Spotlight on: Wallis Simpson’s panther bracelet

We’ve been watching The Crown recently, so this week I’m shining a spotlight on one of the most famous pieces of jewellery from that era: Wallis Simpson’s panther bracelet.

The piece, like its owner, divides opinion. Some, like the author of this rather terrible article, find it vulgar, whilst others feel it epitomised Simpson’s style and love of fashion. I’m coming down on the side of loving it; putting aside any opinions on its owner, there’s no denying it’s an iconic piece which spawned a raft of replicas. I even had a Topshop version as a teenager (not that I knew where the fashion had started, of course).

Photo by Sotheby’s
Photo by Sotheby’s

Let’s look at 5 fast facts about the bracelet:

1) It sold for £4.5 million in 2010, rumour has it to Madonna, although Sotheby’s never denied or confirmed that… The last time it was sold was as part of Sotheby’s Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor auction, which is the most valuable single-owner jewellery collection  ever sold.

2) It was custom-made for the Duchess of Windsor in 1952 by Cartier’s esteemed designer Jeanne Toussaint, referencing the nickname Louis Cartier (rumoured to be her lover) gave her. Cartier continues to make panther jewellery to this day, and it’s become somewhat of a trademark for the design house.

3) It was at the time a revolutionary design: the panther is extensively articulated, which allows it to drape itself around the wearer’s wrist rather than sitting stiffly like a bangle. Even today it remains a masterpiece of jewellery engineering due to the subtlety of its movement and sensuous lines created by the articulation. It also looks as if the panther is stalking its way around the wrist of the wearer, an amazing feat for a solid piece of metal and precious stones.



4) Poor Simpson was apparently very self-conscious about her ‘ugly hands’, often keeping them rolled into fists in public, so her statement panther bracelet may have been more more distraction than adornment.

Source: Wikimedia

5) The bracelet is 195mm long, pave-set with brilliant and single-cut diamonds and calibre-cut onyx, and the eyes are two marquise-shaped emeralds.

All stretched out. Photo by Sotheby’s.

So what do you think? Yay or nay? Personally, I’m dreaming of owning this beautiful piece as we speak…

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