Tonight at Sothebys
, a group of 20 exceptional jewels and precious objects formerly in the collection of The Duchess of Windsor were presented for sale, some 23 years after they were last auctioned in the legendary auction of The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor still the most valuable single-owner jewellery collection ever sold. The 20 pieces, which were announced for sale back in July of this year and have since travelled to Asia, the Middle East, Russia and the US and which also include some of the signature pieces from the 1987 sale, brought a total of £7,975,550 / $12,413,146 / 9,459,004 a figure well in excess of pre-sale expectations of £2,906,000-4,211,000. In 1987 the 20 pieces had been estimated to sell for £197,531-268,189.
Speaking after the sale, David Bennett, Chairman of Sothebys Jewellery in Europe and the Middle East, said: It has been an immense pleasure 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. The collection comprised not only masterpieces of 20th century jewellery by Cartier, but also pieces whose intimate inscriptions tell the story of perhaps the greatest love story of the 20th century, the romance that led Edward VIII to abdicate the throne of Great Britain. Wherever we have exhibited the jewels in recent months whether it be Moscow, New York, Hong Kong or the Middle East the response has been extraordinary; and the Windsor collection has been introduced to a new audience of buyers.
Talking about the jewellery market, David Bennett continues: This month has been sensational for Sothebys Jewellery sales. In the last two weeks alone we have established both a new world record price for any gemstone with the sale of the 24.78 carat Graff Pink for $46 million and a new world record total for a jewellery sale at $105 million with our sale in Geneva on November 16. Tonights London sale, with its record for a jewel by Cartier ($7 million), has also underlined the enduring desirability of fabulous signed jewels with great provenance.
Throughout the Prince of Waless courtship of Wallis Warfield Simpson, during his brief period on the throne, as well as during their married life, the couple commissioned exquisite jewels from the great European jewellery houses.
The highlights of tonights sale:
By far and away the highlight of tonights sale was lot 19, the onyx and diamond panther bracelet by Cartier, Paris in 1952, which sold - after competition from some four potential buyers - for £4,521,250 / $7,036,874, more than double the pre-sale estimate for the bracelet of £1-1.5 million. This price establishes a new record for Cartier at auction and also for any bracelet at auction.
The second highest price of the evening was for lot 20, the ruby, sapphire, emerald, citrine and diamond flamingo clip, mounted by Cartier, Paris, 1940, created by Jeanne Toussaint for Cartier. Estimated at £1-1.5 million, this spectacular brooch was purchased by Collection Cartier for £1,721,250 / $2,678,954, again a price comfortably over pre-sale expectations of £1-1.5 million.
Lot 17, the diamond bracelet by Cartier which supports nine gem-set Latin crosses, each representing special moments of The Duchesss life during the years 1934-44 - a jewel of great personal significance and one of her favourite pieces - brought £601,250 / $935,786 against an estimate of £350,000-450,000.
Lot 15, the delightful heart-shaped emerald, ruby and diamond brooch by Cartier, Paris applied with the initials W.E. (Wallis, Edward) and commissioned by the Duke in 1957 to mark their 20th wedding anniversary, was also the subject of a great deal of competition and sold for £205,250 / $319,451 against an estimate of £100,000-150,000.
Lot 16: The gold and gem-set cigarette case by Cartier, London in 1935, the front decorated with a map of Europe in yellow and red gold, inscribed with the names of various locations, each represented by a cabochon gem or brilliant-cut diamond, the interior inscribed and dated: David from Wallis Christmas 1935. This case sold for £181,250 /$282,098 against an estimate of £150,000-200,000.
Lot 18: The gold and diamond nécessaire du soir by Cartier, Paris in December 1947. In the form of an egg with twisted ropework borders, this piece sold for £139,250 / $216,729, against an estimate of £70,000-90,000.
Lot 14: The diamond dress suite made by Cartier, London in 1935, engraved with the initials W and E and the inscription Hold Tight a phrase often employed by the Duke and the Duchess in their correspondence before their marriage. This suite made £115,250 / $179,375 against an estimate of £70,000-90,000.
A series of silver items and medals once property of Edward, the Prince of Wales. These include the rare gold Vimy Pilgrimage Medal from 1936 (lot 8), which was worn by the Duke of Windsor, then King Edward VIII and King of Canada at the unveiling of The Canadian Great War memorial at Vimy Ridge in France in 1936. This medal, estimated at £2,000-3,000, realised £12,500 / $19,455.
* Estimates do not include buyers premium