29 January 2021

The Queen Mother's Cartier Ruby Floral Clip Brooches

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King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom were famously dedicated customers of Cartier. We recently talked about an enormous Cartier floral brooch from the Queen Mum's collection, and today we've got all the details on a pair of floral brooches made for her by the firm: her Cartier Ruby Floral Clip Brooches.

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The Queen Mother acquired the clips from Cartier in the 1940s, and she wore them both separately and together. In the photograph above, she wears both clips with pearls in Cambridge during the 400th anniversary celebrations for Trinity College in June 1947.

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Many have argued that the ruby and diamond clips were part of the Greville bequest, the cache of jewels that Queen Elizabeth inherited from Dame Margaret Greville in 1942. But that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Royal jewelry historian Christopher Vachaudez wrote an article a few years ago summarizing the pieces of Cartier jewelry owned by the British royals. He explains that the clips were commissioned by the Queen Mother herself, using loose gemstones she already owned. They were made to coordinate with a ruby and diamond collet bracelet.

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Clip brooches, also called dress clips, were particularly fashionable in the 1930s and 1940s. They were designed to be worn on opposite sides of the neckline of a dress, or on each strap of an evening gown. Some clips could be attached together to be worn as a single brooch. Others, like these ruby and diamond floral clips, were essentially mirror images of each other, able to be worn separately or in some arrangement together. (The Queen's Amethyst Floral Brooches are another example of this style.) Above, Queen Elizabeth wears both clips on one side of her neckline as she arrives at Westminster Abbey in July 1951 for the wedding of Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott, a niece of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and Sir Ian Gilmour.

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The Queen Mother continued to wear the clips during her long widowhood. She often wore one of the brooches as part of a suite of ruby and diamond jewels for evening, usually paired with the Oriental Circlet and the Crown Ruby Necklace and Earrings. On this occasion, the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in November 1964, she also wore her Diamond Quatrefoil Bracelet, which is worn today by the Duchess of Cambridge.

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For a dinner at 10 Downing Street in November 1980 to celebrate her 80th birthday, the Queen Mother again wore one of the floral clips with the Oriental Circlet and the Crown Rubies, this time adding a modern-looking diamond and ruby bracelet.

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The Queen Mother kept the brooches in her collection until the end of her long life in 2002. They were inherited, along with the lion's share of her jewels, by her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. She has worn them on occasion, one at a time, in the years since.

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The clips have even been brought out for two significant royal moments. She wore one of the brooches in November 2007 for a special service at Westminster Abbey marking her diamond wedding anniversary.

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She wore the other brooch two years later for the annual Christmas Day church service near the Sandringham estate in December 2009, pairing it with a bright red outfit that really made the rubies pop.