07 May 2014

Queen Mary's Love Trophy Collar

May (when Princess of Wales), ca. 1905, wearing the Love Trophy Collar [1]
In our inaugural month of May here at the Court Jeweller, was there any other possible choice for Magpie of the Month than "May" herself, Queen Mary? Born in May, Victoria Mary of Teck was the queen consort of King George V of the United Kingdom, and she was one of the most innovative jewelry collectors and wearers of her era.

The daughter of a German duke and a British princess, the wife of a king, and the mother of two more kings, Queen Mary is also the grandmother of Britain's reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. May's jewel collection is legendary, and this month I'm going to be spotlighting some of the rarer pieces from her jewel box. First up: one of her most elaborate choker necklaces, the Love Trophy Collar.

The necklace was made by Garrard in 1901 using diamonds taken from pieces of jewelry owned by May's grandmother (Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, later the Duchess of Cambridge) and her aunt (Princess Augusta of Cambridge, later the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz). Those gemstones were set in gold in a necklace that Hugh Roberts describes as a "delicately constructed collar, in the Louis XVI style." In the photograph above, the collar is the top necklace of the two she wears. (She's also apparently wearing the dress she wore for the coronation of her parents-in-law in 1902; however, this photograph was taken in 1905. She wore different jewels for that coronation, including the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and a different choker necklace.)

Queen Mary wearing the necklace [2]
This particular choker is made up of a series of rectangular panels linked together by vertical rows of diamonds. Each "panel" of the Love Trophy necklace features a specific set of symbolic design elements; you can see one panel head-on in the detail of the photograph above. The center of the panels features an "amatory trophy" (hence the name of the piece): a burning torch and a quiver of arrows crossed with an archer's bow, with clear references to Cupid, the god of love. This "love trophy" is surrounded by a wreath of laurel and suspended from a diamond ribbon tied in a bow.

Roberts notes that necklaces like this choker fell out of fashion rather quickly after May had it made. She passed the necklace along to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), while Elizabeth was still the Duchess of York. Even so, Elizabeth never wore the piece much, and I've never seen a photograph of her wearing it in public at all. In 2002, the necklace was inherited by the current Queen, but she hasn't worn it in public yet either. (And, given her taste in jewelry, I'd be surprised if she ever does.)

It's sort of a cliche these days to imagine how heirloom royal jewelry would look on the most popular young royal lady out there, the current Duchess of Cambridge, but I really think she might be the one most likely to pull this piece off. She's tall, she has a long neck, and she favors unfussy fashions that would not compete for the spotlight with an elaborate necklace like this. The Queen has shown that she's willing to let her granddaughter-in-law wear important pieces of royal jewelry out and about (think of her appearances in the Papyrus Tiara and the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace). Perhaps the Love Trophy Collar might reappear someday soon on her, too?

1. Photograph in the public domain due to age; source here. The web source dates the image to 1902; however, Hugh Roberts dates a photograph from the same sitting to 1905 in The Queen's Diamonds.
2. Cropped version of a photograph in the public domain due to age; source here.