To cap off our month-long foray into the jewelry collection of Queen Sonja of Norway, let’s have a look at one of the sparkliest items in the royal vaults: the diamond earrings that Sonja often pairs with Queen Josefina’s elaborate diamond tiara.
Like most of the heirloom pieces in the Norwegian royal collection, the earrings can be traced back to the United Kingdom, birthplace of Queen Maud. Norwegian royal historian Trond Noren Isaksen notes that the earrings “were originally pendants on a necklace worn by Queen Alexandra of Britain.”
Indeed, Alexandra is depicted wearing this particular pair of diamond pendants on several necklaces throughout her time as Princess of Wales and Queen. Above, she wears the pendants attached to a diamond necklace in an 1883 portrait by Bassano. The pendants are visible to the left and the right of the large central pendant element.
At the wedding of her second son, the future King George V, in 1893, Alexandra attached the diamond pendants to her own wedding necklace (made by Garrard ca. 1862, and given to Alexandra by her husband). Again, the twinned diamond pendants are seen to the left and right of the central pendant piece.
Here Alexandra wears the pendants again in 1896, in an image from a series of portraits taken shortly before the Diamond Jubilee of her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria. (Note: this photograph is flipped.)
And, of course, Alexandra wore the pendants at her coronation in 1902, along with virtually every other piece of jewelry she owned. Above is a detail of a portrait of the newly-crowned queen consort in her coronation robes; as before, the diamond pendants are to the left and the right of the largest pendant on the lowest necklace.
You’ll sometimes see another explanation for the provenance of the earrings: that they’re the diamond earrings worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day. She called her wedding earrings the “Turkish diamond earrings,” as they were a gift from the Sultan of Turkey. (So was the necklace of diamond rosettes that she also wore on the wedding day.) There are no photographs of Queen Victoria’s actual wedding, though she sat for Winterhalter in her wedding attire seven years later. You can see her wedding jewels: the Turkish necklace and earrings, plus the sapphire Albert brooch, in the portrait.
There are definitely some stylistic similarities between the Norwegian earrings and Queen Victoria’s Turkish earrings, which are also pictured above in an 1850s-era photograph of the Queen in court dress. But to me, Victoria’s earrings look considerably larger than either Queen Alexandra’s pendants or Queen Sonja’s earrings. To my knowledge, there is also no documentation that shows the Queen Victoria gave the earrings to Queen Alexandra. I suppose it’s possible they were remodeled and reused by Alexandra, but I also think it seems unlikely that Victoria’s wedding earrings, part of a day that was extremely sentimental to her, would have been refashioned during her lifetime.
Ultimately, the connection to Queen Victoria seems unlikely, but regardless, these British heirloom earrings have become a staple of the Norwegian royal women, as they form a neat pairing with the family’s most impressive diamond tiara. I’ve never found an image of Queen Maud wearing the earrings, but they were worn by Crown Princess Martha, mother of the present king, in a portrait. Today, Queen Sonja wears the earrings quite frequently at white-tie events, pairing them with Queen Josefina’s tiara, with the replica of Queen Maud’s pearl tiara, and even with Queen Maud’s tiny Vifte tiara.
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