Get ready, British royal jewelry lovers: it’s a big Greville Bequest Weekend here at The Court Jeweller! Today, we’re kicking things off with a closer look at the intriguing emerald earrings from the famous inheritance.
Dame Margaret Greville loved emeralds, and she was famous for wearing them to some of the most prominent British society occasions that she attended, including the wedding celebrations for the Duke and Duchess of Kent in 1934. Today’s earrings are likely the pair she wore on that occasion: large pear-shaped emerald drops suspended from a thin row of diamonds. In his book on Boucheron’s archives, Vincent Meylan writes that Mrs. Greville ordered the diamond and emerald earrings from the firm’s Paris location in 1923.
Up close, the earrings are fascinating. Meylan argues that the emerald drops are cabochons, but viewed closely in photographs of the Queen taken in December 2019, they actually appear to be faceted. (The setting essentially confirms this; cabochon drops would not be set with prongs.) The drops are suspended from five diamonds that showcase the skill of Boucheron’s craft. From a round brilliant stud, a square diamond is suspended, followed by three rare hexagonal-cut diamonds set horizontally. The emerald drop is then suspended from those diamonds in a prong setting.
The earrings arrived in the Queen Mother’s jewelry box in the middle of World War II, but she doesn’t appear to have worn them in public until after the war had ended. One of the Queen Mother’s earliest appearances in the earrings came in April 1949, when she watched Margot Fonteyn dance the part of Cinderella at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. She paired the earrings with Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara and the Greville Emerald Necklace.
The unique setting of the earrings, as you can tell by this photograph, can prove to be a challenge when trying to identify the pair visually. Because the pear-shaped emerald drops have no diamond border, but are presented alone in a slim prong setting, they tend to vanish into the background of black-and-white photographs. Only when the Queen Mother was photographed in profile are the earrings more easily distinguished in these older images.
Here’s an image that shows the Queen Mother in profile—and, therefore, shows the earrings more successfully. She’s attending the christening of her first granddaughter, Princess Anne, at Buckingham Palace in October 1950. Her other jewels included diamond and emerald bracelets, several strands of pearls, and her Silver Anniversary Flower Brooch. (The Queen, still Princess Elizabeth here, wears pearls and sapphires, including the Sapphire Chrysanthemum Brooch and the Cartier Sapphire and Diamond Bracelet.)
The Queen Mother mostly reserved the earrings for gala occasions, both with and without tiaras. Here, she pairs them with the Greville Emerald Necklace and the Silver Anniversary Flower Brooch for a guided visit to the Tate Gallery in London in April 1963.
And here, you get a good idea of the range of motion of the earrings, worn here with the Greville Tiara and the Greville Emerald Necklace during the 1972 state visit from Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.
The Queen Mother continued to wear the earrings until the end of her life. Here, she wears them (plus the Greville Emerald Necklace, her Modern Emerald Floral Brooch, and a diamond and emerald bracelet) during her 90th birthday celebrations in December 1990. One of her final appearances in the earrings came eight years later, when she wore them with pearls to attend a performance of the musical Oklahoma! in London on her 98th birthday in 1998.
The present Queen inherited the earrings from her mother in 2002. Her first recorded appearance in the earrings came in 2010, when she sat for a portrait by the artist James Lloyd commissioned by Queen’s College, Cambridge. In the portrait, she wears the earrings with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and Queen Mary’s emeralds, including the Delhi Durbar Necklace.
Almost a decade later, she wore the earrings for the first time during a public appearance. In December 2019 (pictured above), she dazzled in diamonds and emeralds at the annual Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace. She paired the earrings with the emerald setting of the Vladimir Tiara, plus a unique diamond and emerald necklace that made its public debut on that occasion. (It’s almost certainly a Greville piece as well, and we’ll be delving into its story in an upcoming article.)
The photographs of the Queen wearing the earrings at the reception offered us our best view of their details yet. The Art Deco-style setting of the diamonds in particular is so typical of Mrs. Greville’s later style.