The Queen’s jewelry collection includes numerous pairs of impressive diamond earrings. Today, we’re turning our attention to her Antique Girandole Earrings, which are a bit of a royal jewel mystery.
The earrings feature diamonds in collet settings, a technique especially popular with jewelers during the nineteenth century. They’re made in a traditional girandole shape, with three large pear-shaped pendants. (A “girandole” was originally an elaborate light fixture with several branches for candles, like a small chandelier.) The name usually used for the pair, the “Antique Girandole Earrings,” comes from a description in Leslie Fields’s The Queen’s Jewels: “a pair of antique diamond girandole earrings, a triple-pendant design that Queen Victoria had been very partial to more than a hundred years earlier.” Fields does not seem to be suggesting that the earrings were from Victoria’s collection, but rather that Victoria liked this style of earring.
The specific provenance of this pair of girandole earrings does not seem to have been shared with the public. The Queen, to the best of my knowledge, has had them in her collection since at least 1967. That November, she wore them during a visit to Malta. She paired them with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, the Coronation Necklace, and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bracelet during a ball in Valletta on November 17.
I’ve searched the archives, but so far I have been unable to find any earlier appearance of the Queen wearing the earrings. The timing of this early appearance does make me wonder. November 1967 marked the 20th wedding anniversary of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and he was known to give her bejeweled presents. Could these have perhaps been an anniversary gift, either from the Duke or from someone else? Or, alternatively, an official gift from the people of Malta? The Queen has not often worn these earrings with the Coronation Necklace—she usually pairs that necklace with either the Coronation Earrings or Queen Victoria’s Pearl Drop Earrings. Perhaps she was given the earrings during the trip and wanted to wear them to show her appreciation, swapping them out with other earrings that had been planned for the ensemble? (Just to be clear—all of this is speculation on my part.)
The Queen incorporated the earrings into her rotation of gala jewelry fairly quickly. In October 1968, she wore the earrings with the Diamond Diadem and the Diamond Festoon Necklace for the State Opening of Parliament.
Since the late ’60s, the earrings have also frequently been worn for state visits, both at home and abroad. In April 1972, the Queen wore them with Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik, the Diamond Festoon Necklace, and the Dorset Bow Brooch for a banquet at Carpenters’ Hall in the City of London during a state visit from Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. (Queen Juliana wears Queen Emma’s Sapphire Tiara for the banquet.)
The Queen has often wore the earrings in combination with the kokoshnik and the festoon necklace over the years. She has also frequently worn the Greville Chandelier Earrings, a similar style, with the same jewels. It makes sense that the two sets of girandoles would occupy similar territory in her jewelry box, though the Antique Girandoles are shorter and more compact.
Along with the King Faisal Necklace, the Queen has also frequently paired the earrings with another Saudi royal gift, the King Khalid Necklace. All three jewels share a “diamond drop” design in common. Here, for a banquet in Singapore in October 1989, she wears the girandoles with the Khalid Necklace and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, plus one of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bow Brooches.
And here, for a dinner at the British Embassy in Paris during the 1992 French state visit, she pairs the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and the Antique Girandole Earrings with the King Faisal Necklace.
For a state banquet in Brunei in September 1998, the Queen wore the earrings with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, the King Khalid Necklace, Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Brooch, and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bracelet.
She has also frequently worn the girandoles without a tiara for black-tie events, like this dinner at Winfield House in London, during the American state visit in October 2003. She wore them with the Diamond Festoon Necklace for the occasion.
She wore the earrings with the King Khalid Necklace in July 2005 for a dinner in Gleneagles, as part of the G8 summit.
One of the Queen’s more recent appearances in the earrings came in June 2014, when she wore them for the annual Garter Day ceremony at Windsor Castle. I’d love to see these come out of the vaults again—and most of all, I’d love to know more about how they got to the vaults in the first place!