27 August 2014

The Top Ten: Princess Diana's Jewels

This time of year, a somber anniversary echoes in the minds of many royal watchers: that of the untimely and tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Mother of one future king and grandmother of another, Diana's memory still looms large over the royal landscape. But while there are many sad chapters of Diana's story, today I thought it would be much more fun to survey some of the sparklier aspects of her royal life.

Here are my top ten favorite pieces from Diana's royal jewelry box -- be sure to chime in with your own list in the comments below

10. The Swan Lake Necklace

Diana's last official engagement before her death was a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to see Swan Lake. For the performance, she wore a necklace that Garrard had designed with her input. Garrard later added matching earrings (never worn by Diana), also made of diamonds and pearls, to the necklace; the suite was sold after Diana's death to a private collector.

9.  The Qatar Diamond and Pearl Earrings

Diana's collection included a large number of pairs of pearl earrings, but this pair is my favorite: the diamond and pearl drops given to her as a wedding gift by the Emir of Qatar. The stud features a diamond floral motif, with delicate pear-shaped pearls suspended from a chain of diamonds.

8. The Sultan of Oman Sapphire Suite

One of two major sets of sapphire jewels from Diana's collection, this diamond and sapphire suite was given to her by the Sultan of Oman during the 1986 tour of the Gulf states. The set features a necklace, earrings, and a bracelet, all made in a distinctly modern style.

7. Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara

The most magnificent heirloom jewel worn by Diana during her tenure as Princess of Wales was the lover's knot tiara made in 1913 for Queen Mary. It was a copy of a tiara owned by Mary's family, the Cambridges. The Queen presented the tiara to Diana shortly before the royal wedding in 1981; today, the tiara is back in the Windsor vaults.

6.  The Diamond Pendant Necklace

Diana regularly wore a simple diamond necklace that could take various pendant pieces. The diamond necklace was a part of the larger jewelry gift she received from the Saudi crown prince on her wedding; the large sapphire and diamond pendant that she often wore with the necklace also came with the Saudi suite. Diana often swapped out the sapphire for a diamond pendant with a Prince of Wales feather motif that reportedly once belonged to Queen Alexandra; that pendant was apparently an engagement gift from the Queen Mother. The Prince of Wales feather pendant could also be worn with a detachable emerald drop.

5. The Queen Mother's Sapphire Brooch

The Queen Mum had more gifts in store for Diana; for her wedding, she gave her new granddaughter-in-law a large oval sapphire and diamond brooch. In the early years of her marriage, Diana wore the piece as a brooch, but she quickly had it converted into the clasp of a seven-strand pearl choker. This was one of the large pieces of jewelry that Diana continued to wear even after her separation and divorce.

4. The Delhi Durbar Emerald Choker

The lover's knot tiara wasn't the only piece of Queen Mary's jewelry that Diana wore. She was also frequently spotted wearing the art deco diamond and emerald choker from the Delhi Durbar parure. Along with wearing this as a traditional choker necklace, Diana also famously used it as a headband.

3. The Saudi Sapphire Suite

The set of faceted sapphire and diamond jewelry given to Diana as a wedding present by the Saudi crown prince was extensive: it originally included the diamond necklace mentioned above, with its sapphire and diamond pendant, plus earrings, a bracelet, a ring, and a watch. Diana innovated with this set of jewels, transforming the watch and ring into a choker (again, more famously worn as a headband) and another necklace.

2. The Spencer Tiara

While this tiara never belonged to Diana -- it's a Spencer family piece, owned by the earl -- it's the tiara that is easily most associated with her. She wore the diamond floral sparkler on her wedding day and on many occasions afterward.

1. The Sapphire and Diamond Engagement Ring

Of all of Diana's glittering jewels, the one you'll see in public most often these days is her sapphire and diamond engagement ring. Made by Garrard, the ring features a large faceted sapphire surrounded by diamonds. In 2011, Diana's elder son, the Duke of Cambridge, gave the ring to his future bride, Kate Middleton. He noted during their engagement interview that giving Kate the ring was his way of ensuring that his "mother didn’t miss out" on such an important occasion in his life.