Duchess of Windsor’s Jewels

Few love stories have captured hearts and imaginations like that of British King Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Edward and Wallis, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, became one of the most romantic couples of the century when Edward renounced the English throne in 1936 to marry Wallis, the love of his life.

Befitting this larger-than-life story of 40 years of courtship and marriage, Cartier created jewellery and precious objects, revealing and recording the tender, loving intimacies that filled the relationship. These pieces, ranging from the most spectacular to the most personal, have been sold at record prices at auctions down the years.

A rose gold cigarette case bearing the inscription “David from Wallis. Christmas 1935” by CARTIER. Known as David to the royal family, one of the first gifts exchanged was this Christmas present from Wallis that featured a map engraved of their travels across Europe, with each capital city plotted with a cabochon gem or brilliant-cut diamond, and the destinations joined by enamelled wire.
A rose gold cigarette case bearing the inscription “David from Wallis. Christmas 1935” by CARTIER. Known as David to the royal family, one of the first gifts exchanged was this Christmas present from Wallis that featured a map engraved of their travels across Europe, with each capital city plotted with a cabochon gem or brilliant-cut diamond, and the destinations joined by enamelled wire.

Like his grandfather before him, Edward was an ardent client of Cartier, which was official jeweller to the crown since 1904.

 A 19.77ct cushion-cut emerald, CARTIER. Edward presented Wallis Simpson with an engagement ring shortly after his abdication in December 1936
A 19.77ct cushion-cut emerald, CARTIER. Edward presented Wallis Simpson with an engagement ring shortly after his abdication in December 1936

Throughout their married life, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor continued to commission special pieces from Cartier, many bearing sentimentally-charged symbols, motifs, and messages that spoke a secret language of love between the couple. One of their favourites among these was the initials ‘WE’ — a pun on their names, Wallis and Edward.

A bracelet of nine Latin crosses set with baguette-cut diamonds, aquamarines, emeralds, rubies, yellow sapphires, and amethysts given to Wallis by the Duke between 1934 and 1944 to commemorate certain events in their lives. The backs bore dates and cryptic personal inscriptions such as “Our Marriage Cross Wallis 3-VI-37”.
A bracelet of nine Latin crosses set with baguette-cut diamonds, aquamarines, emeralds, rubies, yellow sapphires, and amethysts given to Wallis by the Duke between 1934 and 1944 to commemorate certain events in their lives. The backs bore dates and cryptic personal inscriptions such as “Our Marriage Cross Wallis 3-VI-37”.

After the war the couple settled in Paris, bringing with them their six dogs and hundreds of suitcases on travels between Paris, Deauville, Cannes, Palm Beach, and Saint-Moritz. Adored by media and photographers, Wallis and Edward were the epitome of elegance and sophistication. The Duchess was considered the ‘best-dressed woman in the world’.

An emerald and ruby bib necklace, CARTIER; The Duke and Duchess of Windsor gala ball at the Orangerie at Versailles
An emerald and ruby bib necklace, CARTIER; The Duke and Duchess of Windsor gala ball at the Orangerie at Versailles
A panther bracelet made for the Duchess by CARTIER in 1952. It fetched a price of more than US$7 million at Sotheby's London auction in 2010.
A panther bracelet made for the Duchess by CARTIER in 1952. It fetched a price of more than US$7 million at Sotheby’s London auction in 2010.
A panther bracelet made for the Duchess by CARTIER in 1952. It fetched a price of more than US$7 million at Sotheby's London auction in 2010.
A panther bracelet made for the Duchess by CARTIER in 1952. It fetched a price of more than US$7 million at Sotheby’s London auction in 2010.
The Duchess wearing a ruby, sapphire, emerald, citrine, and diamond flamingo clip, an iconic design by CARTIER’s Jeanne Toussaint for the Duchess in 1940.
The Duchess wearing a ruby, sapphire, emerald, citrine, and diamond flamingo clip, an iconic design by CARTIER’s Jeanne Toussaint for the Duchess in 1940.
A brooch featuring a pug’s head in gold, enamel, and citrine, in tribute to the couple’s beloved dogs by CARTIER
A brooch featuring a pug’s head in gold, enamel, and citrine, in tribute to the couple’s beloved dogs by CARTIER

Over two decades, Cartier presented Wallis with a collection of animal-themed brooches, bracelets, necklaces, and lorgnettes, as well as jewels with feline motifs and ravishing bird brooches.

Following the Duchess’s death in 1986, Sotheby’s auctioned her vast jewellery collection in 1987, with pieces being presented for sale intermittently in further auctions over the years.

Cartier has recovered some of these iconic jewellery at the auctions; the most recent being the flamingo brooch acquired in London in 2010. These pieces are among the most striking and unique in Cartier’s collection today — a testament to the Windsor style and the boldly creative yet intimate jewellery it engendered, as well as to the prolific, never-to-be-repeated partnership Cartier enjoyed with the legendary couple.