Published November 17, 2014
LONDON (AP) — Sotheby's is taking jewels once owned by American socialite Wallis Simpson — and the king who gave up his British crown for her — on an international tour before offering them at auction.
The brooches, bracelets and other gems are on display in London from Thursday to next Wednesday, followed by stops in Hong Kong, Moscow, New York and Geneva.
The 20 pieces are expected to fetch 3 million pounds ($4.7 million) when they are sold Nov. 30.
They belonged to Simpson and King Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry the twice-divorced 40-year-old in 1937.
Their relationship caused a scandal that culminated when the king made an abdication broadcast to the nation in December 1936, declaring "I have found it impossible ... to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."
They became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and lived out their lives largely in exile from Britain. Edward's younger brother — father of Queen Elizabeth II — succeeded him as George VI.
The jewels, many specially commissioned and given as gifts from one to the other, chart the course of the couple's decades-long romance and reflect the duchess' innovative style.
They include an onyx and diamond Cartier bracelet in the shape of a panther; a jewel-encrusted flamingo clip glittering with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines and 102 diamonds; and a heart-shaped emerald, ruby and diamond brooch with the initials W.E. — Wallis and Edward — commissioned by the duke for the couple's 20th wedding anniversary in 1957.
David Bennett, head of Sotheby's jewelry for Europe and the Middle East, said the collection represents "the most important jewelry collection put together in the 20th century."
The items were last sold in 1987, as part of a Sotheby's auction that fetched $50 million, still a record for a jewelry collection. Sotheby's would not disclose the identity of the current seller.
The story of Edward and Mrs. Simpson continues to fascinate, and is currently being turned into a movie, "W.E.," directed by Madonna.