Windsor Jewels Auction Raises Record $50 Million for Research

Associated Press

Prices soared at a spectacular pace in a sentimental finale Friday to the jewelry auction of the late Duchess of Windsor’s most prized pieces. The two-day “sale of the century” raised a record $50 million to benefit AIDS and cancer research.

Sotheby’s announced that the total of the two-day auction was $50,281,887, including the 10% buyers’ fee--more than six times the previous world record price for a single-owner collection.

John Block of Sotheby’s North America said it surpassed the house’s “most optimistic expectations.”


John L. Marion, the president of Sotheby’s, said it reflected a “unique outpouring of nostalgia” for the romance between King Edward VIII and the twice-divorced American commoner, Wallis Warfield Simpson.

“Major buyers mentioned that,” Marion said. He said they included Elizabeth Taylor, who paid $565,000 Thursday in a telephone bid from Los Angeles for a diamond clip she had always admired on the duchess, a close friend.

The king abdicated his throne in 1936 to marry Simpson. They became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and lived in Paris. He died in 1972, and she died last year.

They had no children, and the duchess willed the proceeds of the collection to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, known for its research into cancer and acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The money will help fund research labs to be completed in 1989.

The highest price in Friday’s session, $1.3 million, went for a 1913 Royal Navy officer’s sword given to Edward when he was Prince of Wales by his father, King George V. It was more than 100 times the catalogue estimate. The sword went to a British buyer who remained anonymous like most other buyers of important lots.