The three components, the pearl and diamond necklace, the pearl and diamond pendant and the pearl and diamond ear clips, formed a suite of jewelry that was commonly worn by the Duchess of Windsor, complementing her fashionable wardrobe, during the almost four decades she had owned them. The jewelry pieces, particularly the single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace and the natural pearl and diamond pendant, came to be closely identified with the Duchess of Windsor, as she had been photographed wearing them on numerous occasions. Thus the appellation Duchess of Windsor added to the pearl and diamond necklace, pendant and ear-clips seem to be more than amply justified, reflecting its unique provenance. However, before the Duchess of Windsor came to own the natural pearl and diamond necklace, a signature piece from Cartier's of Paris, it originally belonged to Queen Mary, the Queen consort of King George V of the United Kingdom, the British Dominions and the Emperor of India. Queen Mary, who became famous for superbly bejeweling herself for formal occasions, and had a great passion for collecting jewels and jewelry, gifted the single-strand pearl and diamond necklace to her son, the Duke of Windsor, who in turn gifted it to his beloved paramour, the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, after his marriage to her in 1937 following his abdication as King of the United Kingdom. Wallis Simpson assumed the title Duchess of Windsor after her marriage to Edward, the Duke of Windsor. Thus the modification of the name to "Duchess of Windsor/Queen Mary" gives a true reflection of the provenance of the celebrated jewelry pieces.
The single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace is a signature piece of Cartier's of Paris, designed and executed by the company for Queen Mary of Teck, during the reign of her husband King George V, from 1910 to 1936. The necklace is composed of 28 natural pearls ranging in size from approximately 9.2 mm to 16.8 mm. The length of the necklace is 14 inches, which under the modern system of classification of necklaces, adopted by Mikimoto, based on their length, falls under a "choker." (see table below)
Length of strand in inches
Queen Mary/ Duchess of Windsor Pearl and Diamond Necklace
A close examination of the pearls show that, the shape of the pearls vary from round to near-round, button, oval and near-baroque. The variety of shapes found in the necklace is a strong evidence for the natural provenance of the pearls in the necklace. The color of the pearls are white. The luster and orient of the pearls are characteristic of natural saltwater pearls, associated with their thick nacre. The clasp of the emerald which bears the signature of Cartier, Paris, is oval in shape, and set with two emerald-cut diamonds, weighing approximately 2 carats and two fancy-shaped diamonds, weighing approximately one carat, surrounded by 20 small round single-cut diamonds, weighing approximately 0.70 carat.
This is another piece created by Cartier of Paris, for the Duke of Windsor in 1950, who gifted it to his beloved wife the Duchess of Windsor. The Duke showered his wife from time to time with pieces of jewelry like this, that kept alive their love and devotion to each other until his death in 1972. Such pieces of jewelry are a silent testimony to the greatest love story of the 2Oth century, that baffled the entire world.
The Duchess of Windsor Pearl and Diamond Pendant
The pendant consists of a large natural almost drop-shaped (slightly baroque) pearl, weighing 190.60 grains equivalent to 47.65 carats or 9.53 grams and having a diameter of approximately 18.4 mm. The pearl is drilled at the top and fitted with a bell cap, set with round single-cut diamonds, to which is attached a detachable, stirrup-shaped, diamond-set pendant fitting. The pendant was usually worn as a drop, on the above single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace.
The piece consisted of a pair of black and white natural pearl and diamond earclips, designed and executed by Van Cleef & Arpels of New York, in 1957. The Duke of Windsor purchased the piece from Van Cleef & Arpels, the following year i.e. in 1958. The centerpiece of the earclips mounted in white gold, are a perfectly spherical black pearl with a diameter of 18.2 mm and another spherical white pearl with a diameter of 18.1 mm. The pearls are surrounded by 32 pear-shaped and 64 rounded diamonds, with a total weight of approximately 9.25 carats.
Duchess of Windsor Black and White Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Clips
Out of the three pieces of jewelry, the single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace has the oldest provenance, ascribed to the period of Queen Mary of Teck (1910-1936), and designed by Cartier's of Paris. The other two pieces are of relatively recent origin, the pearl and diamond pendant originating in 1950 and the pearl and diamond earclips in 1957. Given the period of origin of these jewelry pieces, it is difficult to predict the source of the pearls, as most of the traditional sources of natural pearls had been exhausted and abandoned by then. In the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, one of the most ancient sources of natural pearls in the world, the natural pearl industry collapsed in the 1920-1930s, due to the twin effects of large scale production of cultured pearls by Japan and the depression. In the Gulf of Mannar, between India and Sri Lanka, another ancient source of pearls, the natural pearl industry collapsed in the early 1900s due to overexploitation by the British colonialists, and the final death blow given by Mikimoto. The pearl industry of the New World, centered around Venezuela, Colombia and Panama, which was very vibrant following the discovery of pearls by Columbus in Venezuela in 1498, during his third voyage, was totally exhausted by 1650, within a period of only 150 years, due to overexploitation by the Spanish colonialists. The natural pearl industry of western and northwestern Australia, a by product of the lucrative mother-of-pearl industry centered around the town of Broome, collapsed in the 1930s due to the twin effects of depression followed by World War II. The mother-of-pearl industry recovered after World War II, but collapsed totally in the mid-1950s following the manufacture of cheap plastic buttons.
Thus based on the above information, a possible source of the natural pearls in the single-strand pearl and diamond necklace is western Australia, where a natural pearl industry survived until the 1930s and after World War II, up to mid-1950s. These natural pearls were derived from the oyster species Pinctada maxima, the silver-lipped pearl oyster commonly found in the pearl beds off the coast of western and northern Australia. The same species is found in the other countries of the region situated in the South Sea, such as Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and southern China, and the pearls produced are known as South Sea pearls. The larger size of the natural pearls in the necklace ranging from 9.2 mm to 16.8 mm, seem to confirm this viewpoint, as South Sea pearls produced naturally or by culturing are the largest pearls in the world. This is attributed to the larger size of the pearl oyster, reaching a maximum size of 12 inches (30 cm). In keeping with the larger size of the oyster, the gonads, inside which the pearls grow are also large, enabling larger pearls to grow inside the oyster. The color of the pearls in the necklace are silvery-white, which also seem to agree with the range of colors found in South Sea pearls, such as silver, silver-white, silver-pink, cream and yellow. However, it is not known whether the pearls possess the deep satin-luster characteristic of South Sea pearls.
In the alternative, it is also possible that the pearls used in the necklace and other jewelry pieces, were pearls already harvested from the traditional sources when they were in active production, but subsequently stored either as loose gemstones or set in some form of jewelry. If it was so the pearls could have originated in any one of the traditional sources listed above, with the Persian Gulf, being the most likely source.
Queen Mary of Teck, the queen of the United Kingdom, the British Dominions and the Empress of India, during the reign of her husband King George V (1910-1936), developed a great passion for collecting objects of art, jewels and jewelry, and other objects with a royal provenance, such as porcelain, cameos, royal seals, Faberge animals and eggs, jeweled fans, gold boxes encrusted with jewels etc. She is credited with transforming the British Royal Family's jewel collection, both the crown jewels and the personal jewelry collection, into one of the greatest jewelry collections in the world. Among the notable jewelry collections she acquired were the Romanov jewels, that once belonged to Russia's Dowager Empress Marie Feodrovna, mother of Czar Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, and sister of England's Queen Alexandra, and jewels belonging to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimir Alexandrovich, the aunt of Czar Nicholas II. The Queen became famous for superbly bejeweling herself for formal occasions, and her crowning moment of glory came when she was hailed as the most spectacular royal guest at the wedding of Kaiser Wilhelm's daughter in 1913, which she attended heavily bedecked with jewelry. She also owned some spectacular pieces of pearl jewelry, that included the famous Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara. The Duchess of Windsor pearl and diamond necklace was also part of her valuable pearl jewelry collection, which she later gave to her eldest son Edward, who ascended the throne of the United Kingdom as Edward VIII.
Edward, who was born on June 23, 1894 in Richmond, Surrey, was the eldest son of Prince George, the Duke of York (the second son of Prince Edward Albert, the Prince of Wales) and Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, the Duchess of York. After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, Prince Edward Albert ascended the throne as Edward VII, and Prince George, the Duke of York, became the new Prince of Wales and the heir to the British throne, and his wife Princess Mary, the new Princess of Wales. After the death of King Edward VII, on May 6, 1910, Prince George ascended the throne as King George V, and Princess Mary became the Queen consort of the United Kingdom. Their eldest son Prince Edward, who was now 16 years old, inherited the titles of Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay, and later, on June 23, 1910 was created the new Prince of Wales, and the heir to the British throne.
Edward the VIII, as Prince of Wales
Edward and his siblings were mainly tutored at home, by experienced tutors like Frederick Finch and Henry Hansell. Edward entered the Osborne Naval College in 1907, at the age of 13, where he spent two years, and was later transferred to the Royal Naval College, at Dartmouth. However, halfway through the course, when Edward was created the Prince of Wales, on June 23, 1910, he was withdrawn from his naval course, and assigned as midshipman for three months aboard the battleship "Hindustan." He then entered Magdalen College, Oxford, where he spent almost eight terms, and left finally without any academic credentials.
Prince Edward-Duke of Windsor at the White House in 1945, on the day of the surrender of Japan.
At the time World War I broke out in 1914, Edward who had reached the minimum age of 20 years for active service, joined the army and was very keen to serve on the front lines. Even though his request for action in the frontlines were not granted, he was given the opportunity to witness trench warfare firsthand, and visit the frontlines whenever it was feasible. Edward's concern for the soldiers, made him very popular in the army.
After his assumption of the title of Prince of Wales, Edward was exposed to the formalities of the royal court, and made aware of the duties and functions of the monarchy and its relationship with the elected parliament. This was in preparation for him to take over as the future king of the United Kingdom, after his father. As part of this training King George V, assigned Prince Edward the task of representing him at various occasions both at home and abroad. At home he took a keen interest in visiting poverty-stricken areas of the country, which enhanced his popularity among the people. Between the years 1919 and 1935, he undertook 16 tours to various parts of the British Empire. This enabled the Prince to gain first hand knowledge of the problems of the people, not only at home, but also in the British Dominions and other colonies throughout the empire. Prince Edward was now fully prepared for the arduous task ahead as the future king of the British Empire.
Prince Edwards greatest weakness was his compulsive womanizing habit that manifested itself in the early 1920s and continued into the 1930s. Unlike his brother Prince Albert who married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and was happily settled down in life, with children, even by the mid-1930s when he was already over 40 years old, Prince Edward was not able to marry and settle down. This was a continuous source of worry for the ailing king, who it is said was sincerely hoping that Prince Edward would not be his successor. In 1930, when the King gave Fort Belvedere to Prince Edward, in order to set up his home, he brought in a series of married women friends, with whom he established relationships, and eventually fell in love with Wallis Simpson, the American wife of a British shipping executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson. Mrs. Simpson had divorced her first husband Earl Winfield Spencer, a U.S. Navy Pilot in 1927 and had subsequently married Ernest Aldrich Simpson. Prince Edward showered Wallis with money and jewels, a practice that lasted throughout their relationship and until his death in 1972, that resulted in Wallis subsequently known as the Duchess of Windsor, accumulating one of the largest and most expensive collections of jewels and jewelry in the world. King George V and Queen Mary did not approve of their son's relationship with a divorced woman with a questionable past. However, at least on one occasion they received Mrs. Simpson at the Buckingham Palace, but refused to do so subsequently.
When King George V died on January 20, 1936, Prince Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII. Edward continued to occupy Fort Belvedere, from where he performed his official duties. However, it is said that government ministers were reluctant to send confidential documents and state papers to Fort Belvedere, because they felt that King Edward had little time to attend to them, and because of the possibility that Mrs. Simpson or other guests in the house might see them. In the summer of 1936, the King deliberately avoided the traditional holiday at Balmoral Castle, and instead holidayed together with Mrs. Simpson in the Eastern Mediterranean on board the steam yacht, "Nahlin." The British Press kept mum about the King and Wallis Simpson's trip to the Mediterranean, that created sensational headlines all over America and continental Europe. By October King Edward VIII's intentions were becoming clear, as Wallis Simpson filed for divorce from Mr. Ernest Aldrich Simpson, at Ipswich's crown court. The foreign press continued to give wide coverage to the sensational news, while the British press still maintained a self-imposed silence. The news coverage depicted Mrs. Simpson in bad light, and as an unscrupulous woman who was after money and position.
On November 13, 1936, the King's private secretary, Alec Hardinge, in a letter written to the King, warned him of the consequences, if the British press decided to go public on his affair with Mrs. Simpson. On November 16, 1936, King Edward invited the prime minister Stanley Baldwin to Buckingham Palace, and expressed his desire to marry the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, when she was free to re-marry again. Baldwin who knew in advance why he was being summoned, expressed in no uncertain terms the strong opposition of the Government, to the King marrying a twice-divorced woman with a questionable character. The main reasons adduced to the government's opposition was on moral and religious grounds. King Edward VIII, who was also ex-officio head of the Church of England, was to set an example and uphold the teachings of the church, that forbade the marriage of a divorced woman in church, while a former spouse was still living. In the case of Wallis Simpson, she divorced not once, but twice, and both husbands were still living. Moreover the government by using the police and the secret services had found that Wallis Simpson's background, behavior and moral character was totally unacceptable, to hold the highest position of the Queen of Great Britain and the British Empire. Police detectives had discovered, that while Wallis Simpson was involved with King Edward VIII, she was also concurrently maintaining two other sexual relationships, one with a married car mechanic and salesman, named Guy Trundle and the other with Edward Fitzgerald, Duke of Lainster.
As Edward's wishes to marry Wallis Simpson and make her the queen of the United Kingdom was rejected by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, he put forward an alternative proposal for the consideration of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, that involved a morganatic type of marriage, for which there was already precedence in the royal families of Europe, in which Edward would continue to remain the King, by virtue of the succession laws of the country, but Wallis Simpson would not become the Queen; instead being given some lesser title, and any issues they might have forfeiting their right to the throne. This proposal too was discussed by the Cabinet, and rejected. The Dominion governments of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Ireland, were also consulted on this issue, as required by the law, which stated that any changes to the succession laws would also require the approval of Parliaments of the Dominions, apart from the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Accordingly Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, conveyed their opposition to the King marrying a divorcee; but the Irish as expected expressed indifference over the issue, stating however that Ireland being a Catholic country did not recognize divorce.
Apart from the moral and religious implications of King Edward VIII's marriage to a divorcee of questionable character, another significant factor emerged during this period that militated against the proposed marriage of the King to Wallis Simpson. This was the finding by the British Secret Service that Wallis Simpson was possibly an agent of Nazi Germany. Copies of leaked dispatches sent by Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Reich's ambassador to the United Kingdom, obtained by the Foreign Office, revealed his strong view, that the opposition to the marriage was mainly organized by anti-German groups in Britain, in order to defeat the pro-German groups that had been working through Mrs. Simpson. The British Government feared that Wallis had free access to confidential government papers sent to King Edward at his Fort Belvedere residence. Reports of the FBI investigation into the case written after the abdication seemed to substantiate the findings of the British, but went further in implicating Wallis Simpson of carrying on an affair with Joachim von Ribbentrop, while at the same time she was deeply involved with the king. Thus security considerations appear to have played a major part in the opposition of the British Government to the marriage, just as much as moral and religious considerations.
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
After both options presented by the King to the Prime Minister and the cabinet (marriage and Wallis Simpson becoming the queen and morganatic marriage and Wallis Simpson not becoming the queen), were rejected, King Edward informed Baldwin, that he would abdicate if he could not marry Mrs. Simpson. Baldwin now presented King Edward with three options :-
1) Give up the idea of marrying Wallis Simpson, and instead look for a wife befitting the high office of the queen of the most powerful nation in the world, and acceptable to the King's subjects.
2) Marry against the wishes of the ministers of his government, and risk an en masse resignation of his government, precipitating a constitutional crisis.
3) Abdicate in favor of his younger brother, Prince Albert, the Duke of York.
Baldwin and his ministers were quite certain that King Edward would no doubt pick the 3rd option, given the close attachment of the couple towards one another, and the fact that the King himself had informed them that he would abdicate if he was not able to marry Wallis Simpson. When on the advice of his staff, King Edward decided to send Wallis Simpson to the south of France on December 3, 1936, to avoid exposing her to intense press attention, the temporary separation was devastating for both Wallis and the King. At a tearful farewell, the King is reported to have told her, "I shall never give you up," and this is what exactly he did on December 10, 1936, at Fort Belvedere, giving up his throne in favor of the woman that he loved so deeply. Edward signed the instruments of abdication, in the presence of his three surviving brothers, the Duke of York, Prince Albert, the Duke of Gloucester, Prince Henry and the Duke of Kent, Prince George who countersigned as witnesses. In a broadcast to the Nation and the Commonwealth from Windsor Castle, via the BBC on December 11, 1936, the day his reign officially ended, His Royal Highness Prince Edward explained the reasons for his decision to abdicate. The statement attributed to him that subsequently became famous was, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love." Edward's reign of 327 days, was one of the shortest in the history of the British Monarchy. He left Britain for Austria, the day following his official broadcast.
Wallis Simpson in 1936 wearing the emerald engagement ring
Prince Albert, who ascended the throne after King Edward's abdication, as King George VI, conferred the title of "Duke of Windsor" on his elder brother, on December 12, 1936, with the style "His Royal Highness," and this was one of the first acts of his reign. However, the use of the attribute of "His Royal Highness" was only limited to the Duke of Windsor, but not his wife the duchess. Wallis Simpson's divorce was made final on May 3, 1937, after which the Duke left Austria to France where the couple were reunited after five months of separation. The Duke married Mrs. Simpson on June 3, 1937, at a private ceremony in France, but none of the royal family was in attendance. Mrs. Simpson now became the Duchess of Windsor, without the attribution Her Royal Highness.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day
The Duke of Windsor, who was 43 years at the time of his marriage to Mrs. Simpson, led a life of retirement in France, except for a short period during World War II, when he was appointed as the Governor of the Bahamas. However, one of the first trips abroad he undertook soon after settling down in France in 1937, was a controversial visit to Nazi Germany by him and the duchess, against the advice of the British Government, as if to tell the whole world of their sympathies towards the Nazi regime. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, met Adolf Hitler at his Obersalzberg retreat, where he was reported to have given full Nazi salutes. Hitler regarded the abdication of Edward VIII, as a loss to Nazi Germany, and blow to the improvement of Anglo-German relations. Fellow Nazi Albert Speer quoted Hitler as saying, "I am certain through him permanent friendly relations could have been achieved. If he had stayed, everything would have been different. His abdication was a severe loss for us."
When World War II broke out in September 1939, the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor were brought back to Britain, by Lord Mountbatten in HMS Kelly. Later, the Duke was sent back to France, after being gazetted a Major General, and appointed to the British Military Mission in France. Again his loyalty to his motherland was thrown into question, when in February 1940, the German Minister in the Hague, Count Julius von Zech-Burkersroda, claimed that the Duke had leaked Allied war plans for the defense of Belgium. In May 1940, when Germany invaded the North of France, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, moved to Spain and then to Lisbon in Portugal, where they stayed with a Portuguese banker with British and German contacts. From Portugal the Duke contacted the German forces occupying France and requested that guards be placed at his homes in Paris and Riviera, and they obliged. A "defeatist" interview given by the Duke, that was widely published in newspapers, caused the Prime Minister Winston Churchill to issue a warning to the Duke to return to British soil immediately or face court-martial. The Duke and Duchess obeyed Churchill's orders and returned to Britain, after which the Duke was appointed as Governor of Bahamas and dispatched with his wife by British warship to the island nation. This was a deliberate attempt by the British Government to minimize the effect of the Duke and the Duchess on the British war effort.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor with Adolph Hitler in 1937
While at Bahamas, he is reported to have made another strong pro-Nazi remark to an acquaintance, "After the war is over, Hitler will crush the Americans,......we'll take over......The Commonwealth don't want me as their king, but I'll soon be back as their leader." He also told a journalist, "It would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown." Such comments only strengthened the belief, that the Duke and the Duchess held strong Nazi sympathies, and the actual cause of the abdication in 1936, was the removal from the throne of a king whose political views could have been a threat to his own country, and replaced by a king (George VI) who showed no such sympathies. After the defeat of Germany and Hitler in the World War II, the Duke modified his views, to explain the pro-German stand taken by him, "It was in Britain's interest and in Europe's too, that Germany be encouraged to strike east and smash communism for ever.......I thought the rest of us could be fence sitters while the Nazis and the Reds slogged it out." In his memoirs written after the war, he admired the Germans, but denied being pro-Nazi. He wrote of Hitler, "the Fuhrer struck me as a ridiculous figure, with his theatrical posturing and his bombastic pretensions."
After the war the Duke of Windsor was never given another official appointment, and settled down permanently in France with his wife, where they spent the remainder of their lives in retirement. The City of Paris provided the Duke with a house, at a nominal rent, at No. 4, rue du Champ d'Entrainement, on the Neuilly-sur-Seine side of the Bois de Boulogne. As a distinguished guest citizen, the Government of France granted them additional favors such as exemption from paying income tax, and permission to buy goods duty-free through the British Embassy and the military commissary. His brother King George VI, also gave him a monthly tax-free allowance, which he supplemented by other activities such as writing his memoirs. In 1951, the Duke published his memoirs, under the title, "A Kings Story" and the royalties from the book augmented his income. He also wrote another book nine years later, "A Family Album" about the fashion and habits of the royal family, from the time of Queen Victoria up to his own period. The Duke also profited by the sale of two estates in England to his brother King George VI, that were his private property, Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House. He also had accumulated a substantial sum of money during his tenure as the Prince of Wales, which he carried when he finally left the country.
During their stay in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s, the Duke and the Duchess almost played the role of minor celebrities, and were part of the cafe society of Paris. They hosted regular parties in Paris, and established contacts in New York, and shuttled between the two capital cities from time to time. In 1955, they visited President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the white house. In the mid-1960s they entertained Nixon in Paris, while his political fortunes were still low. After Nixon became the President of the United States, he reciprocated the kind gesture of the Duke and Duchess, by inviting them as guests of honor to a dinner at the White House in 1970.
During his stay in Paris, the Duke continued to maintain some form of contact with his family back in England. He met his brother King George VI and his mother Queen Mary on some occasions before their death. He attended King George's Funeral. In 1953, he did not attend Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, in keeping with the precedent that former sovereigns do not attend the coronation of a successor. However, they watched the ceremony on television in Paris. On a visit to London in 1965, when the Duke was to undergo eye surgery, the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor were visited by Queen Elizabeth, Pincess Marina, the Duchess of Kent and Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. When the Princess Royal died a week later, they attended her memorial service. Again, in 1967 they joined the royal family for the centenary of Queen Mary's birth. The funeral of Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, in 1968, was the last royal ceremony attended by the Duke.
In late 1971, the Duke who was a smoker from an early age, was diagnosed with throat cancer, and was given cobalt treatment. Queen Elizabeth II, visited the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1972, while on a state visit to France. The Duke died at his home in Paris on May 28, 1972, at the age of 77. His body was returned to Britain, where it lay in state at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The funeral service that was held in the same chapel on June 5, 1972, was attended by the Queen, the royal family and the Duchess of Windsor. The coffin was interred in the Royal Burial Ground, behind the Royal Mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Duchess of Windsor, stayed at the Buckingham Palace during this period.
The Duchess returned to Paris, after her husband's funeral. She was senile and frail, and lived the remainder of her life in seclusion, supported by her husband's estate. Queen Elizabeth II was gracious enough to give the aging duchess a monthly allowance. In October 1976, when the Queen Mother was due to visit her, the trip was cancelled at the last minute by her staff, as the Duchess was too frail and mentally ill to receive her. In 1980, the Duchess lost the power of speech, and then towards her end in 1986, she was bed-ridden, and did not receive any visitors, except for her doctor and nurses. The Duchess of Windsor died on April 24, 1986, 14 years after her husband's death, at her house in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Her funeral ceremony too was held at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, and was attended by the royal family that included the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and her two surviving sisters-in-law, the Queen Mother and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. The Duchess was buried next to her beloved husband Prince Edward, the Duke of Windsor, in the Royal Burial Ground and the epitaph placed on her graveyard read simply as, "Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor."
The Duchess of Windsor, bequeathed her estate that included mostly an enormous collection of Jewelry, to the Pasteur Institute medical research foundation. The Duchess herself had not shown much interest in charity during her life time. Therefore her decision took everybody by surprise, including the royal family. The decision seem to have been prompted by the magnanimity of the French Government, which provided the Duke & the Duchess with a home and other favors during their stay in France. Thus the decision to bequeath the estate to a French Research Institute, served many purposes, such as serving the cause of charity, serving the cause of medical research and reducing human suffering, reciprocating the help given by the French Government at their time of crucial need. The Duchess also left a portion of her estate to the French Government in lieu of death duties, and this included the Duchess's collection of Louis XVI furniture, and a collection of porcelain and paintings. The sale of the Duchess of Windsor's jewels, by Sotheby's of Geneva in April 1987, realized a sum of $50,208,315 the highest amount realized ever for the sale of a single-owner collection, and approximately seven times its pre-sale estimate. In accordance with Wallis' final wishes, the entire proceeds of the sale were donated to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Mohammed-al-Fayed, owner of the Harrods Department Store was reported to have bought much of the non-financial estate, including the lease of the Paris mansion. A greater part of his collection was sold in 1998, and raised Â£14 million for charity.
The Duchess of Windsor in 1970
After Prince Edward fell in love with Wallis Simpson in the early 1930s, he is reported to have showered her with money and expensive jewels. The magnanimity of the Prince lasted throughout their relationship and until his death in 1972. The result of this magnanimity was that the Duchess of Windsor accumulated one of the largest and most expensive collection of jewels and jewelry in the world, a silent testimony demonstrating to the whole world the deep love and affection with which the Prince held his wife, and sacrificed his throne for. A testimony reminiscent of the Taj Mahal, the monument built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahaan, symbolizing his undying love for his Queen Mumtaz Mahal. It would have been ideal if the Duchess had bequeathed the enormous collection of sentimental value to a museum of natural history, in either Paris or London, to remain as a lasting monument to their eternal love. But alas ! it was not to be. The Duchess instead chose to disperse the collection, by sale and donate the proceeds to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, an act of charity deemed to serve the cause of humanity, and lessen human suffering.
The Duke and the Duchess of Windsor who shared a passion for jewelry during their lives together, commissioned many pieces of jewelry, from some of the greatest jewelers of their time, such as Cartier's, Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston. The Duchess is credited with bringing yellow gold into the mainstream of fashion. Both the Duke and the Duchess had an intimate knowledge of jewelry designing, and were able to give valuable suggestions to their designers. The Duke is said to have spent many hours with reputed designers like Jeanne Toussaint and Renee Puissant discussing and designing jewelry. Some of her designs had naturalistic themes, such as animals, like her famous over the shoulder panther and tiger brooches, bangle bracelets and the Cartier flamingo brooch. She mixed the colors of pearls in some of her pieces, and was bold enough to wear a black pearl in one ear and a white pearl in the other, as seen in the natural pearl and diamond earclips, the third piece considered on this webpage.
Some of the important pieces of jewelry that belonged to this collection were :-
1) A single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace made up of 28 natural pearls, designed by Cartier for Queen Mary, who gave it to her son Prince Edward, and who in turn gave it to his wife Wallis Simpson. The natural pearl necklace is the main subject of this webpage.
2) A natural pearl and diamond pendant designed by Cartier for the Duke in 1950 and made up of an enormous, almost drop-shaped, white pearl, weighing 190.60 grains and used as a drop for the single-strand pearl necklace referred to above, another topic of this webpage.
3) A pair of natural black and white pearl and diamond earclips designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, New York, in 1957 and purchased by the Duke in 1958. Another topic of this webpage.
4) A sapphire and diamond pendant created by Cartier in 1951, that incorporated as its centerpiece an enormous 206.82-carat Ceylon (Sri Lanka) sapphire, surrounded by round brilliant-cut and baguette diamonds.
5) A ruby and diamond necklace, created by Van Cleef & Arpels, and designed by Lacaze, bearing the personal inscription, "My Wallis from her David 19/3/36," evidently a piece designed just six months before the Duke's abdication as the King of the United Kingdom, and when Mrs. Simpson was living with the king at Fort Belvedere as his mistress. The piece is complementary to the ruby and diamond bracelet also designed by Lacaze.
7) An emerald engagement ring by Cartier incorporating a 19.77-carat emerald, believed to have belonged once to a Mughal emperor. Emeralds of this quality and size are rare, and was said to have been cut from an emerald as large as a bird's egg. The Duke and the Duchess preferred to have their jewelry inscribed with short personal messages, and dates to mark the important event it commemorated. The engagement ring had the following inscription : "WE are ours now 27X36" meaning "Wallis and Edward, now belong to each other. 27-10-36 (27th October 1936) was the date of their engagement, and also the day the Simpson divorce was heard. The ring was reset in 1958 with a leafy border each leaf set with a brilliant-cut diamond.
8) The Flamingo brooch made by Cartier in 1940 and designed by Jeanne Toussaint, whose body and legs are set with diamonds; the plumage containing an assortment of colored stones such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds; and the beak set with a cabochon citrine and sapphire.
9) Ruby and diamond bracelet, designed by Rene-Sim Lacaze, and sold to the Duke by Van Cleef & Arpels in March of 1936. The bracelet made of several links, has each link set with 10 cushion-shaped rubies, surrounded by baguette and circular-cut diamonds. The bracelet has an inscription on its clasp which reads, "Hold Tight 27-iii-36." The phrase "hold tight" is a commonly used coded message of love by the Duke in their correspondence.
10) The Cross Bracelet, consisting of a single row of spectacle-set brilliant-cut diamonds, supporting one plain and eight colored gemstone-set Latin crosses. There are 22 brilliant-cut diamonds in the row. The clasp is also set with diamonds. The bracelet is made up of platinum. The diamonds set on platinum setting are interconnected by short platinum chains. Each of the nine crosses are also connected by short chains to a diamond in the row. Moving in the clockwise direction from the clasp, the Latin crosses are attached to the following diamonds on the bracelet :- 1) Plain unadorned platinum cross attached to diamond No. 1. 2) The second cross set with six caliber-cut blue sapphires attached to diamond No. 3. 3) The third cross set with six caliber-cut yellow sapphires attached to diamond No. 5. 4) The fourth cross, set with six caliber-cut rubies, attached to diamond No. 8. 5) The fifth cross, set with six caliber-cut baguette diamonds, attached to diamond No. 11. 6) The sixth cross set with six caliber-cut emeralds, attached to diamond No. 14. 7) The seventh cross set with six caliber-cut amethysts, attached to diamond No. 17. 8) The eight cross set with six caliber-cut aquamarines, attached to diamond No. 19. 9) The ninth cross set with sapphire, emerald, ruby and diamond, attached to diamond No. 21.
The Duchess of Windsor Cross Bracelet
The Cross Bracelet is said to be the most significant of all the jewelry pieces in the collection as it is intimately linked to events in their life, each of the crosses representing a significant event in their life, a stepping stone in their love story, symbols of the depth of love they shared in sickness and health, at happy moments and moments of danger. The inscription on the plain unadorned platinum cross reads, "WE are too 25-XI-34" meaning Wallis and Edward are two individuals in love with one another. The inscription on the second blue sapphire cross reads, "Wallis-David 23.6.35" commemorates the 41st birthday of the Duke. The third yellow sapphire cross with the inscription "'Get Well' Cross Wallis Sept.1944 David" expresses the Duke's wish for his beloved wife's speedy recovery after her Appendectomy surgery. The 4th Latin Cross set with rubies and with the inscription "Wallis-David St Wolfgang 22.9.35" refers to Wallis and Edward's fall vacation in 1935, which included a stopover in a small town called St. Wolfgang. It is believed that it was during this trip that the then Prince of Wales made the decision to marry Wallis. The 5th Latin Cross set with baguette-cut diamonds carries the inscription "The Kings Cross God Bless WE 1.3.36" and was said to serve as a reminder that Wallis' then husband, Ernest Simpson, at a meeting held in the first week of March, 1936, agreed to divorce Wallis after the King promised to always take care of her. The 6th cross encrusted with emeralds and inscribed as "X-ray Cross Wallis-David 10.7.36" refers to the X-ray that revealed an ulcer scar in Wallis' stomach. The 7th Latin Cross set with caliber-cut amethysts and with the inscription, "Appendectomy Cross Wallis 29.VIII.44 David" refers to Wallis' admission to Roosevelt Hospital in New York, on August 29,1944 for an appendicitis operation. The 8th Cross set with aquamarine and carrying the inscription "God save the King for Wallis 16.VII.36." refers to an apparent assassination attempt on King Edward, by an Irish Journalist, McMahon, who was carrying a loaded gun. The 9th cross set with an assortment of colored stones, such as emerald, sapphire, ruby and diamond has the inscription "Our marriage Cross Wallis 3.VI.37 David" marks their wedding day June 3, 1937, at the Chateau de Cande, in France.
The Plume-Shaped Diamond Brooch
11) Plume-shaped diamond brooch, designed by the Prince of Wales for his future bride in 1935. The brooch consists of three plumes, one vertical, a second bent towards the right and the third towards the left.
12) A diamond ring set with a diamond weighing 31 carats and designed by a jewelry house in Japan
13) Gold bracelet by Cartier with the inscription "Wallis from David November 1946 More & More"
14) A flower brooch designed by Cartier and made of yellow gold and black enamel, set with carved emeralds, rubies and diamonds. The carved emerald resembles a flower with sepals and petals and gold leaves. The flower is surrounded by small diamonds.
15) A lace-like necklace made in gold and set with diamonds, amethysts and turquoise, was designed by Cartier in 1947. The filigree work is made up of step-cut amethyst and turquoise, and brilliant-cut diamonds. A heart-shaped amethyst dangles from the center. The necklace has a pair of matching earrings, a pin, bracelet and a ring.
16) A six-inch long pin brooch, made up of two serrated Holly leaves, placed besides each other. The left leaf is set with diamonds and the right leaf with rubies. The veins of the leaves are made up of thin baguette-cut diamonds. The gemstones of the brooch are placed in an invisible setting, in which the stones are held by small grooves at the back, and no gold is visible from the front. The brooch was designed by Lacaze for Van Cleef & Arpels, and sold to the Duke, who gave it as a Christmas gift to Wallis.
17) A pair of pear-shaped, fancy yellow diamonds, weighing 40.81 and 52.13 carats and incorporated into lapel pins were sold by Harry Winston to the Duke in 1948. Harry Winston also sold a pair of brilliant-cut yellow diamonds, weighing 5.17 and 5.18 carats, and incorporated into a pair of earrings matching the lapel pins.
18) The India necklace, sold by Harry Winston to the Duke in 1956, is made up of emeralds and pink-colored diamonds. The necklace could be worn as a single strand or as a double-stranded choker.
In accordance with the wishes of the Duchess of Windsor her estate which also included an enormous collection of jewelry was bequeathed to the Pasteur Institute, after her death on April 24, 1986. The collection included magnificent examples of signature pieces by renowned jewelers like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston. On April 2, 1987, Sotheby's Geneva organized a special sale of the personal jewelry collection of the Duchess of Windsor, on behalf of the Pasteur Institute. But, prior to the actual sale, Sotheby's New York, organized an exhibition of the jewels at its galleries in New York, for the benefit of its customers and potential bidders. The jewels were displayed for five days beginning Wednesday, March 18, 1987, and turned out to be an unexpected public event, with people from all walks of life turning out. More than an hour before the opening time of the exhibition, 1.00 p.m. long queues formed along York Avenue, from 72nd to 71st Street. People came in their thousands, and did not seem to mind the three hours of waiting on the sunny side walk, before gaining entry into the gallery. They included old people, who on December 11, 1936, heard over their radios that King Edward VIII had given up the his throne for the woman he loved, and young people for whom the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, has always been an epitome of style, worthy of emulation.
The organizers of the exhibition were genuinely shocked by the public enthusiasm generated by the event, that they were forced to cancel newspaper advertisements and cut back television coverage for the last two days of the show. The night before the public exposition started, Tuesday night, a special exhibition of the jewels were held for celebrities and other distinguished social figures, that was well attended. The strong response generated by the exposition in New York, was a harbinger of what was to take place when the actual auction was held in Geneva 10 days hence, on April 2, 1987. The demand for the Duchess of Windsor's jewelry was so high, that eventually the total sales realized ($50.2 million) was more than seven times the estimated value of 7 million dollars.
The special Sotheby's sale featuring the Duchess of Windsor's personal jewelry collection, and conducted on behalf of the Pasteur Institute of France, was held on April 2 & 3, 1987. Sotheby's Geneva who were well aware of the enthusiasm generated by the proposed sale constructed a huge tent next to Lake Geneva to accommodate the large number of bidders and media personnel who were expected to converge on the site. Over 1,000 bidders and 300 members of the media crowded into the large tent for the historic sale. At Sotheby's New York, another 600 bidders were assembled in their main salesroom to view slides of the jewels and to have their bids relayed to Geneva.
The Duchess of Windsor's jewelry collection was broken down into 305 lots, out of which 87 pieces were signed by Cartier, the Duke and Duchess' favorite jeweler and 23 pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels. Many of these pieces bore personal inscriptions. Some of the buyers included, Elizabeth Taylor, the Cartier Museum and jeweler Lawrence Graff. The provenance of the jewels played a major part in the auction, enhancing the prices of the pieces several folds, sometimes as much as ten times or even more. The highest price realized was for a 31-carat diamond ring, designed by a Japanese jeweler, that sold for $3.15 million. Actress Elizabeth Taylor successfully bid for a plume-shaped diamond brooch, designed by the Prince of Wales in 1935, for his future bride, which sold for $566,000. Ms Taylor, who was a close friend of the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor, said later, that she purchased the brooch for sentimental reasons, and often admired the brooch whenever it was worn by the duchess. "I loved it so much, I had to buy it. It's the first important jewel I've ever bought myself," said Ms Taylor after her purchase. Another important piece, a sapphire and diamond pendant by Cartier in 1951, was rumored to have been purchased on behalf of another British actress Joan Collins.
The three pieces that form the subject of this webpage, the single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace, a natural pearl and diamond pendant and a pair of natural black and white pearl and diamond earclips was purchased by Calvin and Kelly Klein for $1.18 million. The natural pearl and diamond necklace which was lot 65 in the sale sold for $733,333. The natural pearl and diamond pendant which was lot no. 67 sold for $300,667 and the pair of black and white natural pearl and diamond ear clips, sold for $154,000.
At the end of the auction, the total amount realized by the sale of the Duchess of Windsor's jewels was $50,208,315 (approx. $50.21 million), which was over 7 times the estimated pre-sale value of $7 million. This has gone down on record as the highest ever amount realized by a single-owner collection at a public auction. Sotheby's president John Marion said that the prices achieved reflected a "unique outpouring of nostalgia," for the jewels of a woman whose husband had to sacrifice his throne for the sake of her love. In accordance with Wallis' final wishes, the entire proceeds of the sale went to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, known for its AIDS and cancer research.
Wallis was always immaculately dressed at school, a character that persisted throughout her life. She was a woman of style, impeccably groomed and knew how to dress to suit her slim boyish figure. When she settled down in Paris with her husband after World War II, she acquired an obsession for haute-couture, that led to her becoming a faithful customer of internationally renowned couture like Cristobal Balenciaga and Monsieur de Givenchy. In 1935, even before her marriage to Prince Edward, and at the height of their love affair, Wallis Simpson was awarded the title of "The Best Dressed Woman in the World" by a syndicate of renowned fashion houses in Paris, that included Chanel, Molyneux, Vionnet, Lelong and Lanvin. After her entry into the Paris Couture's list of "best dressed women" in 1935, she remained there for the next 40 years. She built up an enormous wardrobe of fashionable clothing, and became a trend setter in the world of fashion.
In 1946, when the Duke and the Duchess stayed at Ednam Lodge, the home of the Earl of Dudley after their return from their assignment in Bahamas, and before their departure to Paris, thieves broke into the house and stole some of the jewels that belonged to the Duchess of Windsor. Rumors were rife about the theft and the possibility that it was masterminded by the British Royal Family, in an attempt to recover jewelry taken by the Duke of Windsor from the royal collection, when he was the Prince of Wales and subsequently the King for eleven months. In 1960, the police were able to apprehend the thief Richard Dunphie, who confessed to the crime. However, the stolen pieces represented only a small portion of the Windsor Jewels, that were either bought privately, inherited by the Duke, or given to the Duke, when he was Prince of Wales. Subsequently, the Duke and the Duchess were reported to have made a large deposit of loose stones at Cartier in 1947.
At the 1987, Sotheby's auction of the Duchess of Windsor's jewels, Calvin Klein, the modern fashion royalty, world-renowned for his leading influence on fashion and lifestyles, bought the natural pearl jewels for his wife Kelly, for a sum of $1.18 million. Calvin and Klein bought the natural pearl jewels not only because of their extraordinary quality and classic style, but also because of their unique provenance. The pieces constituted a suite of natural pearl jewelry commonly worn by the Duchess of Windsor, and included a single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace by Cartier made up of 28 natural pearls, a natural pearl and diamond pendant also by Cartier, made up of a single large drop-shaped pearl weighing 190.60 grains, and a pair of black and white natural pearl and diamond earclips, by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Kelly Klein who had used the pearl suite for many formal occasions for nearly 20 years since 1987, said "These pearls hold a very special place in my heart. They were a present from Calvin early on in our relationship. They represent passion, tenderness, and a promise about the future. Pearls in my mind are different from diamonds and gold. They are warm, mysterious, a small miracle created by nature. They should be worn close to the skin, imbued with the essence of the wearer. It is my hope they will be given again, as they have been in the past, as a gesture of love and worn often and proudly."
Lisa Hubbard, Chairman, North and South America, International Jewelry Department of Sotheby's, who was present at the 1987 auction in Geneva, commenting on the upcoming sale of some of the natural pearl jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, belonging to the collection of Kelly and Calvin Klein, said, "The sale of the jewels of Duchess of Windsor was the definitive iconic auction. Her jewels, in some cases literally with small inscriptions, spoke of the romance they celebrated and the glamorous life style she shared with the Duke of Windsor. We are honored to be able to offer to a new generation of collectors these magnificent pearls on behalf of Kelly and Calvin Klein, with whom they have resided for the past 20 years. The classic style for which the Kleins are known has immeasurably added to the tale these jewels have to tell. Their beauty and rarity, and historic provenance, are a unique combination that will appeal to a worldwide audience of connoisseurs who seek to own the best of the best."
In the 20 years, since the legendary Sotheby's auction of 1987, of the Duchess of Windsor jewels, only a few pieces from this incomparable collection have been re-offered for sale again, and none as significant as the iconic natural pearls belonging to Kelly and Calvin Klein. Prior to the December 4, 20007, auction at Sotheby's New York, the pearl jewelry were featured in an extensive pre-sale exhibition, held around the world, with stops in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The final exposition was held at Sotheby's New York from November 29 to December 4, 2007.
The combined pre-sale estimate of the three pieces at the "Magnificent Jewels" sale, was $2.2 million to $3.1 million. However, the actual price realized at the auction, far exceeded the upper pre-sale estimate, selling at $4.82 million. The single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace was purchased by an anonymous European collector for $3.625 million. The natural pearl and diamond pendant was purchased by the same collector for $505,000. The pair of black and white natural pearl and diamond earclips, was sold to another collector for $690,600. Thus the total realized by the sale of the Klein's natural pearl jewels was $4,820,600. Thus, the $1.18 million spent by the Klein's on the natural pearl jewels in 1987 turned out to be an intelligent investment, which within 20 years had brought in a profit of $3,640,600, equivalent to 308%.
The value of $3.6 million realized for the single-strand natural pearl necklace was a new record for a single-strand natural pearl necklace sold at an auction, and broke the previous record held by a single-strand natural pearl necklace that belonged to Barbara Hutton, that sold for $1.47 million, at a Christie's auction in Geneva, in November 1999. The world record for a natural pearl necklace irrespective of the number of strands, is presently held by the double-stranded re-constituted Baroda Pearl Necklace, that sold for $7.1 million, at a Christie's auction in New York, in April 2007. Thus the Duchess of Windsor/Queen Mary natural pearl necklace, that sold for $3.6 million in December 2007, qualifies for the second most valuable pearl necklace sold at an auction.
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1) Magnificent Natural Pearls from the Collection of Kelly and Calvin Klein to be sold by Sotheby's - Sotheby's Press Release, 2007
2) World's Most Dazzling Royal Jewels - Carrie Coolidge, May 15, 2008. www.forbes.com
3) Wallis, Duchess of Windsor - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
4) My Favorites of the Duchess of Windsor Jewels - by Eileen Sullivan. The Unofficial British Royal Family Pages. www.etoile.co.uk
5) The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor - John Culme and Nicholas Rayner
6) Windsor Jewels Draw Bidders And Browsers - Georgia Dullea, Thursday, March 19, 1987. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com
7) Calvin Klein to sell Duchess of Windsor's natural pearl necklace - Pearl-guide.com
8) 1987 : Windsor gems fetch record price - BBC On This Day, 3rd April. www.news.bbc.co.uk
9) The Luxe Chronicles - Wednesday 5, 2007. Auction update : Duchess of Windsor's Pearls Sold at Sotheby's New York For 4.82 Million USD. www.theluxechronicles.com
10) Sotheby's Press Release - Magnificent Natural Pearls From The Collection Of Kelly And Calvin To Be Sold By Sotheby's - Sotheby's website.
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