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1987: Windsor gems fetch record price

The late Duchess of Windsor's jewellery has been sold for 31m ($50m) - six times the expected figure during an auction in Switzerland.

About 1,000 bidders and 300 members of the media crowded into a huge tent erected by Sotheby's next to Lake Geneva for the two-day sale.

In New York another 600 people were in Sotheby's main salesroom to view slides of the jewels and to have their bids relayed to Geneva.

Many items went for up to 10 times their expected price.

The highest price was nearly 2m ($3.15m) paid for a 31-carat diamond ring by a Japanese jeweller.

A plume-shaped diamond brooch designed in 1935 by the then-Prince of Wales for his future bride, was sold for more than 400,000 ($566,000) to actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Ms Taylor, who was a close friend of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, said she had often admired the brooch when the duchess wore it and bought it for sentimental reasons.

"I loved it so much, I had to buy it. It's the first important jewel I've ever bought myself," Ms Taylor said of her purchase.

'Nostalgia'

Another item, a sapphire pendant, was rumoured to have been bought on behalf of fellow British actress, Joan Collins.

Sotheby's president John Marion said the prices reflected a "unique outpouring of nostalgia".

The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, had to abdicate to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson.

The duke died in 1972 and the duchess in 1986.

The couple had no children and in her will the duchess left the proceeds of her jewellery collection to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, known for its AIDS and cancer research.

In Context
After the death of the duchess in 1986, Egyptian Mohammed Al Fayed bought the Windsor's former home on the Bois de Bologne in Paris.

In 1998 he sold their furniture and other possessions through an auction at Sotheby's which raised more than 14m ($23m).

Items in the sale included the desk at which the-then King Edward VIII signed his abdication papers.

Mr Al Fayed said the proceeds from the sale would go to charities favoured by his late son Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales, who were killed in a car crash in August 1997.


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