Mrs. Greville’s famous jewelry bequest to the Queen Mother is full of inspired pieces with Art Deco flair, and perhaps none are quite so fantastic as this grand Cartier necklace.
The enormous necklace is actually two pieces married together to make one imposing festoon necklace. In 1929, Dame Margaret Greville commissioned Cartier’s London workshop to make a long, elaborate festoon necklace featuring two rows of diamonds set in platinum. That original necklace had a silver chain clasp. In 1938, not long after the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Mrs. Greville returned to Cartier with the piece. She asked them to remove the silver chain section and make the two-row necklace into an all-diamond piece. And, at the same time, she had a second festoon necklace made with the same design motifs. The second necklace, a three-row piece, is smaller, so that it could sit inside the circumference of the original necklace.
When worn together, the two necklaces are quite spectacular, almost like a large diamond bib. Hugh Roberts writes in The Queen’s Diamonds that the resulting piece was “comparable in richness to some of the work carried out by Cartier for its Indian clients.” (For reference, here’s the grandest of those Cartier creations.) The fact that the piece is made up of two separate necklaces adds to its versatility. It can be worn in three separate settings: a three-stranded version, a two-stranded version, or the complete five-stranded necklace.
The necklace was one of the pieces from the Greville bequest that Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) kept for herself. (She gifted other pieces from the inheritance to her daughters.) She began wearing the necklace for gala occasions after the war. Here, she pairs all five rows of the necklace with the Greville Tiara (in its original setting) and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bracelet for a dinner during the Dutch state visit in 1950.
She continued to wear the necklace throughout her long life, though she preferred to wear only three rows of the necklace in her later years. Here, in December 1998, she pairs the three-row version of the necklace with the renovated Greville Tiara and the Greville Peardrop Earrings.
She also wore the three-stranded version of the necklace for one of her very final gala appearances. For a trip to the ballet on her 101st birthday in August 2001, she wore the necklace with the Peardrop Earrings and the Centenary Rose Brooch.
When the Queen Mother died in 2002, the necklace was inherited by the present Queen. She has offered it as a long-term loan to the Duchess of Cornwall, who has worn the complete piece on several occasions. The first was a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Banquet in Uganda in November 2007. She wore the five-row necklace with the Greville Tiara and her own pear-shaped diamond cluster earrings.
In June 2015, she wore the same combination of jewels—the five-row necklace, the Greville Tiara, and the pear-shaped cluster earrings—for a dinner at Apsley House in London celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Duke of Wellington’s Waterloo banquets.
One of Camilla’s most recent outings in the necklace came in October 2018, when she wore the five-stranded necklace with her pear-shaped cluster earrings for a concert celebrating the 70th birthday of the Prince of Wales. Here’s hoping we see her try out one of the other settings of the necklace soon as well!