31 March 2021

95 Years, 95 Jewels: Part 6 (1940s-February 1952)

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As Princess Elizabeth approached the dawn of her reign, her jewelry collection grew once more. Our celebration continues with some of the jewels she received in the late 1940s and at the beginning of her reign in 1952.

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Traditionally, this colorful floral brooch is said to have been a gift to Princess Elizabeth from her parents on the birth of Prince Charles in 1948. (A find from one of our readers, though, shows that Elizabeth wore the brooch several years earlier.) Elizabeth wore the brooch, which is set with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, in December 1948 for Charles's first official photographs (pictured above). More than half a century later, she gave a quiet nod to history when she wore the same brooch at the christening of Charles's first grandson, Prince George.

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In 1950, Elizabeth's father, King George VI, commissioned a new festoon necklace for her from Garrard. They made the necklace using a collection of 105 loose diamonds that he had inherited as heirlooms of the crown in 1936. As we'll quickly see, the "heirlooms of the crown" are pieces of jewelry that are handed from monarch to monarch and worn by either the queen regnant or the queen consort. Above, the Queen wears the necklace in November 1964 for the RADA Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

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In February 1952, King George VI suddenly died. Elizabeth was in Kenya on a royal tour when she became queen, and she had to quickly fly back to Britain. Once there, she had to adjust to myriad changes; her mother, now the Queen Mum, also had to pass along the jewels known as the "heirlooms of the crown"—although we'll see later in this series that she didn't actually surrender all of them. The grandest part of the "heirlooms" collection is undoubtedly the diamond and pearl diadem made in 1820 by Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. It was made for the coronation of King George IV, but since then it has been worn exclusively by queens regnant and consort. Elizabeth donned it in public for the first time in November 1952 at her first State Opening of Parliament as monarch.

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29. Queen Adelaide's Brooch

The second-oldest jewel that Elizabeth received in the "heirlooms" collection is this diamond brooch, made by Rundell, Bridge, and Co. in 1831 for Queen Adelaide, the wife of King William IV. Originally intended as a clasp for a pearl necklace, the piece has been worn as a brooch by every queen since. Beautiful, detailed photos of the brooch can be seen in Hugh Roberts's The Queen's Diamonds. Above, Elizabeth wears the brooch in October 2013.

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This set of diamond and amethyst jewelry was originally owned by Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. Leslie Field notes that the demi-parure is "the oldest set of jewellery in the royal collection." Queen Victoria designated her mother's amethysts as heirlooms of the crown. The set includes a necklace, a set of three brooches, a pair of hair combs, and a pair of earrings. Elizabeth sometimes wears one of the brooches, but she has only rarely worn the larger set in public.

A sparkling evening earring is on its way next, followed by more of our celebration tomorrow!