Cartier has always had a close association with royalty, but none of their clients were more famous than the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who ordered pieces that still influence the French jeweller’s aesthetic today.
The couple’s way of dressing became known as “Windsor style” and the Duchess was often seen in the latest designs from Valentino, Balenciaga, Dior, Givenchy, Saint Laurent or Pucci and she often matched her outfits with statement pieces of jewellery such the turquoise-and-amethyst draped necklace created by Cartier in 1947, which she wore to the Orangerie ball at the Château de Versailles in 1953.
In 1956, the Duchess had Cartier make a jointed tiger brooch paved with bright yellow brilliants and onyx on a yellow-gold mount. ‘This will be my last fancy,’ she said, ‘approved by Edward, who is so happy to give it to me.’
Wallis was a true jewellery enthusiast and her collection of famed Cartier animal brooches bear witness to this. Jeanne Toussaint was the mastermind behind many of the pieces made for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
In 1933, Louis Cartier gave Toussaint full responsibility for the Cartier Haute Joaillerie collection and she soon turned her attention to the Duchess, declaring that Wallis was the only woman who deserved to wear a panther brooch she had created that was mounted on a 152.35 carat sapphire cabochon.
Other pieces of jewellery based on an animal theme were to follow and over the course of twenty years, Wallis enriched her collection with feline jewels and unusual bird brooches. This collection included a duck-head-profile blister pearl mounted on a pin and her famed flamingo brooch. The number of precious stones provided by the Duke for this brooch is recorded in Cartier archive documents.
After Edward’s death Wallis retired from society and was rarely seen until her death in 1986. It was as if all the love and effervesence that she had to give was spent upon Edward, who was undoubtedly the love of her life.
In many respects their love lived on in the pieces he had designed for her, acknowledging her love of the finest things. Before the couple met, in 1924, Wallis paid a visit to Shanghai and Hong Kong. It was said that the only words of Mandarin she took the trouble to learn were “Pass me the champagne.” With so much joie de vivre in her heart it’s no surprise that Edward was unable to resist her charms… Read more in Quintessentially Asia.