06 January 2015

The Countess of Wessex's Diamond Art Deco Clips

It's a bit hard to believe when you see her, but this month, the Countess of Wessex is celebrating her fiftieth birthday. I'm hoping that Sophie's husband helps mark the occasion by making some additions to her jewelry collection; we're celebrating here at The Court Jeweller by making her our Magpie of the Month! Let's kick off our series on Sophie's jewels with a look at one of her most important brooches: her pair of diamond clips.

The brooch was the Queen Mother's wedding gift to Sophie in 1999, so it's extremely appropriate that we saw her wear the clips for one of the first times in public at the Queen Mum's 99th birthday celebrations that August.

Sophie also wore them early on for a sadder event: the Queen Mother's funeral in March 2002.

You can just see the clips here peeking out from Sophie's wrap at the 2004 royal wedding in Denmark. In the early years of her marriage, Sophie tended to wear the pair of clips separately. However, like many sets of Art Deco clips, they can also be worn together as a duet to form a single brooch. Most sets like this come with a special frame that allows the pieces to be hooked together; here's a set of photographs from an auction of another set of diamond clips that shows how the frame works.

For an appearance at Royal Ascot in 2005, it seems that Sophie decided to wear just one of the pair of clips -- it's nestled beside her ID badges.

For the Queen's 80th birthday dinner, Sophie wore the clips again as a pair, using them to highlight the square neckline of her gown.

And both pieces again appeared at Royal Ascot in 2007. To my knowledge, the exact provenance of the pieces isn't known. The Art Deco style certainly suggests a 1930s creation date. My guess is Cartier, given the similarities to other clips made by the firm and the fact that they were the house that popularized the style. I don't think we know whether the Queen Mum acquired these specifically for Sophie or shopped her own jewelry vaults for the present, but we do know that George VI loved buying presents for his wife at Cartier in the '30s, so it certainly seems plausible to me that these are family pieces of jewelry. (Update: The clips were indeed from the Queen Mum's collection; here's an image of Elizabeth wearing them on her hat.)

In recent years, Sophie has worn the clips more often as one brooch, as she did at Royal Ascot in 2010. This angle gives you a good look at the pieces worn together on a single frame.

And here they are once more at Royal Ascot in 2014. The clips are some of my favorite pieces from Sophie's jewelry box -- sparkling, versatile, and with a great Queen Mum association. I think we'll be seeing her wear these classic pieces over and over again for years to come.