29 February 2016

The Top Ten: Royal Amethysts

Happy Leap Day, magpies! Since we've got one extra day this year to marvel at February's birthstone, I thought it was only right to present you with ten of my favorite royal amethyst pieces. Let me know how you'd rank your list in the comments below!

10. The Flora Danica Tiara

Made by Flora Danica for the exclusive use of Princess Marie of Denmark, this tiara, made of silver lilies, features a row of amethyst beads at its base.

28 February 2016

Hollywood Royalty: Oscars Jewelry 2016

Here's a little Sunday bonus for you from the Hollywood version of royalty: gorgeous stars wearing glittering jewelry on the red carpet at the Academy Awards ceremony. Which pieces are your favorites?

Alicia Vikander wearing geometric diamond earrings

Vintage Royals: Rubies in Wellington

February 28, 1977: Queen Elizabeth II wears the Burmese Ruby Tiara and the Baring Ruby Necklace at the State Opening of Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, during the Silver Jubilee Tour

27 February 2016

Saturday Sparkler: The de Tornos Turquoise Tiara

Even when you’re marrying a royal groom who isn’t technically royal anymore, you need a serious tiara. This is perhaps even more true when you’re marrying the man who is the heir to the headship of the House of Orléans (and therefore will eventually be one of the pretenders to the French throne). This turquoise and diamond tiara, the de Tornos Tiara, was the tiara of choice for Philomena de Tornos y Steinhart, who married the Duke of Vendôme in 2009.

While some royal brides wear tiaras from their new marital families on their wedding days, noble brides who have access to tiaras from their own family’s collection often sport those sparklers instead. This tiara, a modified fringe made of alternating, spaced spikes of diamonds and turquoises, comes from Philomena’s family, not the Orléans vaults.

26 February 2016

This Week in Royal Jewels: February 19-25

February 19-25, 2016

Earrings, necklaces, brooches, and one very glittering princess on the docket this week. Vote for your favorite in the poll below!

10. The Duchess of Cambridge -- or, I should say, the Countess of Strathearn -- was in Edinburgh for a series of engagements on Wednesday. She wore her Kiki McDonough Lauren earrings for the day.

25 February 2016

Hidden British Royal Tiaras

Since the Duchess of Cambridge married into the Windsor family in 2011, we've seen three tiaras -- the Cartier Halo, the Lotus Flower, and the Lover's Knot -- reappear for the first time in decades. But there are still pieces from the main line of the family lurking in the royal vaults, many of which haven't been worn in public for years. Here's a look at several tiaras that we haven't seen the British royal ladies wear in more than a decade.

The Strathmore Rose Tiara

This diamond, silver, and gold tiara was worn regularly by the Queen Mother in the early years of her marriage, but after she became queen consort, it was largely relegated to the back of her jewelry box. It hasn't been worn in public in over half a century, and it has never been worn publicly by anyone other than the Queen Mum. When she died in 2002, the tiara was inherited by Queen Elizabeth II. We know it's still in the vaults and still wearable, because it was photographed in 2012 for Hugh Roberts's landmark royal jewel book, The Queen's Diamonds.

24 February 2016

Jewels on Film: Elizabeth II Visits Austria (1969)

Daytime and evening jewels are both on display in this film of Queen Elizabeth II's 1969 state visit to Austria, including a glittering state banquet at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, formerly home to the Habsburgs

23 February 2016

Jewel History: Empire Marys' Gift (1922)

"Empire Marys' Gift"
(originally appeared in the Times on 24 Feb 1922)

It was announced yesterday that the contributions to the wedding gift from the Marys of the Empire [1] to Princess Mary [2] amount to considerably over £8,000, and that Her Royal Highness has decided to accept for herself a small rope of pearls, which was presented yesterday, and to devote the remainder of the sum to the founding of a training home in connection with the Girl Guides [3].

When the scheme was started just over two months ago, very modest ideas were entertained by the committee, of which the Hon. Mrs. Geoffrey Hope Morley is chairman, as to the amount which would be received, both because only an intimation that donations would be received was made -- it being felt that anything in the nature of strict organization would be out of place in these difficult times -- and that the small sum of 10 shillings was set as the strict limit. Early this month, however, it became apparent that the steady stream of small sums from 6 pence upwards would amount to a goodly total.

The idea has been from the beginning that the gift would be a personal one, and various jewels of rare beauty were considered. When, however, the news came to the princess's ears, Her Royal Highness resolutely refused to allow the money to be spent in this way, preferring that it should be used by her to benefit others. At first the princess would only consider accepting what in such a connection can be considered only as a mere trinket. The earnest representations of the committee that such a course would cause considerable disappointment to many donors all over the Empire, however, induced the princess yesterday to modify her decision, and to accept for herself a small but very beautiful rope of pearls, which was presented privately during the afternoon.

22 February 2016

On The Block: Imelda Marcos's Jewels

News outlets reported last week that a collection of jewelry that once belonged to former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos will soon be sold at auction.

The collection, which has been valued at more than $21 million, includes a Cartier tiara that resembles one owned by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The jewels were seized by the government in 1986 after Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown.

21 February 2016

Vintage Royals: Queen Soraya at the Savoy

February 21, 1955: Queen Soraya of Iran relaxes in her diamond tiara and jewels ahead of a reception hosted by the Iranian ambassador at the Savoy Hotel in London

20 February 2016

Saturday Sparkler: Princess Sibilla's Art Deco Tiara

The jewel vaults of the grand ducal family of Luxembourg are practically bursting at the seams with tiaras. But one of the family's princesses actually has one that she keeps in her own safe. Princess Sibilla may be the wife of a younger royal son, but her diamond art deco tiara is all hers.

Princess Sibilla got her current royal title when she married Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg, the youngest son of Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, in 1994. But Sibilla has royal blood of her own: she's the great-granddaughter of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Ena of Spain. She's worn tiaras from both the Spanish and Luxembourgish collections, but this tiara appears to be Sibilla's own personal property. It's said to have been a gift from her father, Paul-Annik Weiller.

19 February 2016

This Week in Royal Jewels: February 12-18

February 12-18, 2016

We've got lots of pearls on the list this week, along with some unexpectedly large pieces. Be sure to vote for your favorite in the poll below!

10. The Duchess of Cambridge wore her go-to pearl earrings -- Annoushka pearl drops suspended from Kiki McDonough diamond hoops -- for her stint guest-editing the UK version of the Huffington Post on Wednesday.

18 February 2016

Should the Koh-i-Noor Stay?

On Tuesday, the Guardian published an editorial about the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, a gem mined on the Indian subcontinent that is now set in the British queen consort's crown. Because the diamond was taken under dubious circumstances in the nineteenth century from its Indian owners, there are frequent calls for it to be repatriated.

Some have dismissed this as ridiculous; British historian Andrew Roberts even actually claimed that the British deserve to keep the stone as a mark of "grateful recognition" for the country's colonial rule over India.

The Guardian editorial, written by Anita Anand, takes another position: the British don't really deserve to keep the diamond, because the way they initially took possession of it was absolutely awful, but in the end, it should stay in Britain.

17 February 2016

Jewel History: The Royal Wedding (1901)

Prince Carlos, Infanta Mercedes, and their families

"The Royal Wedding"
(originally appeared in the New York Times, 15 Feb 1901)

Madrid, Feb. 14 -- The Infanta Maria de las Mercedes de Bourbon y Habsburg-Lorraine, Princess of Asturias [1], today became the wife of Prince Charles of Bourbon [2]. The royal family, all the aristocratic world, and almost every high official of the kingdom were present in the chapel of the royal palace, where the ceremony took place. Shortly before the ceremony, there assembled in the private apartments of the Queen Regent Maria Cristina [3] those forming the bride's party, consisting of her mother, the Queen Regent; her brother, the boy King Alfonso XIII [4]; her sister, the Infanta Maria Teresa [5]; her aunts, the Infantas Isabella [6] and Eulalia [7]; her grandmother, Archduchess Elizabeth [8], with all the high retainers of the Court, ladies in waiting, grandees of Spain, and gentlemen in waiting.

At the same time, there gathered in the apartments of the Infanta Isabella the persons composing the party of the bridegroom. These were the parents of Prince Charles, the Count and Countess of Caserta [9]; the Duke and Duchess of Calabria [10]; his sisters, Dona Maria Immaculata [11], Dona Maria Pia [12], and Dona Maria Josephine [13]; and the train of ladies and gentlemen.

The groom: Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Infante of Spain

The bridegroom's party emerged first and proceeded along the winding, massive granite corridors to the chapel, being immediately followed by the bride's cortege from the Queen Regent's apartments. Their places were respectively to the right and left, but in front of the altar, the bride and groom stopped at the steps leading to the altar and there kneeled, thus remaining throughout the mass, which was said by Cardinal Sancha, Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain. Assisting him were Cardinal Casajeras, Archbishop of Vallodolid; Cardinal Herrera, Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela; and Cardinal Casana, Bishop of Barcelona. Low mass was celebrated, there being no singing, though solemn, sacred selections, including one written for the occasion by Zubicurre, were performed on the organ.

16 February 2016

Jewels on Film: Coronation Jewellery (1953)

Ahead of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, jewelers at the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Company construct a tiara that can be broken down into various other pieces of jewelry...

15 February 2016

The Top Ten: Romantic Royal Weddings of the Century

We may all be coming down from our Valentine's Day champagne-and-chocolate highs, but love is definitely still in the air. What better way to celebrate than a look at ten of the most romantic royal weddings of the 21st century? We may only be a decade and a half in, but there's been plenty of royal romance to enjoy. Be sure to weigh in with your list in the comments below!

10. The Prince of Asturias and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano (2004)

The Spanish people were reportedly caught by surprise when Felipe announced his engagement to Letizia, a well-known journalist and news anchor. Their wedding, celebrated on May 22, 2004, was the first to be held in Madrid in almost a century, and although rain fell, the couple were clearly happy. More than ten years later, they are King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain, and they are parents to two princesses, Leonor and Sofia.

14 February 2016

Vintage Royals: A Grand Ducal Valentine Wedding

February 14, 1981: Hereditary Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg marries Cuban-born Maria Teresa Mestre y Batista at Luxembourg's cathedral. The pair, who are now reigning in Luxembourg as Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, were college sweethearts who met while studying together at university in Geneva

13 February 2016

Saturday Sparkler: The Ancona Tiara

So often, we hear tales of gorgeous royal tiaras that have graced various regal heads before ultimately being sold at auction. Happily, today’s tiara is something of a reversal of that tale: the Ancona Tiara began in one set of royal hands, and even after being auctioned, it ended up in the collection of another set of royals.

The original owner of this tiara was a member of the Habsburg branch of the Italian royal family. Some have claimed that the pearl and diamond tiara was made as a wedding gift for Princess Maria Anna of Saxony on her 1817 marriage to Leopold II, the future grand duke of Tuscany, but the exact date of the tiara’s construction is unknown. The pearls in this piece are clearly natural, and their mismatched quality gives the piece a quirky authenticity. Diamond trefoils below encase more pearls, and the base of the diadem is also lined with small round pearls.

12 February 2016

This Week in Royal Jewels: February 5-11

February 5-11, 2016

We've got some unexpected showstoppers in store this week! Be sure to vote for your favorite in the poll below...

10. Queen Letizia of Spain wore a pair of square diamond earrings as she viewed accessibility renovations at the Royal Palace in Madrid on Wednesday.

11 February 2016

New Questions Raised about Queen Maud's Vifte Tiara

For years, the standard line on the provenance of the Vifte Tiara, the tiny convertible diamond sparkler from the collection of Queen Maud of Norway, was that it had been a birthday gift from Maud's grandmother, Queen Victoria. Chatter this week over at the Royal Jewels of the World Message Board, however, has raised new possibilities about its origins.


An illustrated list of Maud's wedding gifts includes a drawing of a diamond tiara given by Alfred, Leopold, and Marie de Rothschild. During a discussion of the piece, jewelry writer Vincent Meylan pointed out the similarities between the Rothschild Tiara and the Vifte Tiara.

10 February 2016

Jewel History: The Royal Wedding at The Hague Today (1901)


"The Royal Wedding at The Hague Today"
(originally appeared in the New York Times, 7 Feb 1901)

The Hague, Feb. 6 -- The wedding eve of Queen Wilhelmina [1] and Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin [2] shows a winter carnival holding sway over The Hague. It is an ideal evening, clear and cold. Already 100,000 Hollanders, with many foreigners, have been added to the population of the city, and trains from all quarters of this ancient kingdom are bringing thousands more.

People are marching about or riding in carriages, singing or playing the national anthem. Wherever a band is heard, they take up the hymns "Wilhelmus van Nassau" [3] and "Wien Neer Lands Bloed" [4]. Everywhere are singing societies in uniforms and wearing medals, sober-looking Dutchmen who chant solemnly, officials, and prominent visitors. Groups of young men and women costumed in white and orange, and in other bright colors, are parading about, singing and making fun with the crowds as in the Mardi Gras. The tri-colored flags of Holland and the House of Orange are everywhere displayed, with an occasional light blue banner of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

Orange-colored paper lanterns, hanging among fir trees which line the main streets and looking like big clusters of oranges, throw light over the decorations. Every one wears an orange rosette with a picture of the bride. Some, though these are few, display also a portrait of the bridegroom.

09 February 2016

Jewels on Film: Princess Margaret, A Love Story

Today is the anniversary of the death of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. Enjoy the sparkling jewels and the bittersweet story of her romance with Group Captain Peter Townsend in this documentary from the BBC

07 February 2016

Kate Wears the Dacre Brooch

The Duchess of Cambridge performed her first official engagement today as the Honorary Air Commandant of the Air Cadets, attending a service to mark the organization's 75th anniversary. She wore an Alexander McQueen coat and a piece of jewelry long associated with the Air Cadets: the Dacre Brooch.

The brooch, which is set with diamonds and other gemstones, was traditionally presented each year to the best female cadet. That tradition began in 1982, the year that women were first admitted to the Air Cadets, and continued until last year. It was decided that the best female cadet should, like her male counterpart, instead receive the Dacre Sword.

Vintage Royals: Lilibet Glitters at Pinafore

February 7, 1962: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom wears major jewels to attend a performance of HMS Pinafore in London

06 February 2016

Saturday Sparkler: The Baden Sunburst Tiara

While star tiaras were perhaps more popular in the nineteenth century, there are also many antique pieces that incorporate sun and sunburst motifs. Today’s piece is the sunburst tiara of the Baden family. The family were the heads of the German grand duchy of Baden until 1918, when their titles were formally abolished following World War I. But although the Badens lost their titles, they managed to keep their tiaras, including this one.

The piece consists of seven diamond sunburst brooches of varying sizes set on a tiara frame; as you might expect, the piece can also be broken down so that the brooches can be worn separately. As with many heirloom tiaras from former royal families, the provenance with this one is a bit murky. No one seems to know precisely when or by whom the piece was made.

05 February 2016

This Week in Royal Jewels: January 29-February 4

January 29-February 4, 2016

Glitter galore this week! Don't forget to vote for your favorite piece in the poll below.

10. Queen Letizia of Spain wore her Tous pearl drop earrings at a forum in Madrid on Wednesday. (Also, bad jewel news out of Spain: the Spanish state visit to the UK isn't going to happen this spring because of continuing issues following the country's December elections. I'm bummed -- I totally thought we were going to get to see Letizia wear La Buena!)

04 February 2016

Tiaras at Sweden's Representative Dinner

Photo: kungahuset.se

The annual Representatives Dinner was hosted by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden yesterday evening in Stockholm, and three glittering tiaras were on display. You can read more about the invited guests (and even the silver service used) over here.

Photo: kungahuset.se

Queen Silvia wore the Connaught Diamond Tiara with a diamond riviere (and pendant) and diamond earrings.

03 February 2016

Camilla Dazzles in Diamonds

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a reception and dinner for the British Asian Trust at the National History Museum in London yesterday evening. For the occasion, Camilla wore the glamorous diamond demi-parure that has been in her collection since at least 2005.

The exact provenance of this set hasn't been made public, but some have guessed that it was made using diamonds from a dismantled tiara.

Jewel History: February 3

On this day in royal history...

February 3, 1866: The Illustrated London News publishes an image of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) visiting the Crewe Steelworks

02 February 2016

New Dutch Royal Collection Website

Love the glittering jewels of the Dutch royal family? You're in luck -- the Royal Collection launched a brand-new website yesterday that includes information about and high-res photos of some of their bejeweled treasures.

One of the most interesting objects in the online gallery is the delicate tortoiseshell fan from the Mellerio Ruby Parure, the set of jewels worn above by Queen Emma (and also above by Queen Maxima). The fan, made in 1888, is set with diamonds and rubies.

01 February 2016

The Tavistock Amethyst Tiara

February is the birthstone month of the glorious purple amethyst, and today's tiara features some of the largest amethysts you’ll ever see in a diadem: the Tavistock Amethyst Tiara.

This piece has a two-step creation story. The largest amethyst and its surrounding diamond honeysuckle setting came first, in the early years of the nineteenth century. Around 1870, that piece was integrated into a new tiara, featuring grape leaves and more large grape-colored amethysts.