The late Queen Elizabeth II had numerous sets of antique pearls in her jewelry collection, but this demi-parure was decidedly more modern. Here’s a closer look at her Japanese Pearl Suite.
In her book on Britain’s royal jewels, Leslie Field writes that the necklace was made “from pearls in [the Queen’s] collection.” The pearls were reportedly a gift from the Japanese government, possibly acquired during the 1970s, when she made a state visit to that nation. The necklace was constructed for her by Garrard.
A four-stranded pearl bracelet with a coordinating clasp was also made to accompany the four-stranded pearl choker necklace. Leslie Field speculates that the clasp of the necklace is large enough to accommodate an additional strand of pearls, should the Queen ever choose to make this a five-stranded choker, but it seems that both pieces were intended to be four-strand jewels. One of Elizabeth II’s first appearances in both pieces came during her November 1983 visit to Bangladesh, where she paired the pearls with the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara and Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Earrings.
She also wore the suite for less formal, non-tiara evening occasions. Here, in 1995, she wears the set for a dinner at Claridge’s to celebrate the 70th birthday of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I believe she also wore Queen Mary’s Ladies of Devonshire Earrings for the dinner.
And in October 1999, during a state visit from the President of China, she wore the pearls for a return dinner at the Chinese embassy in London. For that banquet, she also wore the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings and diamond rings on both hands.
Those earrings had been worn with the pearl choker necklace before. In fact, the entire Japanese Pearl Suite was apparently worn by someone else before the Queen ever debuted it in public. In November 1982, the Queen loaned the necklace and the bracelet (not visible in these images; see a photograph here) to Diana, Princess of Wales, who wore both pieces for a dinner at Hampton Court Palace during a state visit from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Diana also wore other jewels on loan from the Queen for the dinner: Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara and, as mentioned above, the Bahrain Pearl Drop Earrings. She secured her Dutch order sash with the large diamond and sapphire cluster brooch she had received as a gift from the Queen Mother, and which she later had set as the clasp in another pearl choker necklace.
Queen Elizabeth II would also later loan the suite to another member of the family: the current Princess of Wales. Kate wore the pearls for the first time in November 2017, when she was still Duchess of Cambridge, for the 70th wedding anniversary dinner for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle. The necklace from the suite was visible in photographs of the Cambridges’ arrival at the castle for the dinner. Kate also wore Diana’s Collingwood Pearl Drop Earrings for the occasion.
We spotted her wear the bracelet from the set for the first time in June 2019 at the American state banquet at Buckingham Palace, pairing it with Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara, the Queen Mother’s Sapphire and Diamond Fringe Earrings, and her Oak Leaf Brooch.
Here’s a good view of the bracelet with its coordinating clasp ahead of the Queen’s committal service at Windsor. These were just some of the many pearls that Catherine wore during the mourning period for the Queen, including other meaningful pieces that had been loaned to her by Elizabeth II.