Queen Mary was known for her incredible tiaras, brooches, and necklaces. But her collection also included several pairs of important earrings. Today, on her birthday, we’ve got a closer look at a pair that has become a favorite of the present Queen: the Mackinnon Floret Earrings.
As is the case with so many of Queen Mary’s sparkling jewels, the central diamonds from these earrings were part of her wedding gift haul in July 1893. The large brilliants, originally set as solitaires, were given to Mary by Sir William Mackinnon, a Scottish shipowner who was deeply involved in colonial shipping projects in India and Africa. Mackinnon actually died in London a few days before the royal wedding, but the gift had already been arranged.
These diamond floral earrings are actually the third setting of the diamonds. Mary had the original solitaire earrings converted to a pair of diamond cluster earrings in 1922. And then, in 1939, she had the Mackinnon diamonds removed from those cluster earrings (and replaced with a pair of diamonds given to her as a wedding present by the Bombay Presidency.) The Mackinnon diamonds were then used as the centerpieces of these new diamond and platinum floret earrings, made by Garrard the same year. Each floret earring features seven smaller brilliants surrounding the larger diamond.
Queen Mary was already a widow when these floret earrings were commissioned. She wore the earrings in this glittering official portrait, taken around the time that they were made. (The creation date of the earrings help date the portrait; so does the fact that Mary is wearing the Royal Family Orders of both King George V and King George VI.) With the earrings, Mary is also wearing two of Queen Alexandra’s jewels: her diamond kokoshnik and her collier resille. She’s also wearing the brooch that many believe was later dismantled to make a pair of earrings. Her regal ensemble was completed with the insignia (star, sash, garter) of the Order of the Garter.
Queen Elizabeth II inherited the earrings from her grandmother in 1953, and she’s been wearing them for evening (and formal daytime) occasions ever since. Above, she pairs the floret earrings with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, as well as her Diamond Festoon Necklace, for a celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in November 1964.
More recently, we’ve seen the earrings pop up at some of the regular formal occasions on the British royal calendar, including Garter Day, the State Opening of Parliament, and diplomatic dinners and receptions. In this photo, taken in June 2006, the Queen wears the earrings with the robes and insignia of the Order of the Garter for the annual Garter Day service in Windsor.
In November 2007, the Queen chose the earrings for the State Opening of Parliament ceremonies in London. She wore them with the George IV Diamond Diadem to travel to and from the Houses of Parliament for the event.
For one of the most important state dinners of her reign—the one held in Dublin during her landmark state visit in May 2011—the Queen wore the floret earrings with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and additional diamonds from her collection. (We recently discussed this look over here!)
The earrings made another Garter Day appearance in June 2018. They’re just right for a formal occasion that takes place during the day: not overwhelming in size, but packing much more sparkle than your average diamond button or stud earring. They definitely hold their own with the elaborate Garter robes.
One of the most recent appearances of the earrings came during the annual Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace in December 2018. For that event, the Queen again wore the earrings with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, plus the glittering King Khalid Necklace.