Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Duchess of Windsor’s jewels, revisited

King Edward VII gave up the British Throne and country to marry the twice divorced American socialite Wallis Warfield Simpson in 1936, making them the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. After this the Duke lived for The Duchess of Windsor. He adored her and gave her jewels for every occasion in their life together. Most jewels are larger than life, according to Wallis’ friend Lady Mosley.

On 30 November 2010 Sotheby’s London will sell 20 jewels from the Duchess of Windsor’s jewellery collection. 23 years after the much celebrated Sotheby’s Geneva auction of her jewels in 1987.  This auction was a global event in prosperous times and the 214-piece collection fetched a record price of EUR 35 million, seven times the pre-sale estimate. Reflecting the 1987 rage today’s estimates  are also completely over the top but will surely be paid. The total sale is expected to bring in around EUR 3 million.

On sale now are jewels that memorialize the most important moments in Edward and Wallis’ relationship. Wallis was greatly admired for her avant-garde style in fashion and jewellery alike. She combined simplicity with whimsy.

Many of the jewels were made by Cartier, two specifically by Cartier’s jewellery director Jeanne Toussaint,  the Onyx and diamond panther bracelet designed in 1952, is one of the finest examples of the ‘great cats’ jewels of which the Duchess was an avid collector. The bracelet is expected to fetch 1,000,000-1,500,000 pounds . This articulated cat forms a “stalking pose” when closed around the wrist.

Jeanne Toussaint also created this exotic flamingo brooch, decorated with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines, and diamonds which was bought by the Duchess in 1940. The flamingo brooch was bought for £498,000 in 1987 and is today estimated at £1m-£1.5m.

Another precious jewel is the diamond cross bracelet by Cartier, supporting nine gem-set Latin crosses, each marking significant events during the years 1934-44. The bracelet is expected to raise £350,000-450,000, while it fetched only £200.000 in 1987.

It is a very sweet; every cross has an inscription and a story to it, but not everyone believes Wallis & Edward were the greatest love story of the 20th century. For a different opinion please read here.

Sotheby’s David Bennett and historian Hugo Vickers, however, make a splendid presentation below.


Autumn jewels

Tatty Devine‘s fallen leaves charm bracelet

JAR’s oak leaf and acorn earrings

Citrine 5os four leave cloaver brooch

Art Nouveau ivy bracelet by Emile Froment Meurice

JAR’s chestnut bracelet

Three 5os stylized chrysanthemum brooches

Lalique’s willow chestnut corsage ornament, circa 1904

Tatty Devine black English oak silhouette necklace

“I Love Boobies” bracelets

Have you read my personal story on Bravery Beads, the necklace for kids with cancer? These beads are wonderful. Far more controversial cancer jewellery exits. Today I love boobies bracelets (and the Tough Titties walks) are the controversy.

Awareness bracelets

We have known the wristbands or so-called awareness bracelets for some time now. They are made from fabric or leather, but usually from silicon. They carry different kinds of messages expressing support for political (“make poverty history”), religious (“godstrong”) or medical causes, with cancer as number one.

Pink ribbons

Since the 90’s we’ve also known the pink ribbon symbol that expresses support to women with breast cancer. The first ribbons were handed out to participants in the New York City race for breast cancer survivors in 1991. Pink ribbons symbolize the big battle against cancer and aim to create awareness about it. You even see pink ribbons covered by gems or Swarovksi.

Pink industry

The color pink gets breast cancer a lot of attention and awareness, which is great! But related to cancer, it is also criticized. Pink now has enormous marketing power for every product imaginable, also those not relevant to cancer at all. In the US – more so than in Europe – even M&M’s are pink. It makes one wonder whether ‘pink’ is still about a potentially killing disease or about sales. When buying pink you should investigate how much of your money goes to which cause.

I Love Boobies bracelets

The bracelet-campaign by Keep A Breast Foundation causes a lot of debate.  The bracelet carries the rather crude message “I love boobies” (Ik houd van tieten) and is supposed to make young people aware of breast cancer.

They cost only 4$ and 50% of the money goes to the educational program of Keep A Breast and in the US it became a complete hype. The kids who refuse to take them off have been suspended from school, since the bracelet with the word boob on it was considered offensive and for this inappropriate school attire.

Many survivors of breast cancer are offended by the bracelet for a different reason. They are angry because they feel as though this campaign trivializes breast cancer by focussing on the body part, and by doing so disregard the person attached to it. Imagine how this explicit marketing tool must feel like for a survivor who is trying to reconcile with her body and sexuality. And some ex-patients may not even care about whether or not they lost (a) breast(s), they just care about their health. It is a very sensitive subject and everybody fully understands the aversion to the bracelet-campaign.

On the other hand, the expression I love boobies is used only metaphorically and the campaigners of Keep A Breast are trying to be funny and make the subject accessible. I do have full confidence that the kids wearing the bracelets are able to see past the catchy phrase and – after an initial giggle – will think about cancer instead of sex. Despite the blunt text, I hope this campaign encourages younger people to have serious discussions in classes and playgrounds. Sometimes you have to go a little bit further to reach your goal.