29 May 2017

The Top Ten: Queen Mary's Jewels

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There are royal jewels, and then there are royal jewels from the collection of Mary of Teck. Queen Mary had a keen eye for brilliance when it came to augmenting and culling her jewelry collection, and the British royal vaults today are stocked with excellent pieces that came straight from her jewelry box. Here are ten of my favorite pieces from her collection. Be sure to share your own top ten list in the comments below!


10. The Rose of York Bracelet: This distinctive bracelet, featuring a rose made of diamonds and rubies, was Queen Mary's wedding present from the people of Cornwall. (You'll sometimes see it called the County of Cornwall Bracelet for this reason.) The central rose element on the bracelet is detachable, able to be worn as a brooch or a pendant. The piece is one of the most statement-making bracelets in the royal collection, and the Queen (who received it as wedding present from Queen Mary in 1947) still wears it occasionally. Above, she sports it on her right wrist during a state visit from the President of South Korea in December 2004.

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9. The Iveagh Tiara: A lovely diamond kokoshnik with a leafy floral pattern, this tiara was Queen Mary's wedding present from Lord and Lady Iveagh. The halo-shaped tiara is one of the few sparklers Mary didn't tinker with -- the design was perfectly balanced as-is. She bequeathed the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. The Gloucesters still have the tiara today, and it made a lovely wedding tiara for Lady Rose Windsor in 2008. (More on the piece over here!)

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8. The Emperor of Austria Brooch: This large cluster brooch, which features several layers of diamonds hugging a central pearl, was a gift to Queen Mary's mother, the Duchess of Teck, from Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. (The occasion: he was the godfather and namesake of Mary's brother, Prince Francis of Teck.) Hugh Roberts vividly refers to the brooch as a "plaited circle"; it also has a detachable diamond chain with pearl pendants. This was one of the jewels that Queen Mary had to "retrieve" from Prince Francis's mistress, Lady Kilmorey, after his death. She bequeathed it to the Queen in 1953, and it's still worn today; above, the Queen wears the brooch without the chain on the back of her sash in Germany in 2015.

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7. The Cambridge Sapphires: This parure of sapphire and diamond jewels was originally owned by Queen Mary's grandmother, Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge. When it ended up in Queen Mary's collection, she supplemented the original jewels with additional sapphire and diamond pieces before giving the set to her new daughter-in-law, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. Today, the Kents still own some pieces, but they've sold others, including the set's original tiara.

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6. The Love Trophy Collar: Queen Mary had this magnificent diamond choker necklace made for herself in 1901, just after her father-in-law became King Edward VII. She instructed Garrard to remove diamonds from other pieces of her jewelry, including a pair of earrings and a set of diamond stars, to make the necklace. It's been in the vaults for years, but beautiful new photographs of the jewel were taken in 2012 for the big Hugh Roberts diamond book, proving that it's still in wearable condition today. (More on this piece over here!)

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5. The Delhi Durbar Necklace: After Queen Mary recovered the Cambridge emeralds from her brother's mistress, Lady Kilmorey -- much more on that debacle over here -- she had nine of the stones set with diamonds in a fascinating new necklace made of platinum and gold. The piece was made as a part of a parure of jewels to be worn at the 1911 Delhi Durbar; King George V paid for the cost the set as a 44th birthday present for his wife. The necklace also features the Cullinan VII as one of its mismatched pendants. Queen Elizabeth II inherited the necklace in 1953 and has worn it throughout her reign.

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4. The Cullinan V Brooch: The stones from the magnificent Cullinan Diamond are set in several pieces of beautiful jewelry, but my favorite is the delicate, scrolling Cullinan V Brooch, which features the 18.8 carat heart-shaped diamond in its center. It was made for Queen Mary by Garrard in 1911, and it's one of the brooches the Queen wears most often today. (More on the Cullinans over here!)


3. The Lover's Knot Brooch: One of the largest of Queen Mary's brooches is the striking Lover's Knot Brooch, which she purchased from Garrard in 1932. Hugh Roberts calls this "the largest and liveliest" of her bow brooches, and I couldn't agree more -- it's somehow classic and modern at the same time. The Queen inherited it in 1953, and she's worn it for several major royal occasions, including the weddings of Princess Margaret and the Duke of Cambridge.

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2. The Vladimir Tiara: A classic tiara from the Romanov imperial court, Queen Mary purchased the Vladimir Tiara from the family of the late Grand Duchess Vladimir in 1921. The piece has been attributed to Bolin, and it was originally made with a set of pearl pendants. Mary ingeniously had a number of the Cambridge emeralds adapted as an alternate set of pendants for the tiara. The Queen still wears the mighty Vlad, which she inherited in 1953, regularly today. (More on the tiara over here!)


1. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara: Perhaps the most romantic and classic of all of Queen Mary's sparklers, the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara was a wedding gift to Mary from a committee of British women. The tiara was originally topped by a set of upright pearls, which have since been removed. The Queen received the tiara from her grandmother as a wedding present in 1947, and it has become her trademark diadem. (More on the tiara over here!)

Which of Queen Mary's jewels are your favorites?