September is the month to celebrate sapphires, and today I’m bringing you a gorgeous diamond and sapphire brooch with an intriguing British royal backstory.
To explore the story of today’s jewel, let’s head back to 1946, the year after World War II ended. The British royals were easing their way out of the war years along with the rest of the nation. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth had been on the throne for nearly ten years, with their daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, by their side. The King’s mother, Queen Mary, was also still a vital part of the royal family. Above, all five attend the official reopening of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in February 1946. (Queen Elizabeth is wearing the tiara setting of the Teck Hoop Necklace, while Queen Mary wears the Iveagh Tiara.)
A few weeks later, in April 1946, the family gathered at Windsor to mark an important milestone in Princess Margaret’s religious life. Fifteen-year-old Margaret was officially confirmed as a member of the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, on April 15, 1946. The service was a private one, held in the chapel at Windsor Castle. Only a handful of people were in attendance, including the King and Queen, Queen Mary, Princess Elizabeth, the Duchess of Kent, the Hon. David Bowes-Lyon (one of Margaret’s godfathers), and Rosamond Fisher, as well as several courtiers.
Queen Mary made it a tradition to offer small pieces of jewelry to her granddaughters for important occasions, including their confirmations. We only recently learned about the turquoise and diamond brooch she gave to Princess Elizabeth for her confirmation in 1942. She also gave Margaret a little jeweled treasure to mark the occasion of her confirmation.
The gift was a petite diamond and sapphire brooch, made in the Art Deco style, likely around 1925. It’s possible that the jewel was an existing piece from Mary’s own collection. The jewel, which measured just four and a half centimeters, came in a fitted box from Collingwood. Mary penned a little note to her granddaughter that was tucked in the case. It reads, “For darling Margaret on her confirmation day from her loving Grannie Mary. God bless you.”
The brooch is gorgeous, but so far I’ve never been able to track down a photograph of Margaret wearing it. To our eyes today, the geometric lines of Art Deco jewelry are powerful and beautiful, but for young people coming of age in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was the style of their parents and grandparents. Margaret usually favored much more romantic and floral jewelry, and I’m guessing that this brooch wasn’t really to her taste. It’s also very small, so it’s possible that it’s simply escaped visual ID in images. (Interestingly, I’ve also never seen a photograph of the late Queen wearing her confirmation gift brooch. Perhaps they were worn in more private settings?)
After Princess Margaret passed away, her children, David and Sarah, decided to auction off selected items from her estate. The brooch was one of the jewels sold at Christie’s in London in June 2006. It smashed its auction estimate, selling for £66,000.
The brooch popped up again in an auction setting in 2017, when it was sold by an Essex firm, Boningtons, along with several other items from Margaret’s collection. If my records are correct, that was our most recent public glimpse of the jewel—a lovely little token of a royal grandmother’s love and esteem.