Last Thursday, while the Princess of Wales and the Crown Princess of Sweden were turning heads at the Royal Variety Performance, two more British royal ladies were sparkling in diamonds, emeralds, and pearls in another part of London.
Queen Camilla attended the Rifles Awards Dinner at the Guildhall in London on Thursday evening. The dinner, which is held every other year, celebrates achievements by members of Britain’s largest infantry regiment. Camilla has been the Colonel-in-Chief of the Rifles since 2020, when she took over the role from her father-in-law, Prince Philip. She’s also been also the Royal Colonel of the 4th Battalion since 2007.
Queen Camilla wore a blue velvet gown with a geometric pattern for Thursday evening’s dinner and accessorized with pieces of diamond jewelry from her personal collection. She wore her diamond floral earrings, her diamond serpent necklace, and a large gem-set brooch in the shape of the Rifles cap badge.
Let’s start with the brooch. Camilla has a smaller Rifles cap badge pin in her collection, but she’s been wearing this larger version since 2020, when she became the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief. One of her earliest appearances in the larger badge took place on Remembrance Sunday in November 2020.
She’s worn the brooch on various Rifles-related occasions since, notably choosing it for the last Rifles Awards Dinner, which was held in November 2021. On that occasion she paired the brooch with her modern suite of diamond and emerald jewelry, which is thought to be a gift from the Saudi royal family.
Here’s another view of the way that she wore the brooch with the rest of her diamond jewels for Thursday evening’s dinner at the Guildhall.
Let’s look more closely at the rest of those diamonds, shall we? Camilla wore a staple piece from her gala jewelry collection: a diamond necklace in the shape of a serpent. A large diamond pendant represents the head of the snake, with the rest curling around her neck and meeting up at the end of the tapered tail. Two tiny rubies set in the pendant represent the serpent’s eyes.
Camilla has been wearing the necklace for gala events for decades, and many speculated over the years that it was a gift from Charles. In October 2023, however, royal reporters were briefed during Charles and Camilla’s visit to Kenya that the necklace “belonged to her adored grandmother” and was made by Van Cleef & Arpels.
While some people get the chills from looking at any serpentine symbols, the snake is an enduring design motif in jewelry, traditionally representing eternal love. Queen Alexandra famously wore a golden snake bracelet coiled around one wrist, and other royal ladies have embraced serpent jewelry as well. The gold and emerald engagement ring that Prince Albert presented to Queen Victoria featured a snake design, too.
Queen Camilla’s diamond earrings are equally interesting but definitely more sedate. The antique diamond clips feature a floral stud and a diamond frame within which a diamond flower is suspended. One side of the diamond frame is set with round brilliants, while the other features a laurel leaf pattern. Camilla notably wore them for the blessing ceremony at St. George’s Chapel after her wedding to the Charles in Windsor in April 2005.
A year later, in May 2006, Camilla loaned the earrings to her daughter, Laura, for her wedding to Harry Lopes. Laura also borrowed the Cubitt Tiara, a family heirloom, from her mother to wear on her wedding day.
Over the years, Camilla has paired the diamond flower earrings and the snake earrings together frequently for gala events. The jewels seem at first like an unexpected pairing, but they do share similar curving lines. Above, she wears both the necklace and the earrings with the Delhi Durbar Tiara during the Norwegian state visit to London in October 2005.
Here’s one more look at the jewels together for Thursday’s dinner. Camilla also added some of her usual bracelets, including her blue Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra bracelet, and layered two more delicate chain necklaces beneath the grand serpent necklace.
There were two other royals present for the dinner as well: the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Richard is the Royal Colonel of the 6th Battalion, while Birgitte is Royal Colonel of the 7th Battalion. (Normally, we’d see the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh at this dinner as well, as they’re the Royal Colonels of the 2nd and 5th Battalions, respectively. But Sophie’s currently on a diplomatic trip to Colombia, and Edward was apparently also unavailable. The Royal Colonels of the 1st and 3rd Battalions are the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra, whose public appearances are becoming increasingly rare these days.)
For the dinner, Birgitte delved into the collection of diamond, emerald, and pearl jewelry that she and Richard inherited from his mother, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. She wore the diamond and emerald earrings from the suite, plus the emerald and pearl necklaces and two more of the set’s emerald pendant drops.
The suite of jewels was given to Princess Alice by her new in-laws, King George V and Queen Mary, as a wedding present in 1935. It’s pictured above in the display of her gifts from the time of the royal wedding. The demi-parure featured a large diamond and emerald brooch with three emerald pendants, two diamond and emerald bracelets, and two emerald and pearl necklaces with large emerald pendants. The emerald and pearl beads strung on the two necklaces have an even longer royal history: they were originally part of an Indian-inspired necklace made for Queen Alexandra by Cartier in 1901.
Different pieces from the set can be used in versatile ways, especially the pendants. For Thursday’s dinner, Birgitte wore two of the brooch’s pendants as earrings. She attached the third central pendant from the brooch to a short pearl necklace, one of the necklace pendants to a second pearl necklace, and wore the emerald and pearl necklaces without any pendants at all.
The emerald and pearl suite has been a particular favorite of Birgitte’s in recent years. She wears pieces from the set often, sometimes in combination with other emerald and diamond jewelry from Princess Alice’s collection. She did just that at the Guildhall during the South African state visit in 2022, wearing the necklaces, pendants, and earrings with the brooch and clips from the emerald and diamond bandeau and the emerald setting of Queen Mary’s Honeysuckle Tiara.