Diamond Royal Jewels for April
Diamonds are as royal a stone as one can get. They grace all forms of jewelry and are emblematic of royalty. Diamonds capture and reflect light with astonishing beauty, riveting the eye. They are the hardest substance found in nature and are considered symbols of strength. What more appropriate stone for the monarchies could there be? It would be impossible to effectively discuss each and every diamond owned by the royal houses because the collections of each house are, quite simply put, impressive. In the interest of simplicity, this month’s birthstone will discuss some of the “diamond only” pieces worn by the British royals that are particular favorites of mine.
When discussing royal jewelry, in particular diamonds, it is impossible to choose one particular favorite piece, but HRH Princess Marina, The Duchess of Kent’s diamond bow brooch and girandole earrings are never far from my mind. These elegant diamond jewels once belonged to the famous Grand Duchess Vladimir and were wedding gifts to Marina from her mother Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, Princess Nicholas of Greece. These beautiful pieces, obviously treasured by Marina, were unfortunately sold to pay death duties.
HM Queen Elizabeth II regularly wears a diamond tiara passed down to her through her great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, who received it as gift on the occasion of her silver wedding anniversary in 1888. The diamond tiara, in the form of a Russian kokoshnik, was presented to her on behalf of 365 peeresses of the United Kingdom. Having known that a tiara was being presented, Queen Alexandra had requested the fashionable kokoshnik design, likely inspired by pieces worn by her sister, Marie Feodorovna the Empress of Russia. Created by Garrard, the tiara is composed of 61 upright platinum bars which are encrusted with 488 diamonds, the largest of which is 3.25 carats. It was worn often by Queen Alexandra and later by Queen Mary, and is a favorite of Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth, Consort of King George VI and affectionately known as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, never had the opportunity to wear it as it appears to have remained in Queen Mary’s possession until her death, at which point it was then worn by her granddaughter, Elizabeth II. Here, the Queen wears the tiara with Queen Victoria’s girandole diamond earrings and the silk-threaded diamond fringe necklace which was a wedding gift from the City of London when she married Prince Philip in 1947.
When Princess Alexandra arrived in England for her marriage to the future Edward VII in 1863, he presented her with a magnificent tiara created by Rundell jewelers which is known as “The Rundell Tiara”. It is described as a “diadem of fine brilliants; the circlet is formed of two rows, with ten large brilliants equidistant; it is surmounted by scroll ornaments having in the centre of each a large drop-shaped brilliant; these are connected by Greek devices, also in brilliants, the various ornaments are made to form separate ornaments at pleasure.” This impressive wedding gift has not been seen since Queen Alexandra’s death, and there is often speculation regarding its current whereabouts with hope that it remains in the possession of the Royal Collection.
The most often seen and easily recognizable tiara worn by Queen Elizabeth II is the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, which was a wedding gift to HSH Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (the future Queen Mary) on the occasion of her marriage to the future George V in 1893. This favored tiara of Queen Elizabeth (it is said to be quite lightweight) is a diamond festoon and scroll tiara that was originally surmounted with nine large oriental pearls placed on diamond spikes (as seen here) which have since been replaced with large diamond collets. The tiara can be worn with or without its diamond base of round and lozenge collets (as seen here).The tiara was given to Princess Elizabeth in 1947 as a wedding gift from her grandmother, Queen Mary, and is affectionately referred to as “Granny’s tiara.” Here, Her Majesty wears her favorite tiara to spectacular effect with her great-great grandmother’s (Queen Victoria) diamond girandole earrings and triple diamond collet necklace made in 1950 by George VI from spare diamonds lying around the Royal Collection. The necklace was also worn by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, but she appeared to prefer the Greville Cartier five-strand diamond necklace (also wearable as a three-strand necklace) which was bequeathed to her by her dear friend The Honorable Mrs. Ronald Greville in 1942. This magnificent necklace contains more than 2,000 brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds, and George VI, supposedly, found the five-strand version to be a bit “too much” for his taste on his lovely wife, and she often wore “just” the three-strand version. Also bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was the Empire-style Boucheron Honeycomb tiara, which Mrs. Greville had ordered from Boucheron in 1921. The tiara was created with stones from a family tiara. In 1953, the Queen Mother had Cartier increase the height of the tiara by adding diamonds that had been given to the King from DeBeers. This tiara was a particular favorite of hers, and she wore it quite often (as seen here). The Duchess of Cornwall now wears it for tiara events (here), and has also worn it with the five-strand necklace from the Greville legacy (here).
It would be quite literally impossible to adequately discuss the diamond collection of Queen Mary in so short a space, for this was a lady who knew how to wear diamonds to the most glittering effect. There is no doubt that the Royal Collection would be much diminished had it not been for her passion for jewels. The Delhi Durbar tiara, described by George V as “May’s best tiara,” is a circlet made in 1911 by Garrad for the coronation of George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India. It is designed as diamond-set lyres and forget-me-not leaves and flowers. It was originally created with some of the legendary Cambridge emeralds mounted on the top, as seen here along with other pieces from the Cambridge and Delhi Durbar emerald parure. Queen Mary, being Queen Mary, enjoyed recreating her pieces. Even this impressive tiara was not immune to her desire to enhance its beauty, and she had mounted upon it various cleavings from the Cullinan diamond (here and here). This tiara, with emeralds and Cullinans removed, was most recently worn for the first time since 1947 by The Duchess of Cornwall, shortly after her marriage to The Prince of Wales. It caused quite a sensation when it reappeared after so many years!
One of the tiaras I am personally fascinated by is the Teck Crescent Tiara. This tiara, according to Geoffrey Munn, was likely a gift from one of HRH Princess Mary Adelaide’s royal cousins upon the occasion of her marriage to HSH Francis, The Duke of Teck. The piece is composed of detachable cresent-shaped ornaments separated by wild roses set in silver and is mounted in gold. Typical of the time when it was designed, it has a wide circumference (ladies wore hairpieces then), making it a difficult piece to wear. Upon the death of Princess Mary Adelaide, her daughter Queen Mary received this interesting jewel, but it has unfortunantly not been worn since Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s sparing use of it during her husband’s reign (here). However, it was loaned by The Queen Mother for the “One Hundred Tiaras—An Evolution of Style, 1800-1990” show. Also in this show was the spectacular Teck diamond circle necklace, which Queen Mary also received upon her mother’s death. This piece, set in gold and silver, was made around 1860, and was also later worn by her daughter in law, the future Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, both as a tiara and as a necklace. She in turn later gave the piece to her daughter, Princess Margaret, who wore it with characteristic aplomb as a necklace, generally paired with the Poltimore Tiara, for magnificent glittering effect (as seen here).
Queen Mary, at her coming out, wore a delicate diamond necklace of openwork links alternated with floral diamond-and-rose and diamond-and-crescent clusters.With this necklace Mary wore a pearl and diamond pendant. Both pieces were given to her daughter, Mary, The Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood. This piece of Teck jewelry, seen here in fine detail, also unfortunately was sold by the family to cover death duties. Here, the Duchess of Teck is pictured wearing the Teck CrescentTiara, Teck diamond circle necklace, and coming-out necklace with pearl and diamond pendant.
Queen Mary gave her granddaughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, beautiful jewels. Princess Margaret received countless pieces, but one of her particular favorites was the Lady Mount Stephen diamond riviere necklace, consisting of 34 diamonds set in gold and silver made around 1900. This piece was bequeathed to Queen Mary in 1933 on the death of her friend Lady Mount Stephen, who had been a lady in waiting to the Duchess of Teck. It was later sold by Viscount Linley at Christie’s Auction House, along with various other important pieces. Another of Queen Mary’s spectacular diamond rivieres, given to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, was most recently worn by The Duchess of Cornwall on her 60th birthday (here and here). This necklace is reported to have been a wedding gift to Queen Mary from her parents, The Duke and Duchess of Teck, in 1893.
The Poltimore tiara, an impressive tiara of diamonds, was purchased for Princess Margaret in 1959 for £5500 for the occasion of her wedding. The gold and silver piece, made in 1870 by Garrad for Lady Poltimore, is convertible to a necklace and eleven brooches and contained a screwdriver and brooch fittings in its blue leather case. The piece was set with alternating diamond-set motifs and clusters resting upon a collet-set diamond line. It was first worn by Princess Margaret on her wedding day, with the Lady Mount Stephen diamond riviere (here). Princess Margaret enjoyed wearing her jewels during formal functions, but also enjoying have “fun” with her pieces, as seen in this photograph taken by her husband, Lord Snowdon. Much like other pieces of his mother’s jewelry collection, Lord Linley also sold this iconic piece; it fetched almost one and three quarter million dollars.
In 1947 to mark her 21st birthday, Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II) received a gift of 21 loose diamonds from the Government of South Africa. She used these, along with smaller diamonds, in a diamond necklace. Also in 1947, she received a six-carat brilliant-cut diamond from DeBeers. In 1952, the necklace was shortened and a bracelet was created from the removed stones with the six-carat stone added. The Queen has often referred to these diamonds as “My best diamonds.”
Princess Elizabeth received many exquisite and beautiful wedding gifts. One such gift was a pink diamond from a mine in Tanzania owned by the geologist, Dr. John Williamson. This pink diamond, weighing 23.6 carats, is the finest pink diamond in existence. Dr. Williamson gave it to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present. In 1952 it was set in the center of a very impressive diamond flower brooch designed by Cartier.
Each branch of the British Royal Family has historic and personal pieces of diamond jewelry that have been passed down through generations. Many pieces have found their way to collections throughout Europe by way of marriages between the different monarchies and have been part of marriage contracts and promises of betrothal, symbolizing both power and love. Royal jewelry invariably contains diamonds, and they are naturally viewed as symbolic of strength and continuity, which is how Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is viewed in the United Kingdom as she celebrates her 85th birthday on April 21 of this year and her Diamond Jubilee Year in 2012.
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