09 December 2018

The Queen's Diamond and Pearl Leaf Brooch

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Queen Elizabeth II's brooch collection is so vast that often pieces go unseen or unworn for years -- or even decades! Today's piece, her Diamond and Pearl Leaf Brooch, was one of those mystery items, until it came to prominence again on the Duchess of Cambridge.

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The brooch features a trio of pearls placed in the center of a pave-set leaf. This close-up shows that the piece appears to be made at least partly of yellow gold; note the edge of the leaf portion of the brooch. We don't have any provenance information on the brooch, but to my eye, it looks like a fairly recent creation.

The Queen wears the brooch in Seoul, 21 April 1999 (Fiona Hansen/PA Images/Alamy)

The brooch is currently on loan to the Duchess of Cambridge from the Queen. HM's most notable outing in the piece so far came on her 73rd birthday in 1999, when she wore the brooch at a special concert in Seoul during her visit to South Korea. Because I believe the brooch may be a modern creation, and it hasn't really popped up on the Queen subsequently, I've often wondered if it was perhaps a birthday gift offered to her on this trip.

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Nearly two decades after the Queen wore the brooch in Seoul, the Duchess of Cambridge wore the piece for the first time during an important visit to Belgium. She and William journeyed to Ypres in July 2017 for a special visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Commisions's Tyne Cot Cemetery, marking the centenary of Passchendaele.

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The brooch was an appropriate choice for such a somber occasion of remembrance, as "white" jewels like pearl and diamond pieces are often worn for mourning. Kate paired the brooch with diamond and pearl drop earrings from the collection of her late mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales.

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She brought the brooch out again in November 2018 for another occasion linked to World War I -- the annual Festival of Remembrance at Royal Albert Hall. In 2018, the event marked the centenary of the end of the Great War.

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The brooch was nearly hidden behind Kate's poppies on the occasion; its recognizable diamond-studded stem was the only visible portion. Kate arranged a trio of poppies atop the brooch, echoing the trio of pearls set within the leaf.