30 November 2014

Jewel Detective: Margherita of Savoy

Can you identify the jewels worn here by Margherita of Savoy (1851-1926), the wife of King Umberto I of Italy?

29 November 2014

Saturday Sparkler: Princess Mary's Diamond Scroll Tiara

During her lifetime, Princess Mary — daughter of George V and aunt of the current queen — had several tiaras at her disposal. One of the most often-discussed of these is Mary's sapphire and diamond coronet (the one designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria), but today, let’s discuss a second: her convertible sapphire and diamond scroll tiara.

Mary wears the tiara, ca. 1922

When I use the word “convertible” to refer to a tiara, I generally mean that it can be worn in more than one configuration. This tiara qualifies, but not because it can be worn as a bracelet or a necklace; instead, its central element can be swapped out to create a different look. The diamond tiara, which features scroll and palmette motifs, can be worn either with a vaguely floral, oval-shaped diamond element in its center or with a large oval-shaped sapphire.

28 November 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: November 21-27

November 21-27, 2014

We're officially in the holiday season now, and it's time to marvel at the lovely jewels worn by royals this week!

10. On Tuesday, the Duchess of Cornwall visited Birmingham University's School of Jewellery. She kept her own jewels simple -- pearl earrings and a few bracelets -- but the visit provided a glimpse into the work of Britain's up-and-coming jewel designers.

27 November 2014

On the Block: Bunny Mellon's Jewels

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here in the US, I'm spending the day in traditional style, watching parades and eating way too much food. To mark this American holiday, today I've brought you some links to content about the jewels from a major American collector: the late Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Enjoy!

I wish Santa could bring me Bunny's diamond riviere for Christmas. What pieces from the sale are you wowed by?

26 November 2014

Jewel History: Ex-Sultan's Jewels on View in Paris (1911)

"Ex-Sultan's Jewels on View in Paris"
(originally appeared in the New York Times on 26 Nov 1911)

Abdul Hamid's [1] remarkable collection of jewels, which will be sold at auction, beginning Monday, is on exhibition this afternoon in the Galerie Georges Petit for the benefit of a privileged few.

The sale, which has been entrusted by the Young Turk Government to the Paris jeweler Robert Lingeler, has attracted the attention of amateurs and dealers all over the world. The principal American, English, and German firms have sent special representatives to attend it.

Abdul Hamid II in Constantinople, ca. 1901

The experts who viewed the collection this afternoon unanimously agree that several million dollars will be realized, but none of them is ready to give an approximate estimate, as there is a general belief that amateurs and souvenir hunters are likely to compete with professionals and send prices up beyond the intrinsic value of the jewels. The sale coming at this moment, when Turkey is in the throes of war, it was thought that the Turkish government intended to employ the proceeds toward keeping up its army. It is, however, officially stated that the money will be invested in new battleships and the general improvement of the navy.

25 November 2014

Reader Mailbag: Royal Family Orders

Elizabeth II wears the family orders of George V and George VI

Time for another peek into my inbox, magpies! This time our question comes from one of our Canadian readers, Andrea:

I have noticed that both The Queen and Princess Margaret wear the orders of their grandfather George V. Since they were only 10 and 6 when their grandfather passed away, they were obviously given their orders as children. Is this still common practice? Do you know when they first appeared in public wearing their orders?

Detail of Richard Stone's portrait of the Queen Mother (source)

Great question, Andrea! Royal family orders -- those miniature portraits of kings and queens worn on silk ribbons by royal ladies -- are the personal gift of the sovereign. Not every country has them, but you'll see them worn by ladies from a number of royal families, including the Danes, the Swedes, the Norwegians, and the Brits. Because they're a personal gift, the only way to know whether or not a royal lady has been given the family order is to see her wearing it in public.

24 November 2014

Twins in Monaco to Be Welcomed in Style

This weekend, the palace in Monaco released new details about the upcoming births of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene's twins, who are expected to arrive around Christmas. Although Albert noted last week that it's possible the twins may come earlier, here's how we can expect the tiny principality to celebrate the birth of a future sovereign prince or princess regardless of their date of birth.

Cannons, bells, and horns: The births will be marked by cannon fire from Fort Antoine in Monaco-Ville. Forty-two shots will be fired in succession, twenty-one for each of the babies, regardless of the sex of the children. This is a departure from tradition -- in the past, Monegasque princesses have been welcomed with a twenty-one gun salute, while the birth of a male heir was marked with 101 cannon shots. Above, you can view newsreel footage of the 101-gun salute for Prince Albert in 1958. Church bells in Monaco will ring continuously for fifteen minutes, and then -- appropriately for a principality on the sea -- the horns of boats in the harbor will be sounded.

The Bäumer Aigrette Tiara

Although much of the Monegasque princely jewels we're looking at this month are from the collections of Princess Charlotte, Princess Grace, and Princess Caroline, the current Princess of Monaco does have a few pieces of significant jewelry at her disposal. Today, let's chat about the diamond headpiece she wore to her wedding dinner: the Bäumer Aigrette.

Charlene wearing the tiara during a jeweler's fitting (source)

The tiara was made by Lorenz Bäumer in 2011 as a wedding present for the princess from her new husband. (An "aigrette" is a headpiece that resembles feathers; sometimes it's also used to refer to a piece that includes a feather-like spray of gems, like this tiara.) The piece features eleven long, thin stems of diamonds set in white gold with a larger pear-shaped diamond at each tip, forming that characteristic spray that cascades across the wearer’s hair. Some have called this piece the “diamond foam” tiara because of its resemblance to the spray of water droplets that accompany cresting waves.

23 November 2014

Jewel Detective: Sofia of Spain

Can you identify the jewels worn here by Queen Sofia of Spain (born Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark) during the 1988 state visit from the United Kingdom? (Bonus points for identifying the orders and medals worn by Sofia's cousin, the Duke of Edinburgh!)

22 November 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Duchess of Alba's Pearl Tiara

Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba (GIF source)

There are royals, there are nobles, and then there was Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the 18th Duchess of Alba. The duchess died this week at the grand old age of 88. During her lifetime, she might have been more famous for her appearance and her marriages, but she also had more legitimately recognized noble titles than anyone else on earth and a diamond and pearl tiara with a serious pedigree. So there!

Empress Eugénie, previous owner of the pearl tiara

Cayetana’s pearl tiara had an illustrious previous owner: Eugénie, the last Empress of France. Eugénie was born in Spain, the daughter of an aristocratic Spanish family. Her sister María Francisca married Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, the Duke of Alba. (Can you tell that Jacobo had a significant royal connection? That surname means that he was descended from the 1st Duke of Berwick, who was the illegitimate son of James II of England and Arabella Churchill.)

21 November 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: November 14-20

November 14-20, 2014

Tiaras, brooches, and earrings galore this week. Enjoy!

10. For a Place2Be reception at Kensington Palace on Wednesday, the Duchess of Cambridge chose a familiar pair of earrings: her Temple of Heaven girandole pendant earrings by Cassandra Goad.

20 November 2014

Scenes from a Royal Wedding: November 20, 1947

Congratulations from the Royal Horse Guards

Crowds camping along the Mall

Royal Jewel Rewind: Queen Elizabeth II's Wedding Jewelry

Sixty-seven years ago today, Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey in London. Nearly seven decades, four children, eight grandchildren, and four (and a half) great-grandchildren later, the couple are still married and still serving their country as they have for more than half a century. To mark their anniversary, let's look back at the jewelry that the future queen wore on her wedding day, shall we?

Elizabeth debuts her engagement ring and her fiancé, 10 Jul 1947

The Engagement Ring

Elizabeth's engagement ring was made by the jewelry firm of Philip Antrobus in 1947. The platinum ring features a round three-carat brilliant stone flanked by smaller pavé-set diamonds. Elizabeth's future husband was born Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, though he had renounced his Greek titles before their wedding. All of the diamonds in the ring were taken from a tiara that had belonged to his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg.

19 November 2014

Monaco's National Day 2014

Monaco celebrated its 158th National Day today, and the Grimaldis were out in force, including a pregnant princess, two out of three Casiraghis, a gorgeous little blond grandson, and HATS. Enjoy!

The day began, as usual, with a mass celebrated in Monaco's cathedral. The service was attended by Prince Albert, Princess Caroline, and Princess Stephanie, plus the Duke and Duchess of Castro.

Monaco's National Day Gala Jewels

Today is Monaco's National Day, celebrated annually on the anniversary of Prince Rainier III's and Prince Albert II's coronations in 1949 and 2005. The festivities include a fireworks show, a mass, and a gala at the opera in Monte Carlo. The Grimaldi women usually bring out some of their best jewels for the opera gala. As we wait to see what the family wears this evening -- and whether Princess Charlene, pregnant with twins, attends the gala -- let's look back at the jewels worn at the opera over the past fifteen years.

Princess Caroline, Prince Ernst-August of Hanover, and Princess Antoinette, 2000

18 November 2014

Princess Lalla Salma's Gala Jewels

It's been a big week in Morocco. Over the weekend, the royal family gained a new member, as the king's brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, married Oum Kalthoum Boufarès. And today is the country's national holiday, celebrating the nation's independence from Spain and France. To celebrate, we're marveling at the gorgeous jewels worn by Princess Lalla Salma, the wife of the king, at gala events through the years. Enjoy!

At her wedding to King Mohammed VI, 2002

17 November 2014

Royal Citrines and Topazes

Where I live in the United States, November is the season of changing leaves and harvested crops, of vivid scarlets and oranges and yellows. It only seems fitting that this month's birthstone is a gorgeous, vibrant orange color. Whether in the form of citrines or of orange topazes, the gems are unusual and fun. Here's a look at some of the citrines and orange topazes in royal collections today.

Queen Máxima's Citrines

From the early years of her royal marriage, Máxima of the Netherlands has been adding pieces of citrine and diamond jewelry to her collection. It was a particularly appropriate gemstone for the wife of the Prince of Orange and a new member of the House of Orange-Nassau. The engagement ring given by Willem-Alexander to Máxima featured a citrine surrounded by diamonds. In the ensuing years, she has also worn other diamond and citrine jewels, including drop earrings (seen above), bracelets, and an absolutely enormous brooch. (More on the citrines, including pieces worn by other Dutch royal ladies, is available at John's website.)

16 November 2014

Jewel Detective: Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont


Can you identify the jewels worn here by Queen Emma of the Netherlands (née Princess Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont) in 1900?

15 November 2014

Royal Bonus: My #WeekendReads at Next Issue

The lovely people over at Next Issue, my favorite app for reading magazines, asked me to be their Guest Curator this weekend. I genuinely love being able to read my favorite magazines from the US and Canada on this service, especially Hello! Canada and People, which have great royal coverage. As Guest Curator, I've chosen a group of stories that highlight the royal content available through the app -- be sure to hop over to their blog and check it out

(And, FYI: if you'd like to try Next Issue, you can use my referral link to get 60 days free!)

Saturday Sparkler: The Duchess of Braganza's Bandeau

Isabel wears the bandeau, 2004

Members of reigning royal houses aren’t the only people these days who need tiaras. With invitations to weddings, investitures, and other white-tie events showing up in the mailboxes of various pretenders to various thrones, members of former reigning houses need to have a diadem at their disposal as well. Today’s tiara is just such a sparkler: the diamond bandeau tiara worn by the current Duchess of Braganza, the wife of the pretender to the throne of Portugal.

Isabel wears the bandeau, 2011

The word pretender sometimes makes the position of these deposed royals sound more sinister than it actually is. The current Duke of Braganza, Dom Duarte Pio, doesn’t swan about Lisbon, pretending to be the king of Portugal. But if the monarchy were to be restored, he'd be the best candidate, and in Portugal, he actually has a degree of status that is recognized by the government. The president came to his wedding, which was royal in all but name; he also performs some official duties on behalf of the government. The Duke and his wife are also frequently invited to events by currently reigning houses.

14 November 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: November 7-13

November 7-13, 2014

Galas, visits, and diamonds galore this week! Enjoy!

10. During an official introductory visit to Luxembourg on Tuesday, Queen Letizia of Spain demonstrated a bit of jewelry innovation, combining her star-shaped Chanel diamond stud earrings with a shortened version of her diamond and pearl pendant earrings.

13 November 2014

The Order of Merit of the Principality of Liechtenstein

Prince Hans-Adam wears the order, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein became the tiny principality's sovereign prince. To celebrate his silver jubilee, we're dedicating today's post to Liechtenstein's order of chivalry: the Order of Merit of the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Princess Elisabeth "Elsa" of Liechtenstein

The order was founded on July 22, 1937, by Prince Franz I of Liechtenstein. The date was significant: it was his wedding anniversary. Eight years earlier, he had married Elisabeth von Gutmann, an Austrian noblewoman. He'd had to wait until he became sovereign prince to marry her, even though they'd been in love for more than a decade, because his family didn't approve of the marriage. Quite romantic to basically dedicate an entire order of chivalry to your wife, no?

12 November 2014

Princess Grace's Gala Jewels

Today would have been the 85th birthday of Princess Grace of Monaco. Grace, who was an Oscar-winning actress as well as Monaco's princess, died tragically at the age of 52. But in her two decades as a member of the Grimaldi family, she left a sparkling legacy that is still celebrated today. To commemorate her birthday, today's Magpie of the Month post showcases some of her most glittering gala appearances. Which of Grace's jewels are your favorites?

Red Cross Ball, 1956

11 November 2014

Tiara Timeline: The Norwegian Emerald Parure Tiara

Time for another installment of our surveys of tiara history! Enjoy!

Tiara Timeline: The Norwegian Emerald Parure Tiara

1810-1820: The creation date of the tiara and the other pieces of the coordinating parure has never been firmly established. It bears significant stylistic similarities to two diamond and emerald tiaras created in France at the beginning of the nineteenth century: the emerald and diamond tiara made in 1810 for Napoleon's second wife, Empress Marie-Louise, by Nitot (and now set with turquoises, not emeralds), and the diamond and emerald tiara made in 1819-20 by Bapst for the Duchess of Angoulême, who was queen of France for all of twenty minutes. Given the similarities to each of these pieces, it's possible it was made during the same time frame.

1830: Historian Trond Norén Isaksen notes that family tradition says that the emeralds in this tiara were mined in Russia; emeralds weren't discovered in Russia until 1830, so if that's correct, it was actually made in the 1830s, a least a full decade later than the previous examples. Some have posited that the tiara was originally made for Empress Joséphine, Napoleon's first wife, who died in 1814. If the post-1830 creation date is correct, the first owner is more likely Joséphine's daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Leuchtenberg (who was born Princess Augusta of Bavaria). We know for sure that Augusta (pictured above with her first child, Joséphine of Leuchtenberg) acquired the tiara at some point -- we just don't know how or from whom.

10 November 2014

Guest Post: Kelly Lynch on Kate's Best Jewels

This afternoon, I'm bringing you something new and fun here at The Court Jeweller: a guest post! Kelly Lynch, writer at The Duchess Diary, and I are trading places this afternoon. She's showcasing five of her favorite pieces from the Duchess of Cambridge's jewelry box here, and over at The Duchess Diary, I'm chatting about five of my favorite pieces from the Windsor vaults. Hope you all enjoy!

Kelly Lynch on Kate's Best Jewels

The occasions on which we see the Duchess of Cambridge wearing grand pieces on loan from from the Windsor family vault or the royal collection are few and far between, thus making those rare happenings all the more significant.

Just before the royal wedding, I came across a rumor that Catherine wanted to wear flowers in her hair on her wedding rather than a tiara, and I damn near passed out. I myself was horrified by the notion; the Daily Mail summed up my feelings perfectly: “The US, home of Miss Universe and Barbie, will be disappointed if Miss Middleton doesn’t wear a tiara.”

Redesign It: The Swedish Diamond Four-Button Tiara

Crown Princess Victoria wears the tiara, 2004

Of all the sparklers in the vast Bernadotte tiara collection, the family's tiara featuring four diamond buttons is perhaps the least-loved of the bunch. (I'll admit it, I've been rude about this one in the past, too -- I call this one "the Jeep.") If you could make changes to this tiara, which was designed in the twentieth century using antique diamond button elements, what would you do?

09 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday 2014

Today, Britain marked Remembrance Sunday, an annual day of reflection and ceremony honoring those who have died in military conflicts. With commemorations all over the country and the globe, from the Tower of London's poppy installation to the Cenotaph to Afghanistan, the royal family played a central role in remembering the sacrifices of those who served.

The Queen, who is the Commander in Chief of the British Armed Forces (and of the Canadian Forces), led the tributes at the Cenotaph in London. Her jewelry on Remembrance Sunday is almost always the same: she selects one of her diamond bow brooches, but she uses it to gather the stems of her bunch of memorial poppies. The choice highlights the poppies rather than competing with them. This year, she wore the Dorset Bow Brooch, made by Carrington and given to Queen Mary as a wedding present in 1893 by the county of Dorset. As with her brooch at last night's Festival of Remembrance, the choice of an item from Mary's collection also neatly commemorates the woman who was queen consort during World War I.

Jewel Detective: Louise of Hesse-Kassel

Can you identify any of the many jewels worn here by Queen Louise of Denmark, née Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel, at the 1893 wedding of her grandson, the future King George V of the United Kingdom?

08 November 2014

Festival of Remembrance Jewels

On Saturday night in London, the Windsors gathered for the annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. The festival, which is presented by the Royal British Legion, is held every year on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday. Musical performances, military displays, and prayers are included in the festival program, which is designed to honor those who lost their lives in British military conflicts; the festival culminates with a shower of poppy petals falling from the ceiling.

The royal family traditionally attends the evening performance of the festival, and this year, they were out in force. The princes and dukes wore their military badges pinned to their suit jackets, and the royal women wore brooches with gatherings of poppies. Here's a look at the jewels they wore, including several pieces with direct ties to the armed forces and to the Royal British Legion's poppy appeal.

Saturday Sparkler: The Luxembourg Chaumet Choker Tiara

If you ask me, one of the best things a tiara can be is versatile. A piece that can be worn in multiple configurations automatically increases its value to the wearer significantly, allowing it to be used in different ways for different occasions. Today’s tiara is just such a piece: the convertible pearl and diamond necklace/tiara, is worn by the country’s current grand duchess, Maria Teresa.

Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wears the tiara, 2003

The sparkler, which is easily recognizable for its intricate and unique latticework pattern of diamonds, was made by Chaumet during the reign of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. A model of the tiara is on display at Chaumet in Paris; it's easily visible in the photo of the Chaumet models featured in Diana Scarisbrick's Tiara (2000). The main wearer of the piece is Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, although the tiara has also been worn (years ago) by one of her sisters-in-law, Princess Margaretha.

07 November 2014

This Week in Royal Jewels: October 31-November 6

October 31-November 6, 2014

Galas, tiaras, and awards ceremonies galore this week! Enjoy!

10. On Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II joined King Philippe of the Belgians at the opening of the new Flanders Field Memorial in London. She wore her diamond and gold sunflower brooch, made in the 1970s by Garrard.

06 November 2014

Jewel History: Extravagant Splendors of the Modern Woman (1904)

Constance Cornwallis-West, ca. 1907 (source)

 "Extravagant Splendors of the Modern Woman"
(originally published in the Washington Post, 6 Nov 1904)

From the London Mail -- The desire for jewels and the extravagantly splendid displays now made by women who delight in such manifestations of wealth are two of the main characteristics of the power dress exercises over women in this luxurious age.

A million sovereigns sounds an incredibly huge sum of money to sink in precious stones, but the gem-caskets of some of our great ladies represent that value very closely, and it is actually touched in a few notable instances.

Lady Curzon, Vicereine of India, ca. 1903 (source)

Quite moderately wealthy young married women do not consider their catalogue of jewels complete with two or three tiaras, a string of pearls capable of being measured by the yard, a stomacher brilliantly ablaze with gems, a dog-collar, and numerous necklets, rings of various colors to match various gems, to say nothing of aigrettes of diamonds, bracelets, brooches, and little ornaments by the hundred.

05 November 2014

Book Review: The Queen's Jewels (1987)

Field's The Queen's Jewels (photograph by Ella Kay)

My royal jewel book collection is large and varied, but there are a few books that are true workhorses for research and writing. One of them, Hugh Roberts's The Queen's Diamonds (2012), I've already reviewed here; another, Geoffrey Munn's Tiaras: A History of Splendour (2002), I'll be reviewing here next month. But today, let's have a look at a third most-used text from my jewel library: Leslie Field's The Queen's Jewels (1987).

Not featured in the book: newer pieces like Elizabeth II's Tudor rose brooch

Field completed her book in 1987 with the cooperation of the royal household. This book isn't a production of the Royal Collection, as Roberts's book is; instead, Field is an independent scholar. The book focuses on the jewelry that was contained in the Queen's collection in the 1980s, so some pieces (especially brooches) that she wears regularly now aren't featured in the book. Much of the jewelry discussed comes from the collections of Elizabeth II's ancestors, especially Queen Mary, but pieces that the Queen acquired during her own lifetime are also a significant part of the book. With 192 pages of text and photographs (including a mixture of color and black-and-white images), the book is not huge but is fairly substantial.

04 November 2014

Crown Jewels: The Regalia of Queen Mary II

William III and Mary II in their coronation regalia by Sir James Thornhill (source)

On this day in 1677, a historic royal wedding took place at St. James's Palace in London. The groom was the Stadtholder of the Netherlands, better known to history as the Prince of Orange. The bride was the niece of the English king. Both were grandchildren of King Charles I, who had been beheaded thirty years earlier. At the time of the wedding, William and Mary were fourth and second in line to the British throne, but only twelve years later, they were being jointly crowned at Westminster Abbey.

William III and Mary II of England

William and Mary are the only co-monarchs in English/British history. They're still the only two people to have been jointly crowned as rulers. Because of this, their 1689 coronation posed a unique problem: the nation only had one set of coronation regalia. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1661, a shiny new set of regalia had been made for King Charles II by Sir Robert Viner. The 1661 regalia would be used by the new King William III, but Queen Mary II -- who actually had the better claim to the throne -- would need a different set to use. The consort's regalia, which had been made in 1685 for Mary's stepmother, Mary of Modena, wouldn't do. Mary II wasn't being crowned as a consort. She was a monarch in her own right, and she would need a set of regalia equal to that of her husband.

03 November 2014

Royal Tour Jewels: Camilla in Colombia

Now that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have finished the Colombian portion of their current royal tour, let's have a look at the jewels she wore on each day of the visit, shall we?

October 29
Four-stranded pearl necklace with round diamond-studded clasp; pearl and diamond earrings; gold bracelets; wedding and engagement rings

Princess Charlotte's Cartier Pearl Drop Tiara

This November, our "Magpie of the Month" designation is being extended to an entire family: the Grimaldis, who have reign as sovereign princes of Monaco for centuries. For our first foray into the Monegasque vaults, we're tackling the grandest tiara of their collection, the Cartier Pearl Drop Tiara.

Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois, ca. 1920

The intricate diamond, gold, and platinum tiara, which features large pearl drops suspended en tremblant from elaborate arches, was made by Cartier for Princess Charlotte of Monaco. It's often said that the tiara was a wedding gift to the princess from her new husband, Count Pierre de Polignac. However, that's not true. Although Charlotte and Pierre stuck it out long enough to have two children, Prince Rainier and Princess Antoinette, they divorced in 1933, years before the tiara was even made. Charlotte herself apparently ordered the tiara from Cartier in 1949, the same year that her son became the principality's ruler.