Everything the Duchess of Windsor Touched Has Turned to Gold (plated), Thanks to Carolee Friedlander

updated 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

So admit it. The Duchess of Windsor's jewelry auction left you depressed. You had wanted to jet to Geneva to mingle with the super-rich, who thought nothing of dropping millions on diamond-studded toothpicks once chewed by the Duchess' maid. Instead you stayed put, where you tangled with your boss, clipped food coupons or cleaned up after the dog. Well, cheer up. New York costume jeweler Carolee Friedlander has something to boost your wounded ego.

Last week at Manhattan's trendy Bloomingdale's, Friedlander, founder and president of Carolee Designs, unveiled her version of the Duchess' sparkling emerald, sapphire, ruby and diamond flamingo pin. The original, designed in 1940 by Cartier, sold for $806,658 at the auction. Bloomie's price: a puny $75. The pins sold out in two days, even before a newspaper advertisement trumpeted their arrival.

This week 11 other Friedlander "interpretations" of the Duchess' bounty turn up nationwide in department stores. Priced from $35 to $200, they should set off another stampede. "No one was prepared for the public's reaction to the auction," says Friedlander, 45. "I'm surprised and delighted."

To avoid legal wrangles, Friedlander never mentions the Duchess by name. Rather, she coyly calls her fabulous fakes the "Estate Collection," which happens to "look very much like something a duchess might have worn." There are, to be sure, differences between Friedlander's baubles and the real things. The Duchess' flamingo pin, for example, was four inches long, had diamond legs and a beak of colored stones; Friedlander's is two inches and has a gold-plated beak and legs.

None of that, however, may be enough to satisfy Cartier, which claims its pieces are protected by a copyright. "It's a sincere form of flattery, but it's illegal," says Cartier Chairman Ralph Destino, whose lawyers are on the case. Counters Friedlander: "Fashion jewelry has always been inspired by the real, and I hope that they will take it in that spirit."

Friedlander, who has been in business for 15 years, decided to come out with the line after reading about the gems shortly after the Duchess' death. Working from photos, she "interpreted" her favorite pieces and waited for the auction to generate interest. Now, hundreds of commoners can boast that they are decked out like queens. The Duchess of Windsor herself could claim no more.

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