29 May 2014

The Top Ten: Royal Emeralds

As the month of May draws to a close, we'd be remiss not to discuss the birthstone of all of the May babies out there: the emerald. In various cultures, emeralds were thought to bring great happiness to the wearer, especially to new married couples; they were also supposed to protect you from various diseases and even act as an antidote to poisons! (Don't try that one at home.)

Today, emeralds are one of the most desirable precious gemstones out there, and nearly every royal collection has at least one major emerald piece. Here's my top ten list of royal emerald jewelry. Feel free to offer your own list in the comments!

10. The Greek Emeralds: Originally from Russia, these cabochon emeralds came to Greece with Olga Constantinovna, wife of King George I. They have been set and reset various times; the current parure dates to the era of Queen Elisabeth (whose initial can be seen in the design of the tiara). Today, they're worn by the former Greek queen, Anne-Marie (pictured above).

[via Wikimedia Commons]

9. The Seven Emerald Tiara: Part of the state jewels of Iran, this tiara features seven large cabochon emeralds. It was made in 1958 by Harry Winston for the last empress of Iran, Farah Diba. The jewels were retained by the state after the revolution, and today they are on display to the public in Tehran.

8. The Norwegian Emeralds: One of the many sets of jewelry once owned by Queen Josefina of Sweden (granddaughter of Josephine de Beauharnais), these emeralds nearly saved a future king. Princess Ingeborg of Sweden gave them to her daughter, Crown Princess Martha of Sweden, on the eve of World War II, so that Martha could sell them if she and her children faced problems in exile. Today, the emeralds are worn by Queen Sonja (pictured above).

[via Wikimedia Commons]

7. Grand Duchess Ella's Emerald Kokoshnik: This tiara, featuring a geometric design studded with cabochon emeralds, was a wedding gift to Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna in 1884. Eventually sold by the Romanovs after the revolution, it was purchased by the Yugoslavian royals. Queen Maria of Yugoslavia (pictured above) wore it for years before selling it to Van Cleef & Arpels, who removed the emeralds.

6. The Chaumet Emerald Tiara: Often derided for its resemblance to a superheroine's headpiece, this tiara from the grand ducal family of Luxembourg's collection dates to the art deco period. Chaumet set a single, enormous cabochon emerald amid diamond designs. The piece is worn today by Grand Duchess Maria Teresa (pictured above).

5. The Swedish Emeralds: Among the vast jewelry holdings of the Swedish royal family is a demi-parure of emeralds (with a necklace and two brooches, but no tiara). The necklace from the set was originally worn as a belt by the first king from the Bernadotte dynasty, Carl XIV Johan of Sweden; it was later shortened. The emeralds reside in the family's jewel foundation, and they're often paired with one of the all-diamond tiaras from the royal collection. Crown Princess Victoria (pictured above) wore them at the Nobel ceremony in 2012.

4. The Danish Emeralds: Part of the nation's crown jewels, the Danish emerald parure is on display at Rosenborg Castle -- unless Queen Margrethe II (pictured above) decides to wear it. The parure was made in 1840, but the emeralds have been in the family for at least a century longer. This set is one that can only be worn by queens or queens consort.

3. Queen Mary's Art Deco Emerald Choker: Famous for its "Disco Di" appearance as a headband in 1985 (pictured above), this choker was originally part of the extensive Delhi Durbar parure. In 1981, the Queen gave this to the new Princess of Wales as a part of her wedding presents. Queen Mary wore it as a choker necklace, and most of the time, Princess Diana did, too -- even after her divorce. It was returned to the palace vaults after her death in 1997. And technically, this necklace is also a part of...

2. The Cambridge Emeralds: Won by the Duchess of Cambridge (Queen Mary's grandmother) in a charity lottery in the nineteenth-century, this cache of emeralds nearly left royal hands altogether when Queen Mary's brother bequeathed them to his mistress. Mary reacquired them and made them the workhorses of her collection, setting them in the Delhi Durbar parure and using them to create an alternate setting for the Vladimir Tiara (pictured above).

[via Wikimedia Commons]

1. The Duchess of Angoulême's Emerald Tiara: Housed today in the Louvre, this diamond and emerald tiara was made ca. 1820 by Bapst for Princess Marie Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême. She was the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and she was queen of France herself -- for roughly twenty minutes. The tiara was worn by Empress Eugenie, and then was sold when the country auctioned off all of its crown jewels. It only returned to France in the twenty-first century, but now you can see up close and in person (as in the display pictured above).