Wallis Simpson’s Brilliant Jewellery

Posted: November 2, 2011 - 15:00 , by admin
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Submitted by Danura Buczynski and Elsa McKay, Department of Museum Volunteers.

Who was Wallis Simpson?
The American socialite Wallis Warfield Simpson, a.k.a. the Duchess of Windsor is one of the most intriguing figures of the 20th century. With two divorced husbands still living, Bessie Wallis Warfield (1896-1986), stepped into the spotlight and shocked conventional society when she was identified as the mistress of the Prince of Wales.

The Royal Love Affair
In December 1936, King Edward the VIII renounced his throne for “the woman I love”. Their love affair is commemorated by a series of important jewels and luxury items, often given as gifts to celebrate anniversaries and other special occasions. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor made the rounds of international society on both sides of the Atlantic. She was often cited as the “best dressed woman of the year” – her style, clothes and jewellery were widely admired, photographed and imitated.

After Edward died in 1972, she lived quietly in France, not as noteworthy, but never completely forgotten. The private lives of the Windsors is still a source of speculation, and they remain controversial figures in British history. Sotheby’s was granted the unique privilege of selling those famous jewels for the benefit of charity in Geneva in April 1987, and again in London in November 2010.

On November 30, you can see her world famous jewels in person at the Studies in Silver Lecture! Carol Elkins, Senior Vice President, Jewelry Department, Sotheby’s, New York, brings these fabulous jewels to life, describing their craftsmanship, their brilliance, and the times and events that created them. Book your tickets online today (Public $35, Member, Student & Senior: $30).

A diamond encrusted brooch crafted as a flamingo perched on one leg.

Flamingo brooch, Cartier, Paris 1940. Photograph courtesy of Sotheby's.

A bracelet shaped like a panther and decorated with diamonds and onyx.

Diamond and Onyx Panther Bracelet, Cartier, Paris, 1952. Photograph courtesy of Sotheby's.

A gold locket with fine engravings.

Gold and Diamond Necessaire du Soir, Cartier, Paris, 1947. Photograph courtesy of Sotheby's.

Skill Testing Question
Can you name which recent Academy Award Winning film includes a portrayal of Wallis Simpson?