Royal bracelet breaks record at Sotheby's sale

Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:24pm EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A diamond and onyx panther bracelet owned by Wallis Simpson, whose love affair with King Edward VIII led to his abdication, sold for 4.5 million pounds ($7 million) on Tuesday, an auction record both for a bracelet and a Cartier item.

It was the highlight of Sotheby's sale of 20 pieces owned by the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor which raised a total of 8 million pounds, twice the expected amount.

The next biggest lot of the auction was a ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond flamingo clip, also by Cartier, which fetched 1.7 million pounds, above the high estimate.

David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewelry in Europe and the Middle East, said the sale's success was partly due to the strength of the broader gem market.

"In the last two weeks ... we have established both a new world record price for any gemstone with the sale of the 24.78 carat 'Graff Pink' for $46 million and a new world record total for a jewelry sale at $105 million ... in Geneva on November 16."

The king, who renounced his claim to the British throne in 1936 to marry the divorcee, showered her with gifts of jewelry throughout their courtship and marriage.

Another Cartier bracelet with pendant jeweled crosses, commemorating a series of events in Simpson's life including an assassination attempt on the king and her own appendectomy, sold for 601,000 pounds.

After Edward's abdication, the couple were given the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and left Britain, living abroad for the rest of their lives.

The 20 lots are just a fraction of the original "Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor" collection, which was sold soon after Simpson's death in 1986.

Still the most valuable single-owner jewelry sale ever, the collection sold for 31 million pounds, more than seven times the pre-sale estimate.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)