Our long weekend wading through the splendor of the Greville Bequest arrives today at a romantic Edwardian piece from the collection: the Greville Ruby Necklace.
While much of the jewelry from the bequest that we’ve discussed so far is distinctly Art Deco in style, this diamond and ruby necklace is an example of the swirling, floral, romantic style that was growing in popularity when Maggie Anderson married Ronnie Greville in 1891. The necklace was actually made several years later by Boucheron in Paris, with its gemstones set in a design made of silver and gold. Vincent Meylan dates the creation of the necklace to 1907, while the Royal Collection gives the piece’s creation date as “ca. 1910.”
Maggie Greville had many of her earlier jewelry pieces reworked later in more modern, contemporary styles, but this diamond and ruby necklace escaped those renovations. It remained in its distinctive v-shaped form, with its large pendant drop, when she bequeathed it to Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) in 1942.
Here’s a closer look at the necklace via the Royal Collection. I find the repeating flower motifs in the design really interesting. They’re very literal, almost like a child’s drawing of a flower, but the way the design repeats adds interest, and almost helps them fade into the background, sort of like a subtle wallpaper pattern.
Though the Queen Mother liked floral, romantic jewels, she apparently never wore this piece after inheriting it. Instead, it was one of the jewels from the bequest that she passed along to her elder daughter. Princess Elizabeth received the necklace as a wedding present from her mother in November 1947. Above, the necklace is depicted in newsreel footage from the public display of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gifts that autumn.
As she did with so many of her necklaces, the Queen had the diamond and ruby necklace shortened so that it sat closer to her throat, in a style popular in the late ’40s and early ’50s. The two sections of the necklace that were removed have been retained in the royal vaults, so it seems that the necklace could theoretically be restored to its original length with relative ease.
In the early years of her marriage, Princess Elizabeth wore the necklace frequently for gala functions. In this portrait, taken around 1951, Elizabeth wears the necklace with the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara, the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings, and the Cornwall Rose of York Bracelet.
She wears the necklace here in September 1951, just before a lengthy visit to Canada and the United States, for a film premiere in London. She wears the Cornwall Rose of York Bracelet here again as well, plus two other pieces of jewelry: the Diplomatic Corps Floral Earrings and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. Something about the pairing of this tiara and necklace works really well—the design motifs used in both pieces, including floral elements, coordinate nicely.
The Queen has continued to wear the necklace occasionally throughout the seven decades of her reign. She wears the jewel with the King George IV Diamond Diadem and Queen Mary’s Ruby Cluster Earrings for a formal portrait taken in the spring of 1987. Over the years, additional ruby necklaces—notably the Baring Ruby Necklace, the Qatari Ruby Necklace, and, more recently, the Crown Ruby Necklace—have been added to her jewelry box, but the Greville Ruby Necklace has continued to make appearances.
In July 2017, the Queen loaned the necklace to another member of the family. The Duchess of Cambridge wore the necklace with Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara and the Collingwood Pearl Drop Earrings for the Spanish state banquet at Buckingham Palace. She paired the necklace with a dress that featured a plunging neckline, perfectly framing the jewel.
But although many of the jewelry loans that the Queen has offered to family members are more long term, the Queen kept the Greville Ruby Necklace in her personal jewelry box even after loaning it out to Kate. HM most recently wore the necklace in public in April 2018 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Dinner in London. She layered the necklace over a shimmering white evening gown, and added additional sparkle with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and Queen Mary’s Ruby Cluster Earrings.