11 March 2015

The York Diamond Demi-Parure

Another new month = another new Magpie of the Month at The Court Jeweller! To celebrate Princess Eugenie's upcoming birthday, we're going to be peeking into the jewelry boxes of the York women this March. Today, we're starting off with one of their nicest sets of jewelry: the diamond demi-parure that belongs to Sarah, Duchess of York.

In 1986, Sarah Ferguson married the Queen's second son, Prince Andrew. As a wedding present, she and Prince Philip purchased a tiara for their new daughter-in-law from Garrard. But that wasn't their only gift. They also bought a diamond demi-parure of jewels in a modern floral design from Garrard. The set consists of a necklace, a bracelet, and a pair of earrings. The set was valued at around $500,000.

During her brief tenure as a royal duchess, Sarah wore the set frequently, often pairing it with the wedding tiara. Although the tiara and the demi-parure were bought around the same time from the same jeweler, they are not a matched set.

The Yorks attended gala events during various royal tours, including visits to Canada and France, and the diamond demi-parure was often seen on these occasions.

Sarah and Andrew divorced in May 1996, but she kept her jewels. She's maintained a high profile since then, appearing at numerous premieres, charity galas, and other events, often in connection with various products and projects she's endorsing.

Only a few months before the divorce, Sarah traveled to the United States to attend a reception at the White House. She brought the diamond demi-parure with her. When going through security at JFK afterward, the unlocked bag containing the diamonds was mistakenly (according to Sarah) placed with baggage to be checked rather than with her carry-on luggage.

You can probably guess what happened -- a teenaged baggage handler opened the bag, discovered the jewels, and pocketed the necklace and the bracelet. He took the necklace home to his family. Five stones were pried out of the necklace, which was then stashed in a toolshed behind the house. The bracelet was left in his locker at the airport.

Sarah didn't discover that the jewels were missing until she arrived home in Britain. The FBI ended up recovering the pieces and arresting the baggage handler, but the assistant director of the New York office of the bureau questioned why Sarah had left the valuables in such a vulnerable position in the first place, noting, "I don't think it shows a lot of wisdom myself. I certainly wouldn't do it. But I personally wouldn't have a half a million dollars of jewelry."

Interestingly, Sarah claimed that it was her lady-in-waiting, Jane Andrews, who had ultimately decided to check the bag. In a twist, Andrews is now in prison -- but for murdering her lover, not for mistakenly checking a bag containing royal jewels.

For years, Sarah kept the demi-parure in the back of her jewelry box, but more recently, she's brought the set out again. She donned the diamonds at the amfAR Cinema against AIDS Gala in 2011, and in 2012, she wore the set to the Diamond Butterfly Ball.