22 January 2017

Sundays with Victoria: The Turkish Diamonds

Winterhalter's 1847 portrait of Queen Victoria in her wedding gown and jewels; the painting was an anniversary gift for Prince Albert

Last week, we chatted about the classic diamond and sapphire brooch that Queen Victoria wore on her wedding day. Today, we're looking at her other sparkling wedding jewels: the Turkish diamond necklace and earrings.

Queen Victoria wears the necklace and earrings in a photograph taken in 1854

In 1838, the year of her coronation, Victoria was presented with a large collection of diamonds by the Sultan of Turkey. Victoria decided to use some of the gemstones to make a new suite of jewels. She turned to Rundell and Bridge, the firm that served as the crown jeweler at the time. They used the Turkish diamonds to make a pair of earrings and an elaborate necklace. The suite features diamond rosette motifs. The quality of the photograph above makes it a little difficult to discern, but Victoria is wearing both the necklace and the earrings.

Detail of Hayter's painting of the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

When Victoria married Prince Albert, she wore the Turkish necklace and earrings with her new sapphire brooch. (She wore a wreath of orange blossoms instead of a tiara.) Above, you can spot the necklace and earrings in Sir George Hayter's painting of the couple's wedding ceremony.

Detail from John Phillip's painting of the 1858 wedding of the Princess Royal

Victoria also chose to wear pieces from the Turkish suite for other sentimental family occasions. She wore both the necklace and the earrings at the christening of her first child, Princess Vicky; nearly two decades later, she also wore the necklace at Vicky's wedding to the future emperor of Germany.

The Duchess of Connaught dressed for the 1911 coronation

After Prince Albert's death, Victoria retired many of her grandest pieces of jewelry, including the Turkish suite. She gave the necklace to her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Connaught, who wore it at the coronation of King George V in 1911. The necklace was inherited through generations of the Connaught family until the 3rd Duke of Fife sold it at auction in 1970.

A miniature of Queen Victoria (likely based on the Hayter wedding portrait) featuring the Turkish diamonds and the Diamond Diadem

The fate of the earrings is a bit of a mystery. Many have speculated that they were remodeled and are now the pair of grand diamond earrings worn by Queen Sonja of Norway. I tend to disagree with this theory (and you can read my reasons in this post). In the end, both pieces from this suite of diamond jewels appear to have departed from the royal collection entirely.