13 January 2014

Margaret of Connaught's Scarab Necklace

Crown Princess Margareta and two of her children [1]
One of the more unusual pieces of jewelry in Margaret of Connaught's collection has to be her scarab necklace. The piece is a five-stranded pearl necklace; each strand of pearls features a bejeweled "scarab" at its central point, forming a vertical line of scarab elements against the sternum of the wearer.

The picture postcard above, which features Margaret with two of her sons, is one of the only photographs I've seen of the crown princess wearing the necklace. As you can see in the color photograph on Ursula's website, the scarab elements are made of emerald, ruby, and sapphire cabochon stones topped with diamond "M" shapes. Ursula notes that the necklace was made by Koch, the court jeweller based in Frankfurt, in 1905 [2]. The date suggests that the necklace may have been among Margaret's wedding gifts, although it is not included on the list of her wedding gifts published by the Times [3]; Artemisia states that it was a gift to Margaret from her new parents-in-law, Gustav V of Sweden and Victoria of Baden [4].

The other reason to assume that this unusual necklace was a wedding present is its sentimental design. The scarab is a traditional Egyptian symbol, and it was in Cairo that Princess Margaret of Connaught met her future husband, Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden. He even proposed in Egypt, during at a dinner at the British consulate. A necklace featuring beetles that were sacred to ancient Egyptians would therefore have been a rather romantic gift for the princess.

After Margaret's untimely death, her jewels were divided among her children. The scarab necklace was inherited by her fourth child, Prince Bertil. His wife, Princess Lilian, was frequently seen in the scarab necklace at white-tie events in Sweden, including the annual Nobel Prize ceremonies [5]. The two married late in life (because of complicated problems with her previous divorce and his duty to remain in the line of succession) and had no children of their own, so Lilian's important jewels were left to other members of the Swedish royal family. Historian Trond NorĂ©n Isaksen notes that Lilian left "a rather unusual necklace of five row of pearls adorned with large rubies, emeralds and sapphires as centre stones" to Queen Silvia [6]. The queen has yet to wear the necklace, but I look forward to seeing her bring this Swedish heirloom jewel out in public again soon!

1. Detail of Swedish picture postcard featuring Margaret and two of her sons (I believe they're the two eldest, Prince Gustaf Adolf and Prince Sigvard, which would date the photo to ca. 1909); source here.
2. Read more at Ursula's website.
See a full list of Margaret's wedding gifts, published in The Timeshere at the RJWMB.
4. See Artemisia's website.
5. See the late princess wearing the scarab necklace here.
6. See Isaksen's blog.