Last week, the Duchess of Gloucester inaugurated a special new exhibition in London, wearing royal jewels that date back more than a century.
The Duchess of Gloucester was on hand to officially open “Treasures of Gold and Silver Wire,” a new exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London, on September 28.
The Duchess, who is Honorary Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers, viewed the wide variety of objects on display in the exhibition, including some items that she had loaned herself to be put on display.
Buckingham Palace explains that the exhibition “showcases over 200 rare and beautiful items made of gold and silver wire sourced from royalty, the arts, military, ecclesiastical, and civil sources.” Some of the items included were used during the recent coronation of King Charles III.
Richly embroidered uniforms are on display, as well as robes from different orders of chivalry.
Costumes from various artistic productions are featured as well. Here, a costume from the ballet Sylvia, worn in 2004 by Dame Darcey Bussell, is displayed near costumes from The Crown.
Also nearby is this impressive costume, worn by David Tennant in a 2013 film production of Shakespeare’s Richard II.
Works of art are also part of the exhibition, including some truly impressive pieces from centuries past. Here’s a detail view of The Fishmongers’ Pall, made by nuns between 1512 and 1538 for the the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. The same organization still owns the pall, which is made of linen and cloth of gold.
The remarkable Bacton Altar Cloth is included in the exhibition as well. The altar cloth, which dates to the 1590s, has been used by St. Faith’s Church in Bacton, Heredfordshire, for centuries. But it was more recently discovered that the altar cloth is particularly special: it was made by repurposing embroidered fabric that was once part of a dress owned by Queen Elizabeth I. It’s very similar to the embroidered dress that Elizabeth is pictured wearing in the famous Rainbow Portrait. The cloth is the only known surviving piece of dress fabric worn by Elizabeth I.
There’s more modern metallic embroidery featured in the exhibition, too. Here’s a close-up look at The Four Nations Stamp by Susan Ghosh.
And, of course, there are jewels on display! Here’s a close-up view of a brooch made in 1964 by the designer David Thomas, featuring a pearl set in radiating gold.
And here’s a more recent piece: the Spring Brooch, made by Miki Asai and Francis Bohle in 2017.
During the exhibition opening, the Duchess of Gloucester received gifts to mark the 400th anniversary of the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers, including a brooch featuring the company’s coat of arms with supporters.
Birgitte pinned the badge to the collar of her dress during the exhibition visit. The new badge accompanied several other pieces of jewelry from the Duchess’s collection: the heirloom Gloucester emeralds and pearls.
The pearl and emerald necklaces and the diamond and emerald drop earrings both come from a suite of jewelry that was given to Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester—the present Duchess’s mother-in-law—to celebrate her royal wedding in 1935. The jewels were part of the wedding present offered to Alice by her new parents-in-law, King George V and Queen Mary.
The two pearl and emerald necklaces were strung with pearls and emerald beads that Queen Mary took from Queen Alexandra’s Indian Necklace. According to Hans Nadelhoffer, the necklace (which was strung with pearls, rubies, and emeralds) was commissioned from Cartier in 1901 to coordinate with new Indian gowns sent to Alexandra by Mary Curzon, the Indian viceroy’s wife.
Princess Alice used two of the diamond and emerald pendants from the set’s large brooch to create a set of earrings. Birgitte wore the earrings and the two emerald and pearl necklaces with an orange dress for the exhibition opening. She also added a third, all-pearl necklace, from which she suspended a third emerald pendant from the set.
If Birgitte’s emerald, pearl, and orange combination looks familiar, it’s because she’s worn it before. A notable appearance came in April 2018 during the birthday celebrations for her husband’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth II. Not everyone can pull off orange and green together, but somehow the Duchess always brings an extra bit of panache when wearing heirloom royal jewels, doesn’t she?