20 January 2014

Birthday Jewels: The Countess of Wessex

The Earl and Countess of Wessex at Trooping the Colour, June 2013 [1]
Happy birthday to one of the most dependable and lovely members of the British royal family, the Countess of Wessex! It's tough to believe that Sophie turns 49 today -- she somehow seems to look younger with each passing year. (Someone should check the attic at Bagshot Park for a portrait, perhaps?) To celebrate Sophie's big day, let's have a look at some of her more affordable jewels: the earrings she wears from Heavenly Necklaces.

Founded in the early 1990s by Belinda Hadden, Heavenly Necklaces specializes in costume jewelry (though they also make pieces with genuine semi-precious stones). You might be surprised that a senior royal like Sophie, who has some major precious jewelry of her own and also often borrows pieces from her mother-in-law's stupendous collection, would wear costume pieces. But more and more, royals are mixing precious jewels with less expensive pieces. This has been true for years -- Diana, Princess of Wales often wore both heirloom and faux jewelry. And there's a long history of wealthy women ordering costume replicas of their most valuable jewels; some would even wear replica pieces in public, while keeping the real things locked securely away in safes and bank vaults, far from sticky-fingered thieves.

Left: Sophie wears the Non-Drop Drop earrings [2];
Right: the earrings pictured on the HN website [3]
Many of Sophie's pairs of earrings come from the Heavenly Necklaces collection. At Trooping the Colour last June, she sported a pair of Hadden's "Non-Drop Drops," which the website advertises as their third best-selling earrings. They feature a small cubic zirconia stud with a larger circle of cubic zirconias suspended from it. Trooping the Colour is one of the most visible occasions of the year for members of the royal family, and Sophie wore the earrings during both a carriage procession down the Mall and on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony. Sophie also wore the earrings at a Buckingham Palace reception last fall in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who [4]. Sophie has a number of other earrings from the company, including their "Cannes-deliers," which feature teardrop-shaped cubic zirconias in an articulated pattern [5], and their snowflake earrings, which she wore on an outing at Royal Ascot with her husband and daughter in December [6]. She's also been photographed in their solitaire drop earrings -- she's definitely a dedicated customer!

Left: Kate wears the Pearl and Diamond earrings [7];
Right: the earrings pictured on the HN website [8]
Both Sophie and her nephew's wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, have purchased inexpensive jewels from Hadden's company. In fact, they both own a pair of one of the firm's most famous pieces: their pearl and diamond drop earrings. These baubles gained public attention when Kate wore them at one of the biggest royal events of 2012: the thanksgiving service at St. Paul's Cathedral for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. After Kate wore the £58 earrings on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, Hadden was inundated with orders. These earrings, which Sophie also wears quite frequently, are perhaps now the most famous item that Heavenly Necklaces makes, so much so that they even garnered a mention in the publication accompanying the "Pearls" exhibition currently on at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I love precious, rare, heirloom royal jewels as much as the next person (honestly, probably way more than the next person, really), but I also find the use of costume jewelry refreshing. Sometimes it's nice to salivate over a piece of jewelry, only to discover that you can afford to purchase it for your own collection. If you'd like to see more of these Heavenly Necklaces pieces in action, I'd highly recommend visiting Anna's sites, My Small Obsessions and HRH Countess of Wessex. She's the resident expert on Sophie's jewels on the 'net today, and she also has a small collection of Heavenly Necklaces pieces of her own. Now, if you'll excuse me, I just need to go decide which of their pieces I need to add to my own jewelry box...

1. Cropped version of photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
2. Cropped version of photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
3. Cropped version of photograph available at the Heavenly Necklaces website.
4. See photographs here at the Mail Online website.
5. See Anna's My Small Obsessions facebook page for photos.
6. See photographs here at the Hello! website.
7. Cropped version of photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
8. Cropped version of photograph available at the Heavenly Necklaces website.