Wallis Simpson: A Legendary Collection of Timeless Luxury
by Sasha t on Oct 10, 2023
Wallis Simpson: A Legendary Collection of Timeless Luxury
The world of jewelry history is replete with tales of timeless elegance and unmatched opulence, but few stories captivate the imagination quite like the breathtaking collection of Wallis Simpson. The very name evokes images of sophistication, grandeur, and historic intrigue. For those unacquainted with Wallis Simpson, she was the American socialite for whom King Edward VIII of Britain abdicated his throne in 1936, leading to the immortal declaration, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility... without the help and support of the woman I love."
King Edward is one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in British history (reigning for 325 days without ever being crowned) before he abdicated the throne due to his engagement to Wallis Simpson, as it was deemed politically and socially unacceptable for him to marry someone who had two living ex-husbands. The love story of Wallis and Edward is one of great strife - showing us that sometimes true love is the most important part of life. Over their relationship, Edward bestowed numerous incredible gifts upon Wallis - creating one of the most iconic jewelry collections of all time. In fact, only a year after her death, Simpson’s jewelry collection was auctioned off at Sotheby’s for $50 million, far surpassing all expectations and setting records for individual pieces.
Who was Wallis Simpson?
Born in 1896 in Pennsylvania, Bessie Wallis Warfield's life took her from the United States to the regal courts of Europe. In the early 1930s, Wallis Simpson was married to her second husband, Ernest Simpson, and they were part of the high society in England. Meeting through mutual friends, Edward and Wallis formed a strong friendship before their relationship deepened. A true love like no other, Edward was determined to marry Wallis, who would be twice divorced. This was met with strong opposition from the British government and the church. Unable to reconcile his desire to marry Wallis with the duties of the crown, Edward chose to abdicate in December 1936, becoming the only British monarch to voluntarily relinquish the throne. He famously stated, "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."
Her sophisticated style and charisma captivated not just a king but also the fashion and jewelry elites of her time. Over the years, her collection grew to include pieces from the most renowned jewelers in the world, including Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.
A Glimpse into Wallis' Collection
Emerald Engagement Ring - The emerald used in Wallis's ring was sourced in the 1930s in Baghdad by Jacques Cartier, a brand loved by the couple. This jewel, which was the size of a bird's egg, was eventually cut in two and sold separately in the 1930s. One polished half was sold to an American millionaire. The other, estimated to be 19.77 carats, was chosen by Edward as the centerpiece for an engagement ring for Wallis. Traditionally, emeralds are not used for engagement rings. This is because compared to diamonds, the stone is soft and can scratch easily.
- Cartier Panther Bracelet (1940): Perhaps the most iconic piece from the Duchess's collection, this onyx and diamond panther bracelet is a paragon of Art Deco design. It was commissioned from Cartier and has since become synonymous with the audacious spirit of Wallis herself.
The Ruby Suite - The Wallis Simpson ruby suite refers to a series of matching jewelry pieces that featured prominent rubies, gifted to Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, by her husband, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII). This suite is particularly noteworthy for its striking design and the historical significance behind its gifting. The suite was designed by the renowned jewelry firm Van Cleef & Arpels, and its red hue symbolically celebrated the couple's enduring love.
In 1987, a mere year after Simpson's passing, her jewelry collection was put up for auction by Sotheby's in Geneva. The event wasn't just an auction; it was a historic occasion, with collectors and enthusiasts from around the globe vying for a piece of history. The auction garnered nearly $50 million, far surpassing all expectations and setting records for individual pieces. Each piece, whether it fetched millions or not, was a testament to Wallis's impeccable taste.
The jewelry collection of Wallis Simpson serves as a timeless reminder of the confluence of love, history, and artistry. For us here at Jack Weir & Sons, her collection symbolizes the highest pinnacles of elegance, craft, and value. Her pieces are not just accessories but true stories of just how beautiful history can be.
At Jack Weir & Sons, we’ve spent the last 40 years traveling to Europe and all over the world, curating extraordinary estate jewels. JWS is where the old world meets the new world. Celebrate life, preserve history, and discover your own priceless heirloom jewel. We are extremely grateful for our clients and the ability to help people to celebrate their special moments through one-of-a-kind jewelry. To share that gratitude and our strong family values, we chose to partner with Baby2Baby. So far, we've donated $125,000. A portion of every sale goes towards children living in poverty to provide them with diapers, clothing, and all the basic necessities that every child deserves.
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