29 March 2021

95 Years, 95 Jewels: Part 1 (1930s-1940s)

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, then Princess Elizabeth, photographed ca. 1945 (AFP via Getty Images)

In April, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom celebrates a remarkable milestone: her 95th birthday. To celebrate, we're going to begin the month with a week-long series on her jewels, highlighting 95 pieces from her incredible royal jewelry collection.

We originally surveyed these jewels five years ago, when the Queen turned 90. I'm revisiting the series this week with a fresh eye, with new photos and new pieces. A reminder, of course, that this is far from an exhaustive list of the Queen's collection. Rather, this is a chronological overview of examples of jewelry from throughout the Queen's life, showing how the collection evolved over the years. Enjoy!

OFF/AFP via Getty Images

1. The George V Pearls

To celebrate his Silver Jubilee in 1935, King George V of the United Kingdom gave his granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, a triple strand of pearls. The necklace sits close to the neck, and is made of identical round pearls. (The three-stranded necklace that the Queen usually wears today is a little longer and made of pearls that are graduated in size.) Above, Elizabeth wears the George V Pearls in October 1949.

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2. The Grenadier Guards Badge

Princess Elizabeth was only thirteen when World War II began, and much of her teenage years were spent in a military-focused environment. In January 1942, following the death of the Duke of Connaught, Elizabeth was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards. In April 1942, on the day before her sixteenth birthday, the officers of the regiment presented her with a diamond brooch in the shape of the regiment's badge. She was often photographed in the badge during the war. Above, in 1944, she wears it for an official visit to the regiment.

Royal Mail/Getty Images

Princess Elizabeth received this classic pair of diamond and aquamarine clips from her parents as an 18th birthday gift in April 1944, and she still wears them consistently today. (She also received the Cartier Halo Tiara from her parents on the same birthday.) Although Leslie Field identified their maker as Cartier, the Royal Collection's website has clarified that Boucheron is actually responsible for this lovely pair. In his Boucheron book, jewel historian Vincent Meylan suggests that the Queen's uncle, the Duke of Kent, had a part in their commission. Five years ago, the Royal Mail released a special birthday stamp featuring the Queen wearing the clips; the image was taken when she and the Duke visited Jamestown in Virginia in 1957.

Fox Photos/PNA//Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Although the most famous photograph of Princess Elizabeth wearing the brooch—the honeymoon snap of her with her new husband, the Duke of Edinburgh—dates to 1947, she actually received the brooch a year earlier. It was given to her in 1946 to commemorate her launching of the British Princess, an oil tanker. The piece is made of platinum and set with diamonds and sapphires to form a chrysanthemum flower with a small stem. Above, in April 1948, she wears it for the unveiling of a memorial for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Grosvenor Square.

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In January 1947, on the day that Princess Elizabeth left for a South African royal tour with her parents and sister, her grandmother, Queen Mary, presented her with these diamond and pearl earrings. The earrings date to the first half of the nineteenth century; they were originally owned by Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, one of the daughters of King George III. She bequeathed them to her niece, Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck in 1857. In turn, the Duchess of Teck bequeathed them to her daughter, Queen Mary, in 1897. The earrings originally included detachable diamond and pearl pendants, but those were made into a separate pair of earrings by Queen Mary. Above, in 1947, Elizabeth wears the earrings on her honeymoon.

Stay tuned for more of our celebration later this afternoon!