A Rare Piece of Jewelry That Belonged to Wallis Simpson Goes Up for Auction
The rare, fresh-water asymmetrical pearl was once just the clasp for her purse.
After his abdication, the Duke of Windsor couldn’t offer Wallis Simpson the throne, but he showered her with lavish jewels for the rest of his life. After the Duchess of Windsor’s death, her famous jewels made history at a 1987 Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, fetching over $50 million, a record for a single-owner jewelry collection.
Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins were among the auction buyers, and the rarity and quality of the jewelry combined with nostalgia for one of the 20th century’s greatest love stories no doubt contributed to the premium prices.
If you missed that sale, now is your chance to acquire a baroque pearl and diamond brooch that once belonged to the Duchess of Windsor. The brooch began life as the clasp to an evening bag, and though the clutch was no longer attached at the time of the 1987 auction, the jeweled clasp itself was significant enough to sell for $88,000. It's now available for $140,000 from M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans.
The author who bought it at that original auction wanted to own something of Wallis Simpson's, but in all these years, she never had a purse made for it, so she finally decided to sell, and brought it to M.S. Rau Antiques.
"Selling a purse clasp isn’t the easiest thing in the world, so we had a pin made," proprietor Bill Rau told Town & Country. "It is completely reversible, and can turn back into a purse clasp with zero effect," he said, adding that they have the original piece that would clasp to a bag.
"The large natural baroque pearl that’s at the bottom is just fantastic," Rau said. "A fresh-water asymmetrical pearl of that size is exceptionally rare, and with its deep luster, completely unique." (All that for purse clasp!)
Pearls were a favorite of the duchess, who often wore them in a single or double strand necklace, along with pearl and diamond drops.
And for history buffs, Anglophiles, or hopeless romantics who have $88,500 to spend, M.S. Rau also has a pair of cufflinks that belonged to the Duke of Windsor. The gold and enamel cufflinks were a gift to Edward from his grandfather, Edward VII, the King of England, one bearing his portrait, and the other that of Queen Alexandra, the duke’s grandmother.
"His jewelry is far rarer than hers, because he didn’t wear that much," Rau explained. "These were also sold in the 1987 auction in which out of roughly 250 pieces, 230 or more were hers."
The fact that the circa-1905 piece was given to the duke by the king and queen is exceptional. "I mean, a gift from a king to a future king, who would become one of the arbiters of taste of the 20th century, it’s really cool," Rau said.