This brooch was once part of one of the most luxurious jewelry collections of the modern era, that of the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. The former Wallis Simpson was known around the world for her impeccable and extravagant taste in jewelry, and this magnificent brooch exemplifies her reputation for collecting one-of-a-kind jewelry creations of exceptional beauty and singular design. Few jewelry pieces on the market today can claim such superb artistry and such a distinguished provenance.
Originally created by a native artisan in the area of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, the delicately crafted goldwork, natural pearls, emeralds and pink tourmalines all highlight the precious natural materials of that region. The gold is crafted in an intricate openwork design in the Indian style set with faceted emeralds and tourmalines, while pearls and beaded gemstones hang like tassels from the central structure. Always wanting to be on the cutting edge of fashion trends, the Duchess often had pieces in her collection altered and redesigned to suit her modern tastes. She later commissioned Cartier to add an emerald and tourmaline mounting at the apex of this brooch’s design, further enhancing its visual impact and prestige.
Wallis Simpson is one of the most famous, and infamous, women in modern history. Credited by many for nearly bringing down the British monarchy due to her relationship with Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, she has been the subject of books, movies, endless speculation and gossip. She was even named Time magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1936. Edward was crowned King of England in January 1936 but famously and scandalously abdicated his throne after less than a year to marry Simpson, an American divorcee and socialite. Truly a love story for the ages, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived happily as a fashionable couple of high society until the Duke’s death in 1972.
Simpson’s jewelry collection was second to none, and it became just as much a part of her public persona as was her personal life. Throughout their relationship and marriage, the Windsors marked special occasions with gifts, and exceptional gems were always on order. The Duke of Windsor was as much an arbiter and follower of fashion as his wife, and jewelry was a favorite of his; he even helped design several pieces for the Duchess. In fact, many of his collaborations with jewelers, including Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, were considered the forerunners of the post-War style. In 1987, Sotheby’s held a historic auction of Simpson’s collection, which raised $53.5 million, the world record for any single-owner collection of jewelry, underscoring this brooch’s importance.
Early 20th century
3" wide x 6" length