GIA presents February’s famous birthstone: amethyst as featured in the Duchess of Windsor’s amethyst necklace by Cartier. While the Duke and Duchess of Windsor commissioned many jewels, this stunning amethyst piece has both a love story and historic resonance behind it.
“We Are Ours Now”
The Duke of Windsor was once King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom. Before becoming King, he was the Prince of Wales and he fell in love with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée who was married to her second husband at the time.
In December 1936, less than a year into his reign, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne saying, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility without the help and support of the woman I love.” He was succeeded by his brother Albert who became King George VI. Upon his ascension to the throne, George VI named his brother the Duke of Windsor., a title that expired with the Duke’s death in 1972. The Duke proposed to Simpson with an emerald engagement ring engraved with “We Are Ours Now” and they married in January of 1937—becoming the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The Duchess of Windsor’s Amethyst Necklace
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were well-known jewelry connoisseurs and icons of style in the 20th century. In fact, they are regarded as one of the great private jewelry collectors of all time. One particular piece, an amethyst necklace by Cartier, was commissioned by the Duchess in 1947.
The Cartier bib-style necklace features 27 step-cut amethysts, a large heart-shaped amethyst in the front, turquoise cabochons, and brilliant cut diamonds, all set in gold suspended from a very strong gold rope-like chain. Appropriately, the chain features Prince of Wales linking where each link has at least four other links connected to it. The Duke and Duchess provided most of the gems adorning the necklace, with the exception of the turquoise. The Duchess debuted the breathtaking piece in 1953 at a gala in Versailles. She wore the amethyst bib necklace with a strapless gown to highlight its Indian-inspired style and colorful stones, masterfully set in gold. After the Duchess’ death in 1986, the necklace sold at a Sotheby’s Geneva auction in 1987 for $605,000.00
A Royal Collection
The famed amethyst and turquoise bib necklace was far from the only noteworthy piece in the Duke and Duchess’ collection. Some have suggested the Duke purchased these jewelry pieces for his Duchess to make up for the throne he could not give her. While we can’t be certain about his true intention, we can appreciate this jewelry – and especially the amethyst necklace – for the story it tells about true love and its place in jewelry history.
Do you enjoy learning the stories behind famous birthstones? Look ahead to next month’s Roosevelt aquamarine for a glimpse into American history or read about last month’s Garnet: The Antique Pyrope Hairpin.