Antique Jewelry Gold Diggers 15 - Wallace Simpson - post 229
Gold Diggers courtesan jewelry of Wallace Simpson part 2
The emerald engagement ring.
History pegs Wallace Simpson in a negative light. She was reported as vicious, self-serving and associated with the Nazis. Whether this is the whole truth or not, what is a fact is that she amassed one of the most famous jewelry collections in history. Regardless of her character, she and her husband had a great love for jewels and a great eye. There can be no argument that they were leaders in the fashion world. True trend-setters of the day. Many designs that we take for granted today originated with Wallace Simpson.
Wallace did not like old jewelry. Therefore, we will not find great antique jewelry in her collection. From the Prince of Wales brooch (see last week) onwards, every piece was made specifically for her. She and the ex-king, her husband, were very actively involved in the design of her jewelry. Many of the gems came from pieces previously owned by Edward.
The Duke was a great connoisseur of beautiful artifacts. He really appreciated color, design and fine workmanship. Initially, it was he who spent hours with the most famous designers of Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels, creating personal jewelry for Wallace. Soon, Wallace herself was not only involved in many of these discussions, but she came up with ideas of her own, including ideas that have gone down in history. One such, is the famous VCA zipper necklace, which was Wallace's brainchild.
Wallace was considered the best-dressed woman in the world for decades and had a close relationship with both jewelry and dress designers. In fact, it is said that Givenchy, a close personal friend of hers, designed clothes around her jewelry in order to show it off to best effect.
In the book The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, John Culme and Nicholas Rayner explain how Wallace's jewelry re-introduced gold into fashionable jewelry after World War II, when it was unavailable.
We have often discussed how old jewelry was recycled into something of more current design. In particular, gems previously owned by Indian Maharajas were coveted and incorporated into jewelry during the first half of the 20th century. This was the case with a wonderful emerald necklace that Wallace wore to a big party, also attended by the Maharanee of Baroda. With no love lost between them, the Maharanee announced to her friend in a voice loud enough to go down in history, that the emeralds had looked better when she wore them on her feet. Mortified, Wallace took them straight back to Harry Winston the next day.
A seldom-discussed event occurred in 1946, when some of the Duchess's jewelry was stolen. Contradictory reports are shrouded in uncertainty. Exactly what was stolen and what it was worth has never been clarified.
A year after Wallace Simpson died, alone and miserable in Paris, Sothebys Geneva held an auction of her jewelry (1987). The excitement was enormous. When the jewels were exhibited in New York, people queued up for blocks to get a glimpse of the American 'scarlet woman's' jewelry. In an age when everything takes place via the internet, we cannot imagine what it meant to have satellites hooked up to facilitate overseas buyers in the multiple facilities where bidding took place. There were no less than 250 journalists from all over the world to report on the sale. From lot #1, all estimates were vastly exceeded, with prices exploding anything seen before. Many famous people bid and bought. At the time, they paid excessively, but when some of the items were later resold, prices were even crazier. For example, Elizabeth Taylor bought the famous Prince of Wales feather brooch for a little under $700 000.00 When the same item was later sold by Christies, it reached $1 314 500.00 (almost double). The mystique of Wallace Simpson has survived.
It was known that Wallace Simpson was a very difficult customer. She was a stickler for design and then she haggled over prices. Leaving jewellers with huge unpaid debts seems to have been a tradition amongst much of Europe's royalty and in this respect, Wallace showed herself a true Duchess.
Reference: The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, John Culme and Nicholas Rayner