the Duke for his duchess in 1937 was redesigned by Cartier.
It has been noted that after their wedding the Windsor's collected a huge collection of trendy, sophisticated jewelry, crafted and designed by Jeanne Toussaint, the famous designer working with Cartier since 1915, also known as Paulette by Louis Cartier.
A ruby bead necklace was made in 1949 by Cartier which was inspired by Indian designs. This had silken threads as fasteners. The gold chain had emerald and diamonds and ruby ball dangling from the two ends. This tassel drop was remade into a brooch by Cartier in 1963.
The famous fancy yellow diamonds being sold by Cartier made the duchess say, 'I can't think of anything I would rather have than these two diamonds" This was purchased in 1948 from Cartier and were pear shaped. Each diamond weighed 8.13 and 8.01 carats and was brilliant cut and molded into pave setting, a look that puts gemstones very close together giving it a continuous look.
The sapphire and diamond necklace made in 1940 which had 9 distinct flower head clusters was made by Cartier. Sapphires and circular cut diamonds chain supporting a fringe made up of arrow shaped motifs.
The peerless Flamingo brooch made in 1940 by Cartier and bought by the Duke of Windsor was designed with diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds. The designer was Jeanne Toussaint.
1949 she got a tiara made of emerald beads and parallel diamond loops made by Cartier.
Cartier also had two august brooches made for the duchess in 1930. One was crafted from 20 pesos gold coin and was set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. The other was a medallion of Virgin Mary and set only with diamonds.
The flower brooch made by Cartier with carved emeralds, rubies, diamonds and yellow gold and black enamel is simply gorgeous. The carved emerald resembles a flower with sepals and petals and gold leaves. Small diamonds circle the emerald flower.
One of the most romantic pieces of jewelry with a lot of very intimate and personal history attached to it is the bracelet consisting of 9 crosses. They were made out of platinum and diamonds and each one carried an inscription befitting the occasion it was given on.
The First cross was plain with WE (Edward/Wallis) are two 25x1-34, The second one given on Edward's 41st Birthday was set with sapphires and carried the words 'Wallis- David 23.6.35'.
The third cross was made up with rubies commemorating their time in Wolfgang where Edward made up his mind to marry Wallis and thus it has these words 'Wallis-David St. Wolfgang 22.9.35'.
The fourth cross is set with diamonds and was given to Wallis with the words 'God Bless W'.. This was to immortalize their love and send Ernest Simpson a message that the King would be looking after her. This was given when he became the king.
The fifth cross is set with emerald and given to the duchess when an x-ray revealed an ulcer in her stomach. The sixth cross was inscribed with the words "God save the King for Wallis". It was given when an Irish journalist tried to assassinate Edward.
The seventh cross set with sapphires and rubies and diamonds immortalizing their wedding date and ceremony "Our marriage Cross Wallis 3.v1.37 David. The eight cross is set with amethyst and was given to her on her appendectomy and carries the words 'Wallis 31.VIII.44'.
The ninth cross set with yellow sapphires is a get well cross given for a speedy recovery from her surgery. This bracelet was sold by Sotheby's in New York.
Another interesting part of the Windsor collection is the animal theme brooches/pins all studded with precious stones crafted by Cartier. The Great cat a black enamel diamond studded tiger made of gold or the white and gold diamond flecked tiger or the tiger with emerald eyes or the pair of black sapphire tiger are some of the outstanding ones.
David Webb crafted a set of enameled frogs sprinkled with diamonds and rubies.
This is not the complete account of the Windsor's collection. It can be said without hesitation that she was an elegant and fashionable lady in spite of her humble background and she became the fashion icon of the 20th century. Considered one of the worlds best dressed woman for over four decades it was no small feat for her.
Medley of information
The duke deeply felt that all the precious jewels that were worn by his Wallis should be removed from their settings and stored away when she died. He did not want anyone else to wear them. However he died earlier and the Duchess willed all her jewels to be sold off and the money to be donated to the Pasteur Institute for AIDS research.
The duke, it is said, spent many hours with the iconic designers Jeanne Toussaint and Renee' Puissant discussing and designing jewelry.
Sotheby sold many pieces and the total amount accumulated was 50 million dollars.
Calvin Klein's ex wife also sold some jewels which were bought from Mrs. Simpson. The items sold were a pearl pendant and necklace, a pair of Noir et Blanc (black and white) pearl earrings, a single strand pearl and diamond earrings, which belonged to her mother in law, Queen Mary. However the diamond band which has 'eternity' inscribed on it was not sold by her.
Suzzane Belperron, Seaman Schepps and David Webb also designed for the duchess.
Wallis Simpson historical jewelry collection consisted of 214 pieces.
- Book: -Famous Jewelry Collectors by Stephano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes