01 October 2015

Jewel History: Fashion in Jewelry (1905)

"Fashion in Jewelry"
(originally appeared on 1 Oct 1905 in the Washington Post)

During this past London season the trend of fashion has seemed to turn from the much-advertised Paris jewelers and to revert once again to our home-grown artificers. London jewelers may not possess the same art in design, but they set stones excellently, and altogether excel in workmanship. And a more solid style seems to be returning to favor. Princess Teano's [1] tiara and necklace of diamonds set in gold has been immensely admired; and another smart woman wore a necklace of big turquoises, also set in solid gold. Then several rare stones have appeared, and seem to have attained a fictitious value. Among these are black diamonds, pink pearls, and pink and green sapphires. And the chrysoprase, a green stone found in Silesia, has come to the fore in less costly ornaments.

The Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville, ca. 1900 [source]

The Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville [2] has been wearing black diamonds, and Mrs. William James owns a charming tiara in pink pearls and diamonds. Black diamonds are so hard that they can be polished with their own dust, and ordinary diamond dust makes no impression on their flinty surfaces. A former duke of Wellington possessed a big black diamond, and a certain Mrs. Celia Wallace [3] -- I think an American -- once wore the only necklace of black diamonds in the world.

Queen Alexandra wears her amethyst tiara, ca. 1889 [5]

Pearls increase in value year after year, and black pearls are said to be becoming rarer and rarer. Miss Van Wart [4] owns, and often wears, a unique one-row necklace, composed of many colored pearls -- pink, white, black, bronze, etc. Amethysts are, of course, rapidly rising in value owing to their increased popularity; Queen Alexandra has worn them at some of the smartest functions of the season [5], and the Countess of Lichfield's [6] amethysts have also been greatly admired.

Blanche Gordon-Lennox, ca. 1895 [source]

Pink coral seems to have caught on, as well as other semi-precious stones, including the new mauve kunzite, the pale green peridot, and the darker green tourmaline. And several smart women have worn pink coral in the form of a one-row necklace, including Lady Algernon Gordon-Lennox [7] and Princess Victor Duleep Singh [8]. Jeweled buckles, waist-belts, and shoulder-straps are also greatly in vogue, as are watches worn as pendants, and gold bags, often set with turquoises and diamonds.


1. Vittoria Colonna Caetani, Duchess of Sermoneta and Princess of Teano (1880-1954) was an Italian-English noblewoman. She was the granddaughter of Augusta Selina Locke, an Englishwoman who married three noble husbands in succession: first, Lord Burghersh (son of the 11th Earl of Westmorland); second, Luigi, Duke of Santo Teodoro (grandfather of Vittoria); and third, Thomas de Gray, 6th Baron Walsingham. Vittoria was known as a passionate lover of hot-air ballooning. She married Leone Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano in 1901.

2. Margaret Helen Greville (1863-1942) was the daughter of a wealthy brewer and the wife of the Hon. Ronald Greville, son of the 2nd Baron Greville. Margaret was a good friend of Queen Mary, but we know her best here because she bequeathed all of her jewels, including the Greville Tiara, to the Queen Mother.

3. Celia Hermione Whipple Wallace (1834-1923) was an eccentric Chicago widow who was nicknamed "the Diamond Queen." She lived reclusively in a hotel suite but was given to extravagant gestures, including appearing at the opera in amazing gowns, suddenly donating huge sums of money to charities, and purchasing expensive jewels. At the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, Wallace purchased the famous Tiffany chapel and gave it to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. (It's now on public display at the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida.) Wallace eventually died in relative poverty and seclusion in Connecticut.

4. Evelyn Van Wart (1870-1910) of Washington, D.C. was the daughter of the sculptor Ames Van Wart and a great-niece of the writer Washington Irving. She was one of the few successful "spinster" hostesses in London society. Newspaper reports from the time emphasize her wealth and insinuate that the reason she remained unmarried was so that she would retain sole control over her own finances. She was known for her lavish and inventive entertaining, as well as her love of animals; when she died, she provided for her cats and her horses in her will.

5. Queen Alexandra's amethyst collection included a tiara (which was a gift from her brother-in-law, Tsar Alexander III of Russia) and a necklace. Both were inherited by her daughter, Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, and then Louise's younger daughter, Princess Maud, Countess of Southesk. Both pieces were auctioned in 1946 after Maud's death.

6. In 1905, the Countess of Lichfield was Mildred Anson (), born Lady Mildred Coke. She was the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Leicester of Holkham and the wife of the 3rd Earl of Lichfield. Her grandson married Anne Bowes-Lyon, a first cousin of the Queen Mother.

7. Blanche Gordon-Lennox (1864-1945) was the wife of Lord Algernon Gordon-Lennox, a younger son of the 6th Duke of Richmond. Algernon and Blanche's daughter, Ivy, later married the 7th Duke of Portland. Ivy was also one of Queen Alexandra's maids of honour.

8. Princess Anne Duleep Singh (1874-1956) was born Lady Anne Coventry, the daughter of the 9th Earl of Coventry. She married Prince Victor, who was the son of the last Maharajah of Lahore, in 1898.