Thursday, February 21, 2013

British Royal Jewels: The Duchess of Windsor's Ruby Set

My opinion on the Duchess of Windsor’s jewellery collection is divided; some of them are just too modern for my taste and most lack the most important aspect of royal jewels (for me anyway): rich history. This ruby set from Van Cleef & Arpels is an exception though: I absolutely love it.
Duchess of Windsor's Ruby Set
The union of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lasted for 35 years until the Duke’s death in 1972. During the period, the former King lavished his wife with many exquisite gifts of jewellery which the Duchess wore to great effect. Pieces in this set were given at various times but each has a special meaning.

The Necklace 
With its complicated design and excellent craftsmanship, this necklace is a true masterpiece of the art of jewellery-making. It was designed by Rene-Sim Lacaze and executed by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1938.
The Necklace
Rivers of rubies and diamonds intertwine with each other, culminating in a cascade of rubies. The clasp is engraved with a loving inscription from the Duke: “My Wallis from her David, 19.VI.1936”. 

The Duchess wearing the necklace
The platinum-set necklace was a special order commissioned by the Duke of Windso as a 40th birthday present for the Duchess. 

The Bracelet 
The bracelet was commissioned by Edward VIII just a couple of months before his abdication. At the time, he was still fighting to gain acceptance for Wallis and to be able to marry the woman he loved.  
The Bracelet
It consists of four ruby clusters surrounded by diamonds. The clasp bears the inscription “Hold Right 27.III.36”. It was an expression the couple often used between themselves to comfort and support each other in difficult times, as the pre-abdication period undoubtedly was. 

The Brooches 
On 10 December 1936, Edward VIII made his abdication speech. Because of the complications that ensued, the former King had to spend Christmas away from Wallis. To make up for this, he sent Wallis a double feathered brooch representing holly leaves. 
The Brooches
One of the brooches is encrusted with rubies and the other with baguette diamonds. According to Van Cleef & Arpels archives, this was one of the first examples of mystery (or invisibly) set rubies and diamonds. The technique is now one of the firm’s trademarks. 

Sources: Silvie Raulet’s “Bijooux des annees 1940-1950”, Van Cleef & Arpels


  1. Too modern for my taste and yet I love rubies being my most favorite gem. Can you tell me who owns the set today and was it broken up? I haven't seen anyone wear this in the news?

    1. This set was among the jewels of the Duchess of Windsor that were auctioned off after her death. Unfortunately, as with most of those jewels, we have no information on their current whereabouts. I really, really hope it wasn't broken up because each piece is a true masterpiece, in my opinion.