Thursday, January 21, 2010


Epilogue (in two parts): Part I: CARTIER and AMERICA

Are you wondering if this series on the Cartier exhibit is ever going to end? Well, the exhibit itself may end its run before I ever get the whole series written!

The exhibit runs through April 18th, 2010 at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

Let's see now...that give me a little less than three months to finish the series.

I can do that.


Wallis, Wallis, Wallis...tsk, tsk, tsk!

Left: Edward the VII, the British King
Center: The abdication of Edward VIII commands headlines
Right: The American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, whom wrecked the Royal's

1936: The soon to be thrice married, Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson, was named Woman of the Year by Time magazine. It was the first time the magazine had a Woman rather than a Man of the Year.


Sitting at this desk, King Edward VIII traded the British Crown for the freedom to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson by writing a letter. When sold at auction after the Duchess's death, the desk brought $415,000.

When the American socialite and divorcee, Wallis Simpson married the newly abdicated King of England, Edward VIII, in 1937, the former King became His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor, and she became the Duchess of Windsor, but she was prevented from using the style, Her Royal Highness. They settled in, and made their home in France immediately after leaving England.

Photo: 1937, the Duke and Duchess on their wedding day, France.


In 1937, The Duke and Duchess again set tongues wagging when they visited Germany as personal guests of the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler.

Following the outbreak of war in 1939, they fled from Paris to to Biarritz, then to Spain, then Portugal, and in August, 1940, a British warship was dispatched to take the pair to the Bahamas where the Duke was installed as Governor. However, the Duchess hated Nassau, calling it "our St. Helena", in a reference to Napoleon Bonaparte's final place of exile.


The Duchess survived the Duke, and upon her death, most of her estate went to the Pasteur Institute. At the 1987 auction at Sotheby's Geneva, of the duchess's remarkable jewelry collection, it raised $45 million for the Institute, approximately seven times it's pre-sale estimate.

Photo: The cover of the hardbound, 1987 Sotheby's Auction Catalogue for the sale of The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor.


Mohammad Al-Fayed, owner of Harrods, had bought much of the non-financial estate, including the lease on the Windsors Paris mansion. A year after the death of his son, Dodi, in the accident that also claimed the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, the sale of Mr. Al-Fayed's purchases from the Duchess of Windsors' estate raised more than $20 million, which he donated to charity.

Left: The fabled Harrods Department Store in London
Right: The illusive couple dodging the press, the late Dodi Al-Fayed and Princess Diana


Wallis was plagued by rumors of other lovers, including the otherwise homosexual American playboy Jimmy Donahue, an heir to the Woolworth fortune who claimed to have had a liaison with the Duchess in the 1950's, but Donohue was notorious for his inventive pranks and rumor-mongering.

Photos, below:
Left: Jimmy Donahue and the Duchess of Windsor
Right: A dour Duke of Windsor

"She married a King, but screwed a Queen, " the Duke was heard to sourly observe of the Duchess's affair with the homosexual Jimmy.


Lord have mercy! I can't take much more of this! Back to the jewels!


The Windsor's were often patrons of Cartier, and in 1949 acquired The "Panther Clip" brooch made up of sapphires, pave diamonds, yellow diamonds, platinum and white gold is yet another exquisite piece of jewelry worn by the Duchess--set atop a Kashmir cabochon sapphire of 152 carats.

The Duchess of Windsor's exotic "Flamingo Clip" brooch, Cartier 1940, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, with a citrine beak, set in platinum. The Duke of Windsor provided Cartier with four bracelets and had the brooch made as a special order for the Duchess of Windsor--it has never been seen in a museum before now.

A "Tiger Lorgnette" (pronunciation: lorn-'yet; Eye or opera glasses with a handle), Cartier 1954. Made special order for the Duchess of Windsor and a legacy from the "Duchess of Windsor's Jewels."


Photos: Bib necklace, Cartier Paris, 1947. Gold, amethysts, turquoises, diamonds, and platinum. Sold to HRH the Duke of Windsor.


Photo: The Diamond that started it all! The Star of South Africa

The Star of South Africa (also referred to as the Dudley Diamond) was the first large diamond found in South Africa, and is credited with setting off the South African diamond rush. The stone is a now 47.69-caret old style pear shape diamond, was cut from a diamond crystal of 83.5 carets, and is credited with being the diamond that turned the tides of fortune in South Africa. The story goes, in 1869, it was picked up by a Shepperd boy on a farm near the Orange River. The Shepperd traded the stone for five hundred sheep, ten oxen, and a horse. Where upon the man he traded with, immediately sold the diamond for $56,000, and that was in 1869!

Later the stone was fashioned to what is described as an "oval, three-sided brilliant", a flawless pear shape, and was sold to the Earl of Dudley for $125,000.

The diamond now resides in the Natural History Museum in London


Photos: The drawing, left, and the finished product, right. The signature pendant brooch for the Cartier and America exhibit. Cartier London, 1923, for Marjorie Merriweather Post (Mrs. E.F. Hutton). Emeralds, diamonds, platinum, and enamel.

A most fascinating part of the exhibition included a room that featured the original drawings, in pen, ink, watercolor and gouche exquisitely painted on thin brown tracing paper and complete down to the last tiny detail. Many showing notes and signatures of both the designer and the beneficiary, such as the preliminary sketch of a diamond-ruby-pearl-gold-platinum necklace has red pen comments written by its eventual wearer--Elizabeth Taylor


Whew! I need a brake from all this finery!

Good Night Moon

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.