Aquamarine Royal Jewels for March
The delightful aquamarine, a blue form of beryl, is the birthstone for the month of March. This stone can is found in varying shades, from a colorless pale blue to a deep blue-green. It is a relatively common gemstone, and can be found as large, almost completely flawless crystals. The deeper the shade of blue, the more valuable the stone. The name “aquamarine” comes from the Latin words for “water” and “sea”, and it is said that the stone was first seen in the chests of mermaids. Folklore shares that the aquamarine endows the wearer with foresight, courage, and happiness, as well increasing intelligence. During the Middle Ages the stone was believed to be able to reduce the destructive effects of poisons, as well as treat anxiety (which would certainly be helpful if one were poisoned!). The stone is found in a variety of locations, including Russia, Brazil, the United States, and Africa.
In royal jewelry, the aquamarine is remarkably well represented, for it is one of the more common stones available. However, the aquamarines used in royal jewelry are some of the finest examples of the stone to be found.
In 1953, to mark the occasion of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the President and People of Brazil presented the young queen with a necklace and matching earrings of aquamarines and diamonds set in platinum. In 1958, as an addition to the coronation gift, Brazil presented Her Majesty with a matching brooch and bracelet. The matching aquamarine tiara is a piece that has evolved over time. In 1957, the Queen had a simple tiara made of three upstanding rectangular aquamarines set atop a simple diamond and platinum band, the central piece having been the large piece of the original necklace; the original and current versions can be seen here, along with the necklace whose pendant was used in the current version. In 1968, the people of Sao Paulo presented the Queen with a simple head ornament, or small tiara, which was eventually combined with the original tiara to create the current piece now worn by Her Majesty. Her Majesty is seen here wearing the full parure.
Her Majesty also has two other aquamarine pieces (that we know of!). One is an infrequently seen art deco bracelet. Her other set of aquamarines, the Boucheron aquamarine clips, were an 18th birthday gift to the then Princess Elizabeth from her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, in 1944.
King George VI presented his wife with a lovely aquamarine and diamond tiara as an anniversary gift, which she later gave to Princess Anne. The “Pine Flower Tiara,” as it is known, is composed of aquamarine pine flowers alternating with upright rectangular aquamarines. The tiara was shortened for ease of wear, with the central pine flower motif removed and made into a pendant. The Princess also wears an additional set of aquamarines, and the brooch in this photograph looks suspiciously like the central motif from the reworked tiara.
The Duchess of Cornwall regularly wears a three-strand pearl choker with a large aquamarine set in yellow gold as its central motif, which is considered one of her signature pieces. It is a family piece that the Duchess has often worn. Since her marriage to The Prince of Wales, she has worn a beautiful aquamarine and diamond necklace as well. The Countess of Wessex appears to have a special affection for the aquamarine. Here, she wears a diamond necklace from which is suspended a large, greenish-blue aquamarine. She has also worn the piece as a tiara with an aquamarine pendant and matching earrings (here and here).
The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, possessed an interesting collection of aquamarines, with a mix of modern and classic pieces. One classic piece was this aquamarine and diamond platinum brooch, purchased from Cartier by Queen Elizabeth in 1947 and later given to Princess Margaret. Purchased originally for £175, it was sold at the Christie’s auction for over £66,000. This aquamarine and diamond cluster ring was sold at the same auction. Princess Margaret also enjoyed more modern pieces, including a John Donald brooch and earrings.
The Duchess of Kent has worn the 1908 Fouquet aquamarine, diamond, and pearl tiara, but it is not certain if the piece is owned by the Kent family. The tiara has two forms, with the central motifs set into a gold bandeau or with the motifs placed on a tiara frame and worn upright. The five motifs are made up of large Siberian aquamarines within a framework of six diamond-set arches, each with a central pearl. In the photographs the Duchess also wears an aquamarine and diamond necklace and earrings.
Diana, Princess of Wales, wore a ring composed of a large emerald cut aquamarine flanked by diamonds as well as a five-strand pearl bracelet with a large, emerald-cut aquamarine clasp. Diana also enjoyed wearing a dangly pair of aquamarine and diamond earrings, seen here paired with the Spencer tiara.
Her Grace The Duchess of Windsor, a well-known collector of jewels, was no stranger to the aquamarine. Her bracelet of crosses, long considered to be her favorite piece of jewelry, contains an aquamarine cross inscribed “God Save the King for Wallis” and dated 16th July 1936. The date inscribed refers to an incident that occurred when King Edward VIII was riding in a procession on Constitution Hill after presenting new colours to the Guard; he was threatened by an Irish journalist with a loaded revolver. To commemorate the occasion, he presented Wallis with the aquamarine cross.
Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia is said to have owned the largest personal jewel collection in the world, worth well over fifty million dollars in early 1900’s value. Within her impressive collection were aquamarines of the finest quality, including an aquamarine and diamond kokoshnik, created around 1900, with a necklace and earrings to match, all three pieces of which were set in platinum. The Empress also owned a Fabergé Siberian aquamarine and diamond brooch, which was a wedding gift. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of these magnificent pieces of craftsmanship, as with many other examples of Russian jewelry, are unknown.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, sister of the Tsarina Alexandra, also owned an impressive set of aquamarines, which were a gift from her brother, the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her parure included a tiara of garland and ribbon design set with five large upstanding pear-shaped aquamarines set with diamonds. The necklace, by Fabergé, is composed of nine step-cut aquamarines bordered by diamonds and connected by diamond-set bows, with a bracelet of similar design, but with cushion-cut aquamarines with diamond quatrefoil motifs. The parue was eventually sold in 1996 at Sotheby’s by Her Highness Princess Dorothea of Hesse, who had eventually inherited the parure.
The Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna purchased this aquamarine and diamond necklace/pendant in 1912. It was made by Fabergé, and contains a large, suspended oval aquamarine set with a diamond surround. It was sold by Christie’s for over $66,000.00, a price within the estimated range, unusually for jewelry with a royal provenance, which normally sells for considerably more than the estimated price.
Another Russian aquamarine parure, made by Cartier and originally owned by Princess Paley (formerly Olga Karnovitsch), who was the second (and morganatic) wife of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, is an additional example of the beauty of the aquamarine. A model displays the three pieces (tiara, necklace, and corsage ornament) to marvelous advantage here, allowing the viewer to observe the actual size of the stones. A close-up of the aigrette-style tiara (here and here), which is signed Cartier Paris, reveals a large centrally located cushion-shaped aquamarine surrounded by interlaced diamonds in a millegrain setting, surmounted by a large pear-shaped aquamarine. The garland-style necklace features a cushion-shaped aquamarine set within a scroll frame of diamonds, with a diamond-encircled pear drop, suspended from a double strand of millegrain-set diamonds, with a pair of circular aquamarine links. The garland-style corsage ornament (here and here) features a detachable central cushion-shaped aquamarine drop within a millegrain surround of diamonds suspended from a pair of detachable oval aquamarine brooches in diamond-set, lozenge-shaped frames and connected to a double-strand diamond-set chain.
The Dutch Royal House contains a lovely, and sentimental, collection of aquamarines. The original aquamarines in the Dutch collection can be traced back to an 18th birthday gift to Princess Juliana from her parents, Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henry, in 1927. The gift was a tiara of diamonds and Brazilian aquamarines set in platinum. It is an Art Deco piece, with a base set with a geometric design of square-cut aquamarines. The tiara is topped by seven briolette aquamarines. Princess Juliana also received an Edwardian-style diamond and aquamarine demi-parure from her grandmother, Queen Dowager Emma; it can be seen here on Princess Maxima along with the rectangular brooch. She also received a long necklace with a large pear-shaped aquamarine as a wedding gift from her husband, Prince Bernhard, in 1937. The aquamarine collection also includes a large, rectangular brooch, and a cushion-cut brooch set in platinum which Queen Juliana received as an anniversary gift from Prince Bernhard.
The Swedish Royal Family have a small collection of aquamarines within its branches. Princess Madeleine received, for her 18th birthday, a tiara consisting of a diamond frame supporting a single, large aquamarine. This aquamarine bandeau, sometimes referred to as the “Cyclops Tiara,” dates to the 1920s, and in typical fashion for that era, it was designed to be worn across the forehead. Queen Louise (nee Mountbatten) wore the tiara as well.
Princess Margaretha, the King’s sister, surprised tiara watchers when she wore the aquamarine kokoshnik tiara to Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding in 2010. This tiara, with matching brooch, was brought to Sweden by Princess Margaret of Connaught, Crown Princess of Sweden, and comprises large aquamarines in a diamond setting. It was given to her son Prince Gustaf Adolf, who gave it to his wife, Princess Sibylla (seen wearing it here), who then gave it to Princess Margaretha on her wedding day. Princess Margaretha’s daughter, Sibylla, wore it on her wedding day in 1998, as shown here.
Within the Spanish Royal Family there is a beautiful aquamarine parure that originally belonged to Queen Victoria Eugenie. This parure contained a tiara, necklace with pendant, earrings, bracelet, and two pendant brooches. The parure belonged to Queen Ena, then to her daughter, Infanta Beatriz, and then to her children. The parure is said to have remained intact. The original tiara, a large foliate piece with the briolette aquamarines suspended from oval enclosures, was redesigned by the Infanta Beatriz in a design of interlocking circles with the aquamarines suspended from each circle.
The late Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg owned an aquamarine parure consisting of tiara, necklace of oblong stones, and earrings. It has most recently been worn by her daughter-in-law, the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, as shown here.
Queen Louise of Prussia is reputed to have been fond of the aquamarine. She owned a necklace of diamond and aquamarines as well as a pair of earrings made up of diamond shaped bows with hanging pear shaped aquamarines surrounded by diamonds. These earrings are now on display at Castle Paretz.
In addition to her beautiful collection of rubies and emeralds, Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes has worn a large aquamarine brooch framed in diamonds, as well a bracelet with two large aquamarines, seen here. Princess Caroline of Monaco has worn a necklace of what appears to be a large aquamarine set with diamonds on a long chain.
The aquamarine, beautiful alone or encrusted in diamonds, has shown its beauty in the regal settings of current and past royal houses. The stone demonstrates its variety in classic as well as modern settings, and its allure is apparent, regardless of whether the setting is simple or elaborate.
Collage by Kelly Lacroix, used with permission.
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