LONDON - Twenty-six years after the legendary auction of the “Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor”, Sotheby’s London will present – in its sale of Fine Jewels on 12 December 2013– a fascinating group of jewels and precious objects celebrating the lives and tastes of the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor. Many of these precious objects are 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). Highlights include 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.
Commenting on the forthcoming sale, David Bennett, Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery Division in Europe and the Middle East and Chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland, said: “Sotheby’s 1987 landmark sale of the Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor remained the most valuable single-owner jewellery sale for almost a quarter of a century and inaugurated a new era in the jewellery auction market. Three years ago, we witnessed the continuing fascination for this collection when 20 pieces from the original sale reappeared at auction in Sotheby’s London and established new price levels. We are delighted to present this further selection of attractive jewels and precious objects, which shed light on the Duke’s life, and what has been called the greatest love story of the 20th century”.
Some of the highlights are presented below:
HISTORY THROUGH THE INSCRIPTIONS
A Gift from Queen Victoria to her great-grandson, Prince Edward
Many pieces formerly in the collection of the Prince of Wales are dated and bear inscriptions of an intimate nature, including 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. 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 (est. £6,000-10,000).
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra
Albert Edward, Queen Victoria’s son and future King Edward VII (reign: 1901-1910) married Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863. In October 1875, he set off for India on an extensive eight-month tour of the sub-continent whose success contributed to the crowning of Victoria as Empress of India. Before he embarked, Princess Alexandra gave him a John Walker silver open-faced keyless watch whose band is engraved with the inscription “From Alix, 11 October 1875” (est. £4,000-6,000). The royal couple is reunited in a pair of gold and painted enamel cufflinks, one with a portrait of Queen Alexandra, the other with a portrait of King Edward VII (est. £6,000-10,000).
Three Generations of Kings in a collection of Cufflinks
The collection features further fine examples of cufflinks covering the reigns of Edward VII and his successors, George V and Edward VIII. Among them are a pair of gold and tinted crystal intaglio cufflinks decorated with the Prince of Wales’ feathers and the cypher of King George V (reign: 1910-1936) as Prince of Wales (est. £8,000-12,000) and a pair of 18 carat gold, mother-of-pearl, enamel and rose diamond cufflinks applied with the cypher of King George V and Queen Mary respectively within the Garter Motto (est. £5,000-7,000).
A Present from “Mama”, Queen Mary
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). Smoking was a habit he took on at 17 during a three-month sea voyage. He later recalled how his 18th birthday was marked by his father King George V allowing him to smoke. 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-features the engraving ‘David from Mama, Xmas 1913’ (est. £4,000-6,000). The second- a rectangular case of basket weave design in silveris inscribed ‘Darling David from Mama, God bless you, 1925’ and may have been gifted to Edward on the occasion of his 31st birthday, after he returned from a successful world tour (est. £4,000-6,000).
THE LOVE STORY IN THE INSCRIPTIONS
Pieces in the collection also illustrate important dates in the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s relationship. Easter marked an important time for the pair and was very often commemorated by a present. During the couple’s enforced separation in the months before their marriage in 1937, Wallis Simpson offered to Edward a spherical watch by Cord. The bezel features an inscription in her handwriting “Wallis Easter 28 –III –37 David”. The watch is part of a group of fob watches estimated at £6,000-8,000.
SIGNED JEWELS FORMERLY IN THE COLLECTION OF THE DUCHESS OF WINDSOR
A further highlight of the sale is a splendid ensemble of signature Jewels formerly in the Legendary Collection of the Duchess of Windsor. Cartier was one of the most favoured jewellers of the Duke and Duchess. Leading this group is 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 (est. £130,000-180,000).
Further fine examples of Cartier’s extraordinary creations are found in a coral, emerald and diamond choker, of torsade design made in 1949 (est. £40,000-60,000) and an emerald, ruby & diamond brooch from 1930, centering a 20 pesos gold coin dated 1918 (est. £15,000-20,000).
Among the jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels in the sale is an exquisite pair of enamel, coral and diamond clips, each designed as a court jester's staff (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.