This weekend, we chatted about the grand emerald tiara from the Greville Bequest—but there were many more outstanding emerald jewels included in the inheritance, too. Today, we’ve got a closer look at one of the Queen Mother’s favorites, the Greville Emerald Necklace.
Before the black tin trunk containing Mrs. Greville’s jewels arrived at Buckingham Palace, and even before her estate had gone through probate, the social world was buzzing about the emeralds that Maggie might have left to Queen Elizabeth. In December 1942, the Evening Standard ran an item about the Greville jewels in their “Londoner’s Diary” column, edited at that point by the Hon. Randolph Churchill (son of Sir Winston Churchill).
The piece noted, “Mrs. Ronald Greville, I understand, bequeathed her jewels to the Queen. She had a magnificent collection.” Among the items listed in the article were “two fine emerald and diamond necklaces—one of square emeralds, the other with cabochon emerald drops.” The first necklace described is the one we’re discussing today. (Don’t worry—we’ll be talking about the second one in more detail soon as well!) Dame Maggie was certainly well known for her astonishing emeralds during her lifetime. But the exact provenance of the emerald pieces, especially the necklaces, is a little difficult to untangle.
In the 1980s, Leslie Field identified today’s emerald necklace as a Greville piece. She also attributed it to a very interesting royal source, claiming that the “magnificent eighteenth-century emerald and diamond necklace” was “said to have belonged to Queen Marie Antoinette of France.” Even before Field’s book was published, there had long been rumors (as there often are where grand jewelry collections are concerned) that some of the emeralds or diamonds in Maggie’s collection may have come from Marie Antoinette or Empress Joséphine. The purported Marie Antoinette necklace was said to have been purchased by Mrs. Greville from a Russian princess, Nadezhada Tereshchenko. (Pam Burbidge discusses this possible link in The Maggie Greville Story.) But to my knowledge, there has never been any solid evidence found yet confirming the connection of any of Mrs. Greville’s jewels to either Marie Antoinette or Joséphine.
Thanks to Vincent Meylan’s work, we do know that Mrs. Greville took some of her emeralds to Boucheron in Paris to be altered in 1911. He notes that two necklaces from her collection (one larger, one smaller) were combined into one piece by the jewelry firm. But that description doesn’t seem to apply to the design of today’s necklace, which appears to be one piece with a coherent original design: square-cut emeralds framed in diamonds. The necklace certainly looks to date from the nineteenth century or earlier, but beyond that, we just don’t seem to know much verifiable information about its origins.
Like so many of the pieces from the Greville bequest, Elizabeth began wearing the emerald and diamond necklace in the years after World War II. This appearance—a ballet performance of Cinderella at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in the spring of 1949—appears to be one of Elizabeth’s earliest outings in the necklace. For the occasion, she paired the jewel with the emerald earrings from the bequest and Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara, plus an Art Deco-style bracelet set with diamonds and emeralds. In these early years, Elizabeth would experiment with the emeralds, pairing the necklace with different diamond tiaras from her collection, including this fringe, the Teck Crescent Tiara, and the Greville Tiara.
Elizabeth continued to wear the emeralds during her long tenure as Queen Mother as well. Here, she wears the necklace with the Greville Emerald Earrings and her Silver Anniversary Flower Brooch, as well as a sparkling bracelet, during a visit to the Tate Gallery in April 1963.
By the 1960s, she had settled on the Greville Tiara as a bejeweled companion for the emeralds. It was one of three necklaces that she frequently paired with the tiara (the others being the Greville Festoon Necklace and Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Necklace). Here, in May 1963, she wears the tiara and emerald necklace with the Greville Emerald Earrings and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Fringe Brooch for a gala performance during the state visit from King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of the Belgians.
She also paired the emerald necklace and earrings with the Greville Tiara and the Fringe Brooch for a dinner at the Carpenters’ Hall in London during the Dutch state visit in April 1972. (She’s pictured here beside the late Prince William of Gloucester at the event, a few months before his untimely death.)
And here’s a color photograph of the Queen Mother wearing the emeralds at the Carpenters’ Hall dinner.
The necklace’s details show up nicely in this photograph of the Queen Mother, taken at a performance of Carmen at the Royal Opera House in the summer of 1973. She’s also wearing the Greville Tiara, the Greville Emerald Earrings, the Silver Anniversary Flower Brooch, and the Art Deco-style emerald and diamond bracelet.
One of the Queen Mother’s last appearances in the Greville Emerald Necklace took place in December 1990, about twelve years before her death. The occasion was the “Dance of the Decades,” a grand party thrown at Buckingham Palace by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to celebrate members of the royal family celebrating milestone birthdays that year. All four are pictured here in this portrait taken at the event. The Queen Mother (90) wears the Greville Emerald Necklace and Earrings with her Modern Emerald Floral Brooch and the emerald and diamond bracelet. Princess Margaret (60) wears diamonds, including the Teck Hoop Necklace. The now-disgraced Duke of York (30) stands in the back of the photo. And beside him, the Princess Royal (40) wears a modern suite of diamond and ruby jewels.
When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, the present Queen inherited her jewels, including the Greville Emeralds. While she has worn some of the emeralds from the bequest, we’ve yet to see the Queen wear the Greville Emerald Necklace in public. She’s generally handed over her mother’s signature jewels to other members of the family, including the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge. Perhaps this emerald necklace will be worn next by one of them as well?