On 3 April 1987 the late Duchess of Windsor’s jewellery fetched £31m ($50m) at auction in Switzerland. The sum was six times the expected figure projected the collection would garner.
It was said that 1,000 bidders and 300 members of the media packed into an enormous tent constructed by Sotheby’s next to Lake Geneva for the two-day auction. Across the pond in New York there were an additional 600 people in Sotheby’s central salesroom to observe slides of the jewels and to have their bids dispatched to Geneva.
Numerous items went for up to 10 times their anticipated price. The highest price was nearly £2m ($3.15m) paid for a 31-carat diamond ring.
A plume-shaped diamond brooch designed in 1935 by the then-Prince of Wales for his future bride was sold for more than £400,000 ($566,000) to actress Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor was a close acquaintance of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She had often been in awe of the brooch when the duchess wore it and purchased it for sentimental reasons. “I loved it so much; I had to buy it. It’s the first important jewel I’ve ever bought myself,” Ms Taylor was quoted as stating on internetstones.com.
A sapphire pendant was alleged to have been purchased by British actress, Joan Collins.
The Duke of Windsor, previously King Edward VIII, is well known for his choice of love over the British throne. He abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced socialite from the United States.
The couple had no children. The Duke died in 1972 and the Duchess in 1986. In her will, the Duchess asked that the proceeds from an auction of her jewellery collection to the Pasteur Institute in Paris recognised for its AIDS and cancer research.