19 April 2017

The Greek Emerald Parure

Queen Friederike of the Hellenes wears the Greek emeralds during a 1956 state visit to Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday, the Greek and Spanish royals marked the hundredth birthday of one of their most interesting family members: the late Queen Friederike of the Hellenes. Born a German princess, Friedrike was Greece's queen consort through her marriage to King Paul. To celebrate her centenary, we're looking at a suite of jewels she wore often: the Greek Emerald Parure.

Queen Olga of the Hellenes wears her emeralds

The emeralds came to Greece with Queen Olga, who was born Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia. She was the daughter of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich, the second son of Tsar Nicholas I and the younger brother of Tsar Alexander II. Olga was only twelve when she met her future husband, King George I of the Hellenes, for the first time, and she had just turned sixteen when they married.

As you'd expect, a Romanov grand duchess marrying a foreign king brought a significant trousseau with her. Among the items that Olga took with her to Greece were a cache of cabochon emeralds, some round, some shaped like drops. The stones were nestled among her other possessions -- including, heartbreakingly, her dolls -- when she arrived in her new homeland.

Queen Olga wears her emeralds

Queen Olga wore her emeralds in various configurations throughout her lifetime. Although the set didn't initially include a traditional tiara, she attached some of the round cabochon stones to a Russian kokoshnik headdress made of stiff fabric. (The largest round emerald placed on this kokoshnik appears to have left the family collection at some point.) She also wore the round emeralds in a choker necklace. The drop-shaped stones were worn as earrings and as pendants on a necklace. She pinned additional round emeralds to her dresses as brooches.

In Olga's will, the emeralds were designated to be left to her eldest son, King Constantine I. It's clear that she wanted these particular gems to be a part of the collection of the country's queen going forward, and leaving them to her eldest child was designed to accomplish this. But he died a few years before his mother, so the gemstones were inherited instead by his son, King George II.

Queen Elisabeth of the Hellenes wears the emeralds in two different bandeau settings

It was George's wife, Queen Elisabeth, who first ordered Olga's round cabochon emeralds to be set in a tiara. The first versions were various bandeaux formations, worn low across her forehead; the second was the kokoshnik-style tiara that we’re used to seeing today. In one of my favorite tiara touches, Elisabeth had the jewelers use diamonds to create letter E motifs — for her initial — between the emeralds. George and Elisabeth's marriage was tumultuous to say the least, and this tiara is one of its best legacies.

Queen Marie of Romania with her daughters, Elisabeth, Maria, and Ileana, and her daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Helen of Romania

The decision to turn the emeralds into a kokoshnik-style tiara was a nod to both Queen Olga's Russian heritage and Queen Elisabeth's own family taste. Elisabeth was born a Romanian princess, the eldest daughter of the famous Queen Marie of Romania. The portrait above shows Queen Marie with all of her daughters and her daughter-in-law; you'll note that all of the women wear kokoshnik-style tiaras with theatrical dress typical of Marie and her court. Elisabeth wears one of her mother's pearl and diamond tiaras. One of Elisabeth's younger sisters, Maria (who eventually became Queen Maria of Yugoslavia), even wears a similiar kokoshnik tiara with Romanov cabochon emeralds. (You can read much more about those emeralds over here.)

The kokoshnik-style emerald tiara, with its top row of diamonds removed (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

As is the case with most kokoshnik-style tiaras, Elisabeth's tiara is large, resembling a halo encircling the wearer's head. It also had a border of diamonds across the top, but those diamonds were later removed. In an interesting touch, though, this kokoshnik tiara can also be taken off its frame and worn as a rather large necklace.

The rest of Olga's emeralds were set in additional pieces of jewelry, forming a parure. Two of the drops are set in a pair of earrings. Some of the round cabochons are set in a large brooch, which can also take several of the pendant drops. But these drops can also be removed and worn in various other configurations, suspended from various diamond necklaces, for example.

Queen Friederike wears the emeralds during a 1956 state visit to Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

Queen Friedrike began wearing the Greek emeralds when her husband acceded to the throne in 1947. She wears the tiara and the brooch above during a 1956 state visit to her native Germany.

Queen Friederike wears the emeralds with Queen Sophie's Diamond Tiara (AFP/Getty Images)

She also often wore the tiara as a necklace. In the portrait above, Friederike wears the emerald necklace and brooch with another grand tiara from the family vaults: Queen Sophie's Diamond Tiara. (You can read more about this massive royal treasure over here.)

Queen Friederike wears the emeralds at the 1962 royal wedding (AFP/Getty Images)

Friedrike even wore the necklace and brooch at the wedding of her elder daughter, Princess Sophia, to Prince Juan Carlos of Spain in 1962. The couple later reigned in Spain as King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia; Friedrike's grandson, Felipe, is now the Spanish monarch.

Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes wears the emeralds in an official portrait (Keystone/Getty Images)

In March 1964, King Paul died. Only a few months later, Friederike handed over the Greek emeralds to her new daughter-in-law, Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark. Eighteen-year-old Anne-Marie became Queen of the Hellenes when she married Paul and Friederike's only son, King Constantine II, in September 1964. She wore the emeralds for the first time at a ball held the night before her wedding, and she posed in them for her first official portraits.

Queen Anne-Marie wears the emeralds at 2004 Danish royal wedding (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

But Constantine and Anne-Marie's reign in Greece was brief. They fled the country after a coup in 1967, and the monarchy was officially abolished in 1974. Friederike settled in Madrid with Sofia and Juan Carlos, dying there during eye surgery in 1981. Constantine and Anne-Marie settled in London. Unlike many royals in exile, the family managed to bring their jewelry collection, including the magnificent emerald parure, with them when they fled.

Queen Anne-Marie wears the emeralds during her sister's Ruby Jubilee in 2012 (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Because of their strong royal ties -- her sister is Queen of Denmark, and his nephew is King of Spain -- they still frequently attend bejeweled royal events, and Anne-Marie often wears the emeralds. Notably, Anne-Marie chose the emerald suite for the wedding of her nephew, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, in 2004, as well as for a grand gala in honor of her sister's Ruby Jubilee in Denmark in 2012. She often wears the Greek emeralds with a piece of Danish royal jewelry: a flexible diamond necklace that belonged to her grandmother, Queen Alexandrine of Denmark.