13 September 2018

Princess Sibylla's Sapphire Necklace

Wikimedia Commons

The Swedish royal family has one of the grandest suites of sapphire jewels in the world locked away in their royal vaults, but those aren't the only sapphires worn by the Bernadotte women. Today, we're looking at the glamorous necklace of diamonds and cabochon sapphires that belonged to Princess Sibylla, mother of the present king.




Wikimedia Commons

The magnificent necklace, made of large cabochon sapphires set with diamond spacer elements and featuring five diamond and sapphire pendants, was one of the presents given to Princess Sibylla when she married Prince Gustaf Adolf, second in line to the Swedish throne, in 1932. The generous giver was one of Sibylla's cousins, Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who had reigned as Tsar of Bulgaria until 1918. There's apparently some sort of family lore that links the gorgeous cabochon sapphires in the necklace to the Romanovs, but to my knowledge, that potential provenance has never been substantiated.


Princess Sibylla wears the necklace, ca. 1947 (Wikimedia Commons)

Sibylla's new position as a future queen of Sweden meant that the necklace was joining a major royal collection. Life in the Swedish royal court in the first half of the twentieth century featured lots of opportunities to wear full court dress, and Sibylla wore the necklace often, pairing it with multiple tiaras, including the Connaught Diamond Tiara from her late mother-in-law's jewelry box and her own Aquamarine Kokoshnik. You'll also often see her wearing the necklace with a simple (but dramatic) pair of diamond and sapphire drop earrings.


Image licensed to The Court Jeweller; do not reproduce

Of course, those of you who know your Swedish royal history already know that Sibylla never became the nation's queen. Following the untimely death of her husband in an airplane accident, her most important role in the royal family became that of the mother of the future king, now King Carl XVI Gustaf. Still in the spotlight, she continued to have plenty of reasons to wear her jewels -- and she also had four daughters in the wings waiting to try them out, too. Here, at the Nobel Prize Ceremony in December 1957, Princess Margaretha wears her mother's sapphire necklace, this time without its pendants. (Sibylla also wore the necklace without pendants, too -- one notable appearance in that form also came in Athens in 1962.)


Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The necklace was ultimately inherited by another sister, Princess Birgitta. You'll note today that the necklace only has three pendants, not five; that's because two of the pendants were removed along the way and made into an additional pair of earrings. For the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria in 2010, though, Birgitta wore diamond earrings with the necklace, as well as the grand tiara that belonged to Queen Sofia.


Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

For Princess Madeleine's wedding in 2013, Birgitta wore Sibylla's sapphires with another pair of diamond earrings and the Connaught Diamond Tiara.


Wikimedia Commons

The pairing of the necklace with the tiara is an especially appropriate one. The Connaught Diamond Tiara was such a firm favorite of Sibylla's -- and worn so often by her -- that the family reportedly refers to the piece as "Princess Sibylla's Tiara." It was lovely to see the tiara and the necklace reunited, if only for a few hours.