Wallis Simpson, the twice divorced international style icon and American socialite who controversially married Prince Edward, the Duke of Windsor in 1937, was once asked what she thought of costume jewellery, to which she replied, 'I hate to admit it but I am absolutely fascinated by fake jewellery at the moment; I think it is so good.'
Now, some 25 years after her death and the legendary sale of her fine jewels, Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions are offering five unique and extraordinary pieces of costume jewellery or better, body sculpture, specially created for the Duchess by the American designer, Alexis Kirk.
In the 1998 Sotheby's sale the designer bought back the pieces he had made for her, for his own private collection and now his family is selling the items through Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions at The Cumberland near London's Marble Arch on October 10th 2011. These wonderful 'neck to navel' pieces form a focal point of Dreweatts' and Bloomsbury Auctions' Luxury sale.
A source of endless fascination...:
Alexis Kirk designed bold, elegant 'statement' jewellery for the international élite of the 1960s and 70s. He won the prestigious fashion industry's Coty Award and his studio at 55 Park Avenue became the place to shop.
Word spread fast and soon the Duke and Duchess of Windsor became clients. Hope Kirk, the designer's widow who also worked on the commissions, recalls: 'She would usually turn up with her two closest friends the socialites Babe Paley (married to the founder of CBS) and Cordelia Biddle Robinson, after having lunched at her favourite restaurant The Cȏte Basque. And then there would be friendly, girlish bickering as to who would buy what.'
Although an exacting patron, the Duchess of Windsor was a perfect client; she wanted chic 'signature' jewellery which she was not shy to wear. Kirk and his wife Hope made jewellery from cork, feathers and simulated semi precious stones set in 'gold' which the Duchess wore against the perfect 'backdrop' of 'the little black dress.'
Hope recalls her as 'charming and gracious - never haughty. The first piece we made for her was the long 'gold' necklace which reached down to her tiny waist, and which she wore with a long black evening dress. She loved big dramatic pieces which looked great on her, as she was as slender as a column. She was not a beauty, but she certainly knew what suited her.'
The Luxury sale staged by Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions in the Cumberland Hotel, includes other pieces made by Alexis Kirk, however the five necklaces commissioned by the Duchess are all signed and each comes in its custom made red leather monogrammed box.
Prices range from an attainable £1,500-3,000, a modest amount for an eye-catching piece of history which comes not only from one of the 20th century's most elegant women, but also from the personal collection of the woman who created one of the greatest constitutional crises this country has ever known.
The Duchess of Windsor's Costume Jewellery is just one facet, of Dreweatts' and Bloomsbury Auction's Luxury Sale on 10th October.
There are also contemporary jewellery pieces by cutting edge designers like Barbara Harris, Eileen Coyne and Kim Poor who have used semi precious stones such as rock crystal and amethyst, with estimates ranging from £100-2000.
Previous sales of Wallis Simpson's jewellery including this, 'The most
Andrew Logan the renowned artist, sculptor and jeweller has made a striking jelly fish watch for Swatch with an estimate of £4000-6000. The sale also boasts a group of 'boys' toys' such as the limited edition OMAS fountain pens or even Dunhill's Namiki lacquer pens.
Amongst the other highlights are limited edition fountain pens as well as a selection of leather and crocodile Kelly bags; the pulses of true fashionistas will race for the extremely rare wine red Chanel 255 alligator bag of 2008 with the Chanel clasp, chain strap and all the authenticating paperwork, and this is estimated £8,000-12,000.
The Luxury Sale will be on view at The Cumberland from September 29th and will be sold there at auction on October 10th.
The Cumberland, a contemporary four star property in the prestigious Guoman Hotels collection, is located by London's Marble Arch in W1. Its position in the heart of central London combined with its spacious elegance make it the perfect venue for Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions' Luxury sale.