Thousands Come to See Jewels of Duchess of Windsor
NEW YORK (AP) _ Thousands lined up outside Sotheby’s auction house in hopes of getting a glimpse of the storied jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, the common-born American divorcee who won the heart of King Edward VIII.
″We don’t get to see a collection like this again in our lifetime,″ said Lorraine Demos, who came from Philadelphia to see the gems, which went on public view for the first time Wednesday.
The 125 lots of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are expected to bring $7 million at auction April 2 in Geneva. The proceeds will go to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, a leading medical research center.
Edward VIII gave up the throne in 1936 for ″the woman I love,″ Wallis Warfield Simpson. In exile, they were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The jewels were his gifts to her.
″Look, here’s the flamingo brooch,″ Evelyn Hartwell told her daughter as they stood on line. ″The duchess wore it on her first visit to the United States after she and Duke were married. Mommy wasn’t even born then.″
The duke died in 1972 and the duchess last April.
Among those planning to bid on the gems was Allen Tenenbaum, a corporate psychologist from Santa Monica, Calif., who jotted down the numbers of coveted pieces on index cards.
″I collect anything that relates to events during the courtship of the duke and duchess,″ said Tenenbaum.
He said he was doing a psychological study on the questions: ″How did an American divorcee manage to capture the heart of a king who was the world’s most eligible bachelor? What’s the attraction?″
Sotheby’s had some inkling there would be crowds. A church group from outside Toronto called last week to say it was coming to see the jewels and to ask if the auction house could recommend a nice but inexpensive hotel, said jewelry department chief John D. Block.
Block said that after similar calls, the auction house canceled newspaper advertising and cut back TV coverage. ″For security reasons, we must guard against too strong a response from the public,″ he said.
By 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, people on line were told to leave because they would not be able to get in by the 5 p.m. closing.
The jewels are to be on view through Sunday.