Wallis Simpson bracelet fetches world record price
A bracelet owned by Wallis Simpson, whose love affair with Edward VIII led to his abdication, has sold for a world record £4.5 million at auction.
The Cartier-designed onyx and diamond panther bracelet reached £4,521,250 at Sotheby's in central London last night - the highest price any bracelet has ever been sold for at auction. It also became the most expensive Cartier item to be sold at any auction.
It was one of 20 pieces owned by the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor to go under the hammer in the sale, which raised a total of £7,975,550. The jewellery had been expected to fetch in the region of £3 million.
A ruby, sapphire, emerald, citrine and diamond Cartier flamingo clip was one of the other big successes of the night, reaching £1,721,250.
David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's Jewellery in Europe and the Middle East, said the Duchess was "a leader of fashion and the epitome of elegance and sophistication for her generation and beyond".
He said: "The offering comprises not only incomparable examples of the genius of Cartier in collaboration with the Windsors, but also pieces whose inscriptions tell the story of perhaps the greatest love story of the 20th century, the romance that led Edward VIII to abdicate the throne of Great Britain."
Madonna, who is directing WE, a film about the abdication, is reported to have tried on several of the items ahead of the sale. She is said to have shown particular interest in the panther bracelet, but a Sotheby's spokesman could not confirm the identity of its new owner.
The Cartier bracelet, lot 19 in the auction, was made in Paris in 1952. It is 195mm long and reached its record-breaking price despite missing several small stones.
Sotheby's described it as having an "articulated body designed to encircle the wrist and to assume a stalking attitude, pave-set with brilliant and single-cut diamonds and calibre-cut onyx, the eyes each set with a marquise-shaped emerald".
It had been expected to fetch between £1 million and £1.5 million.
The sale came 23 years after Sotheby's Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor auction, which they said was still the "most valuable single-owner jewellery collection ever sold".
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor commissioned many of the jewels from Cartier's designer Jeanne Toussaint, who created the panther bracelet and flamingo brooch.
Many of the pieces bear personal inscriptions, including a heart-shaped emerald, ruby and diamond Cartier brooch with the initials W.E. (Wallis, Edward), which was commissioned by the Duke to mark their 20th wedding anniversary in 1957.
Sotheby's said it attracted a "great deal of competition" before being sold for £205,250.
Another Cartier diamond bracelet, said to be a favourite of the Duchess, consists of nine gem-set crosses, each representing special moments in her life from 1933 to 1934.
They include the couple's marriage and an assassination attempt on the King. It reached £601,250.
Mr Bennett said: "Wherever we have exhibited the jewels in recent months - whether it be Moscow, New York, Hong Kong or the Middle East - the response has been extraordinary, and the Windsor collection has been introduced to a new audience of buyers."
All 20 pieces sold, making it a so-called "white glove" sale. The prices the jewellery sold for include buyer's premium.
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