The Duke and the Duchess of Windsor dance on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1949
Out of love for Wallis Simpson, King Edward VIII gave up his throne on December 10th, 1936, after only reigning for 11 months. This legendary love, condemned by the Royal family because of Wallis Simpson’s divorcee status, was deemed a scandal but against all odds, lasted for 35 years.
Their passion for each other was equaled by their love of jewelry and marked by many creations from Van Cleef & Arpels. These pieces became true milestones of their extraordinary love story and the Duke of Windsor regularly spent hours with the designers adding his personal touch to the creations he ordered for his wife.
Hold Tight bracelet retail card, 1936, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives / Hold Tight bracelet, 1936, Private Collection
This bracelet, probably designed by René Sim Lacaze, was given to Wallis Simpson by Edward VIII a few months before his abdication. The clasp is engraved with the inscription "Hold Tight 27.III.36". It was an expression that the couple often used between themselves to comfort each other in difficult times.
Cravate necklace special order book page, 1936, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives / Cravate necklace, 1936, Private Collection
This necklace is a true masterpiece of jewelry. Designed by Rene Sim Lacaze, it was a special order commissioned by the Duke of Windsor for the Duchess’s 40th birthday. Rivers of rubies and diamonds intertwine with each other culminating in an off-center cascade of rubies. The clasp is engraved with the inscription: "My Wallis from her David, 19.VI.1936".
Houx clip retail card, 1936, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives / Houx clip, 1936, Private Collection
On December 10, 1936, King Edward VIII made his abdication speech. In light of the situation, Edward VIII had to spend that Christmas away from Wallis Simpson, so he sent her this clip, representing two holly leaves, made of Mystery Set rubies and diamonds. This creation is an early example of the Mystery Setting™ technique, for which Van Cleef & Arpels is now famous.
Jarretière bracelet retail card, 1937, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives / Jarretière bracelet, 1937, Private Collection
This Jarretière bracelet, made up of facetted sapphires and baguette and round diamonds, is one of the most beautiful pieces given to the Duchess by the Duke. Ordered by the Duke during their few months apart in the winter of 1936, it was given to the Duchess as a gift to commemorate their French civil marriage, celebrated on May 18, 1937. It is engraved with the words "For our contract 18.V.37".
Eventail clip retail card, 1937, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives / The Duke and Duchess of Windsor after their marriage at the Chateau De Candé in France, in June 1937
This Eventail clip was created in 1935 and was worn by the Duchess of Windsor for her wedding to Edward VIII on June 3rd 1937, at the Château Candé in France.
Cadenas watch retail card, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives / 1st drawing of the Zip necklace, circa 1938, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives
The Duke and Duchess’s passion for jewelry resulted in magnificent special orders, but it also inspired two creations that became emblematic of Van Cleef & Arpels: the Cadenas watch and the Zip necklace.
Lacquer bracelet, Side-Car charms bracelet and Chardon clip retail cards, 1937, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives / Hawaii brooch retail card, 1938, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Archives
During their 35 years together, the Duke never missed an opportunity to offer pieces of jewelry to his wife, the Duchess of Windsor.