30 September 2014

Review: Royal Content on Next Issue

I'll be the first to admit it: I'm a magazine junkie. I love few things more than grabbing the latest glossy issue, curling up in my comfiest chair, and having a read. You can probably also guess that I'm drawn to magazines that feature royal content, especially ones that have big photos of the glamorous jewels they wear. So, when Klout, a website that measures the influence of social media users, gave me the chance to test-drive Next Issue, an app that allows you unlimited access to more than a hundred magazines for a monthly fee, of course I jumped at it.

The first thing I did after downloading the Next Issue app to my iPad was to try to see how many magazines were available that included royal content. Currently, Next Issue is only available to readers in the US and Canada, so the selection of magazines are from those two countries. I immediately scouted out my usual grocery-store-checkout buys -- People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, W Magazine, and Us Weekly -- and added those to my selection of magazines. None of these American magazines focuses exclusively on royal content, but nearly all of them cover royalty, especially the Duchess of Cambridge and the rest of the British royal family, on a regular basis. So far, so good!

29 September 2014

Jewel Detective: Michiko of Japan

Can you identify the jewels worn here by Michiko Shoda, now the Empress of Japan, on her wedding day in 1959? (PS: Here's a link to a color photograph that may help in your detective work!)

28 September 2014

Sunday Sparkler: The Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Turquoise Tiara

When you hear of princess and princesses of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, one very famous member of the family, Prince Albert, may be the first who springs to mind. But although the consort of Queen Victoria may be the most recognized member of the family, there are members of the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha today in Bulgaria, in Belgium, in Sweden, and in their native Germany. Today, let’s have a look at the family’s heirloom turquoise and diamond tiara.

Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany

The current members of the German branch of the SCGs are descended from Albert and Victoria’s fourth son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. Leopold’s descendants ended up with the SCG dukedom that had belonged to Prince Albert’s brother, Ernst. Albert’s eldest son, Edward VII, renounced his rights to the title; his second son, the Duke of Edinburgh, inherited the title but then died without a surviving male heir; his third son, the Duke of Connaught, also renounced his rights; and Leopold died long before he could have inherited the title.

27 September 2014

In Memoriam: The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

This week, the Duke of Devonshire announced the death of his mother, Deborah, at the age of 94. Born the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was the chatelaine of Chatsworth House, one of the grandest estates in England, for more than half a century. As you can imagine, the job came with the opportunity to wear some impressive heirloom jewels. Here's a look at some of the jewelry worn by Debo during her lifetime.

Banquet held by the Royal Society of St. George, 1954

26 September 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: September 19-25

September 19-25, 2014

With royals from around the world descending on North America this week, we've got plenty of royal jewelry to discuss. Enjoy!

10. On Monday, American-born Queen Noor of Jordan attended the UN Equator Prize Gala at Lincoln Center, wearing turquoise earrings, a geometric necklace, and a pair of gorgeous bracelets.

25 September 2014

Queen Paola and the Nine Provinces Tiara

To round out our celebrations of the jewelry worn by Queen Paola of Belgium, we're having a look at a tiara that she wore during the reign of her husband, King Albert II. The grandest jewel in the Belgian royal collection is the Nine Provinces Tiara, a sparkler designated for the use of the nation's queens and queens consort.

The tiara was originally worn by Queen Astrid; she's wearing the full version of the flexible, adaptable tiara in the portrait above. (You can find a bit more about the tiara's provenance and history here!) Today, the tiara is worn by Paola's daughter-in-law, Queen Mathilde of the Belgians, but Paola wore the piece as a tiara and as a necklace during her twenty years as the Belgian queen. Here's a look at some of the ways that Paola wore the tiara.

24 September 2014

Greek Golden Wedding Jewels

In last week's royal jewel news post, I referred to the golden wedding anniversary reception held for Constantine and Anne-Marie, the former king and queen of Greece, at the yacht club in Athens. Here's a better look at the jewels worn by the couple and their royal guests at the celebration!

Queen Anne-Marie and King Constantine of Greece

23 September 2014

The Top Ten: Royal Sapphires

In my humble, jewel-loving opinion, September babies snagged one of the best birthstones around: the gorgeous sapphire. Sapphires come in many shades, but the beautiful traditional deep blue color is easily the most recognizable. Here are my picks for the top ten royal sapphires -- be sure to weigh in with your lists in the comments below!

10. Princess Caroline's Sapphires

When Princess Caroline of Monaco attended the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 2004, all eyes were on her tiara, an heirloom from the collection of her husband, the Prince of Hanover. But she also wore a set of Monegasque heirlooms that day: the cabochon sapphire and diamond demi-parure from the collection of her grandmother, Princess Charlotte. Charlotte wore the set, which was made by Cartier, at the wedding of Caroline's parents, Rainier and Grace, in 1956. Caroline has been wearing the demi-parure -- which includes a necklace, earrings, and a pair of brooches -- since the 1970s.

22 September 2014

Tiara Timeline: The Khedive of Egypt Tiara

Today I'm debuting a brand-new post series on the blog: Tiara Timelines, which follow the journey of various sparklers through royal families over their history. Our first tiara is one with a rich backstory and a romantic royal role: the Khedive of Egypt Tiara, a wedding gift that has become an official bridal diadem.

Wedding of Gustaf Adolf of Sweden and Margaret of Connaught, 1905

1905: Abbas II, the last Khedive of Egypt, commissions Cartier to make a wedding present for Princess Margaret of Connaught, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The gift is important not only because Abbas essentially rules the country under the imperial control of the British (and so he needs to give a British princess a good gift) but also because Margaret met and fell in love with her groom, Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, during a trip to Cairo.

21 September 2014

Jewel Detective: Nobel Prize Ceremony 2004

Can you identify the jewels that appear on Queen Silvia, Princess Lilian, and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in this photograph, taken just before the Nobel Prize Ceremony on December 10, 2004?

20 September 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara

Some tiaras are made of gold, some of silver, some of platinum. But regardless of the material, they all generally have one thing in common: they're set with sparkling precious gems. Today's tiara, however, is a horse of a different color: a tiara made of a different metal -- steel, to be precise -- that has not a single gem set in its frame. And yet, thanks to its innovative design, it manages to sparkle with the best of them.

Crown Princess Victoria, Nobel Ceremony 2004

The tiara, which belongs to the Swedish royal family, is generally called the "Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara." As the name suggests, this is a tiara with links to the court of Napoleon Bonaparte. But this sparkler didn’t belong to Empress Joséphine or Empress Marie Louise; instead, it’s said to have been made for Joséphine's daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais.

19 September 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: September 12-18

September 12-18, 2014

A golden wedding and two tours of Canada are only some of our glittering stories this week. Enjoy!

10. Marie-Chantal of Greece, who celebrated her birthday this week, hobnobbed with the sartorial elite at London Fashion Week, where she wore eye-catching green earrings and a cuff bracelet to a party.

18 September 2014

Royal Jewel Rewind: The Greek Royal Wedding (1964)

These days, we're used to royal weddings with a Cinderella angle: a prince or princess selects a commoner as a spouse, vaulting a person from a normal background into a world of crowns, thrones, and glamour. But in 1964, a royal wedding took place in Greece that hearkened back to the old dynastic world of royal marriages. Fifty years ago today, the newly-ascended King Constantine II of the Hellenes gave his country a new queen when he married his third cousin, Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark. As you can imagine, this was one seriously glittering affair.

Constantine was twenty-three; he's the only son of King Paul of the Hellenes and Princess Friederike of Hanover. His sisters are Sofia, who had married the future king of Spain two years earlier, and Irene, a Greek princess who is also a classically-trained pianist. Anne-Marie, the daughter of King Frederik IX of Denmark and Princess Ingrid of Sweden, had just turned eighteen. She was the youngest of a trio of Danish princesses; her sisters are Margrethe (now the Queen of Denmark) and Benedikte (now the Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg). Constantine and Anne-Marie are both descendants of two of the most important dynastic monarchs of the nineteenth century: Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and King Christian IX of Denmark.

17 September 2014

Prinsjesdag Jewels

Yesterday was the annual state opening of parliament in the Netherlands, an occasion called Prinsjesdag by the Dutch. (My translation tools tell me that Prinsjesdag roughly means "Budget Day," which does make some sense in the context of a parliamentary opening. Dutch readers, please offer any corrections!)

For those of us who aren't Dutch, Prinsjesdag is notable as one of the glittering days on the Dutch royal calendar. The dress code is a bit peculiar: men, including the king, wear morning dress, and women wear long gowns and orders, as they would for an evening white-tie event, but with hats instead of tiaras.

16 September 2014

Jewel Detective: Friederike of Hanover

Can you identify the jewels worn by Queen Friederike of the Hellenes (born Princess Friederike of Hanover), pictured here with her husband, King Paul, and their elder daughter, Princess Sophia (who would later become Queen Sofia of Spain)?

15 September 2014

Queen Paola's Half-Moon Earrings

Time again for another peep into the jewelry box of our Magpie of the Month, everyone! Today we're focusing on a pair of earrings that have been a part of Queen Paola's jewelry collection for years: her "half-moon" diamond and pearl studs.

Unlike most European queens, the royal consorts of Belgium have had relatively little jewelry at their disposal during their spouse's reigns. Because a queen consort isn't going to immediately receive a cache of jewels to wear at state functions, it's important that their personal jewels help to pull the weight of white-tie dress codes. Versatile pieces are key, and these earrings, combining pearls and diamonds, fit the bill.

14 September 2014

Royal Wedding Jewels: Maria Theresia of Thurn and Taxis

Get excited, everyone: it's time to review the bridal garb of another just-married princess! On Saturday, Maria Theresia of Thurn and Taxis, a member of a German princely family, married British artist Hugo Wilson in Bavaria. Let's have a gander at the jewels, shall we?

Although the Thurn and Taxis family sold off many of their most spectacular royal jewels after the death of Maria Theresia's father, Prince Johannes, the family does still have some baubles in the vaults. But the bride chose not to attempt any of the skyscraper tiaras from the family's collection, instead wearing a rather delicate floral headband.

13 September 2014

Saturday Sparkler: Empress Eugénie's Pearl Tiara

Eugénie's pearl tiara on display in the Louvre (source)

Today in Germany, Princess Maria Theresia of Thurn and Taxis will marry Hugo Wilson, a British painter. The Thurn and Taxis princely family has a long history in Europe, but they gained global attention in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to the extravagant antics of Maria Theresia's parents, Prince Johannes and Princess Gloria. To celebrate today's princely wedding, let's have a look at the tiara worn at the last big TnT wedding: the pearl tiara of Empress Eugénie of France.

Eugénie de Montijo

This tiara, like so many others, was originally a wedding gift. It was given in 1853 to the last empress of France, the Spanish-born Eugénie de Montijo, by her husband, Emperor Napoleon III. The piece was a new one, made by Alexandre-Gabriel Lemonnier, but the jeweler had gems with pedigree at his disposal. Stones that had once been worn by Empress Marie Louise (the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte), and the Duchess of Angoulême (the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette) were used to create the new tiara. All in all, there are more than two hundred pearls and nearly two thousand diamonds in this sparkler, which is made of silver.

12 September 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: September 5-11

September 5-11, 2014

The royals are back in full swing this week, making visits, attending seminars, and hosting audiences. All of these events gave the ladies a chance to show off their jewels. Which look of the week is your favorite?

10. One queen contemplated another as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark viewed a bust of Queen Nefertiti of Europe during a visit to Berlin on Wednesday. Margrethe chose a whimsical pair of golden earrings with colored center stones and a turtle-shaped brooch for the event, but let's be honest, who can out-jewel an ancient Egyptian queen?

11 September 2014

Queen Paola's Diamond Necklace Tiara

Happy birthday to our Magpie of the Month, Queen Paola of Belgium! Paola was born into a family of Italian aristocrats in 1937, and although she married a Belgian prince, she was never expected to become queen consort herself. As the wife of a younger son, the jewelry she received at the beginning of her marriage was more modest -- and it actually remained that way throughout her life as a princess and as a queen. Today, we're talking about one of the lovely small diamond pieces that she owns: the necklace that can also be worn as a tiara.

Paola has been wearing the piece as a necklace and as a tiara since the early years of her marriage. There's speculation that she was given the necklace either as a wedding present in 1959 (possibly by her new husband?) or as a gift in honor of the birth of her first child, King Philippe, the following year. It's essentially comprised of two rows of diamonds -- a chain from which a row of tiny drops are suspended -- and a slim pendant piece.

10 September 2014

The Order of Saints Olga and Sophia

Fifty years ago this month, all eyes were on Athens. The newly-enthroned King Constantine II of the Hellenes was preparing to marry his eighteen-year-old fiancee (and third cousin), Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark. But although the couple's marriage has been enduring, their reign was not. The Greek monarchy was abolished in 1973, ending Constantine's nine-year kingship. But in exile, Constantine has continued to use his royal title and act as the head of the Greek royal family. He's even continued to award a pair of chivalric orders: the Order of Saints George and Constantine and the Order of Saints Olga and Sophia, worn above by his daughter-in-law, Marie-Chantal.

A number of royal ladies, including Queen Ena of Spain and Queen Ingrid of Denmark, wear the order at the wedding of Juan Carlos and Sofia, 1962

Both orders were created in January 1936 by King George II to commemorate members of the Greek royal family. The Order of Saints George and Constantine, which was only awarded to men, was instituted in memory of King George I (the king's grandfather) and King Constantine I (the king's father). But today, we're going to focus on the corresponding order given to women, the Order of Saints Olga and Sophia. This order was created in memory of Queen Olga (the king's grandmother) and Queen Sophie (the king's mother).

09 September 2014

The Braemar Feather Brooch

If you've followed the schedule and engagements of Queen Elizabeth II for a number of years, you'll know that she's a royal lady who likes a routine. Like clockwork, her court travels around the kingdom, from Sandringham at Christmas to Windsor at Easter and Balmoral in the late summer. She also likes regularity in her clothing and jewels. Remarkably, the brooch we're discussing today has been worn at the same event every September for more than a decade!

Braemar Highland Games, 1953

In 2002, the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the Braemar Royal Highland Society presented Elizabeth with a brooch to commemorate her fifty years on the throne. The Queen has been a reliable presence at the society's annual Braemar Gathering for her entire reign; above, you can see her attending the Highland Games at Braemar with the Queen Mother and the Duke of Edinburgh in September 1953.

08 September 2014

Redesign It: Camilla's Ruby Necklace

One of the grandest pieces that the Duchess of Cornwall has received since joining the royal family is this enormous ruby and diamond necklace, generally thought to have been a gift from a Saudi royal. The necklace doesn't belong to Camilla personally; as an official gift, it will eventually go to the Royal Collection, but she has the use of it during her lifetime. But if you had the chance to reimagine this enormous and difficult-to-wear piece, how would you change it?

07 September 2014

Jewel Detective: Anne-Marie of Greece

Can you identify the jewels worn by Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, born Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam in March 1966?

06 September 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara

This week, lots of news organizations have published stories about the closing of the Diana: A Celebration exhibition, which has appeared in venues all over the world for the past several years. Now that the traveling exhibit is no longer traveling, the objects and items displayed are returning to their rightful owners. That includes two tiaras: the Spencer tiara worn by Diana on her wedding day in 1981, and the tiara that visitors encountered immediately on entering the Diana exhibit: the Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara.

The Honeysuckle is actually the older of the two major Spencer tiaras. It’s been in the family since the nineteenth century. Most seem to think that the first owner of the piece was Charlotte, the wife of John Poyntz Spencer, the 5th earl. If sources that say that Charlotte received it as a wedding gift are correct, that would mean that it has been in the Spencer collection since at least 1858.

05 September 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: August 29-September 4

August 29-September 4, 2014

We're back in business with our weekly roundup of the most glittering royal jewels on display, everyone! Enjoy!

10. The always-elegant Crown Princess Mary of Denmark chose an eye-catching bracelet to award the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award to Salman Rushdie on August 17.

04 September 2014

Secrets of Britain's Royal Jewels

Writing this blog involves a lot of research and reading. Many of the tidbits I learn along the way make it into various blog posts, while some anecdotes are tucked away for later use. Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite "secrets" of jewels owned by British royals. Feel free to add your own favorite stories in the comments below!

Queen Alexandra's Accidental Trend

When she was Princess of Wales, Queen Alexandra was one of the most fashionable ladies in all of British society, and everything she wore was quickly emulated and copied. She unwittingly started a trend for wearing choker necklaces; she actually wore the chokers to cover a scar on her neck.

03 September 2014

Jewel History: Find Crown Jewels of Bohemia Safe (1911)

"Find Crown Jewels of Bohemia Safe"
(originally appeared in the New York Times, 3 Sep 1911)

Carlsbad, Aug. 18 -- Alarming reports have been lately current in Austria that the crown jewels of Bohemia had been stolen from the holy shrine of St. Vitus's Cathedral, Prague. The question was considered whether to open the crown chamber and examine the casket in which the jewels are kept.

This was not an easy task, because the iron door of St. Wenceslaus at Prague, behind which is the chamber in which the jewels are hidden, is protected by seven large steel locks, and each key is in the possession of one of the seven highest dignitaries of the kingdom of Bohemia. One of these keys is kept by the Governor of Bohemia, another by the Archbishop of Prague, a third by the Lord Mayor of Prague.

02 September 2014

Queen Elisabeth's Art Deco Bandeau

It's a new month, which means it's time for us to delve into the collection of a new royal lady! Our Magpie of the Month for September is Queen Paola of Belgium, who will celebrate her birthday next week. Paola began her life as an Italian aristocrat before marrying a Belgian prince and later becoming the country's queen consort. Today we're discussing the tiara that she owns herself: the diamond art deco bandeau that has been worn by generations of Belgian queens.

Astrid wears the tiara in Brussels, ca. 1935

The tiara was made for Queen Elisabeth of Belgium in the early twentieth century. It's relatively small, featuring rectangular diamond elements crossed by diamond laurel wreath. It’s also a convertible tiara — it can be worn as a necklace (a choker, more specifically) and as a bandeau. Elisabeth seemed to prefer some of her other tiaras to this simpler bandeau, and she eventually gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Queen Astrid. Sadly, Astrid didn’t have long to make use of the piece; she died at the age of only 29 in a car accident.

01 September 2014

Review: Tiara (2000)

(image via Amazon.com)

In 2000, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts held one of the great glittering exhibitions of tiaras: "Crowning Glories: Two Centuries of Tiaras." Sponsored by Chaumet, the exhibition included a dazzling array of sparklers, including pieces that were worn by royal and noble ladies. The entire affair was curated by Diana Scarisbrick, a historian noted for her work on jewelry. As a companion piece to the exhibition, the museum also published a book, Tiara, in which Scarisbrick relates many of the stories behind the sparkling pieces included in the show.

Tiara was published by Chronicle Books in 2000, and it's a pretty substantial tome for an exhibition companion. It's more than a catalogue, as Scarisbrick has incorporated a significant amount of text to accompany the pieces that were shown, but it has clear ties to the exhibition itself. The book begins with an essay by Scarisbrick on the historical development of the tiara as an art form. Subsequent chapters form a "gallery," in which the pieces included in the exhibition are arranged according to their creation date.

Featured in the book: Margherita of Savoy's laurel tiara

The gallery spans two hundred years of tiaras, beginning with pieces from the Napoleonic era and moving into contemporary examples. The book also includes a brief description of Chaumet's in-house collection of tiara designs and concludes with a checklist of the pieces included in the exhibition. This last bit is especially helpful for those interested in specific tiaras, as it includes information on the maker of each piece, the materials used, and the ownership of the tiara ca. 2000.