30 May 2016

The Savoy-Aosta Emerald Necklace

Princess Astrid wears the diamond and emerald necklace (Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Princess Astrid of Belgium will never be queen, but she has worn several pieces of jewelry that are absolutely fit for a monarch. Today we're looking at one of the grandest: the diamond and emerald necklace that belongs to her mother-in-law, Margherita.

Helene wears the necklace (Photo: Grand Ladies Site)

Margherita was born a Savoyard princess with an extensive French and Italian royal lineage, and her jewelry box is a testament to those royal roots. This particular necklace was made in France in the nineteenth century. Appropriately, the first person to be photographed wearing it was a French princess: Helene of Orleans, Margherita's grandmother. Exactly how Helene acquired the piece isn't clear; some argue that it was given to her when she married Prince Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta in 1895, while others believe that the piece was an heirloom from the Aosta line.

Helene wearing a different necklace with a tiara featuring similar emerald drops (Image courtesy of Christie's)

I don't have any firm proof for this speculation, but I believe that the emerald drops suspended from the necklace are detachable. In the photograph above (which shows Helene wearing a different emerald necklace, auctioned last year at Christie's), the upright emeralds on Helene's tiara appear to match the shape and size of the emerald drops from the necklace.

In 1927, Helene's elder son, Amedeo, married Anne of Orleans (Helene's niece and, therefore, Amedeo's first cousin). Helene offered the diamond and emerald necklace to Anne as a wedding present. Amedeo and Anne were Margherita's parents, and she eventually inherited the necklace from her mother. She also wore it during her mother's lifetime; she was even featured wearing the necklace on the cover of Paris Match.


Margherita still presumably owns the necklace, as well as the diamond tiara she inherited from the Savoy line. But both pieces are now worn almost exclusively by her daughter-in-law, Princess Astrid. Some believe that Astrid may own the Savoy jewels herself now, but even if she doesn't, she has a long-term jewelry loan from her mother-in-law that many women would die for.