bookmark_borderWallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor – Emerald Engagement Ring

Wallis Simpson’s engagement ring, given to her by Edward VIII is one of the most iconic pieces of jewellery in modern history. This stunning ring not only represents the love between the Duke of Windsor and his American divorcee, but it also symbolises the constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom that ultimately led to the abdication of the King.

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor - Emerald Engagement Ring
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor – Emerald Engagement Ring

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, was a true connoisseur of exquisite jewellery. Born on June 19, 1896, in Pennsylvania, United States, she gained worldwide notoriety for her role in the abdication crisis of King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom. She was gifted with numerous pieces of jewellery, with emeralds being a particular favourite.

Upon ascending to the throne in 1936, Wallis Simpson believed that her relationship with King Edward VIII would have to end. However, his love for her only grew stronger, eventually reaching a level of obsession. Believing that she would be crowned by his side, he commissioned his favourite jeweller, Jacques Cartier to make a engagement ring for his future queen.

According to Cartier, the gemstone was one of two cut from a large emerald that once belonged to a Grand Mogul. Jacques had sent a salesman to Baghdad to purchase the gemstones, but the sale had to be conducted in secrecy. When the salesman returned, he only had a small pouch containing an emerald the size of a bird’s egg. While Jacques marvelled at the chance to hold such a magnificent emerald, he was also dismayed as it had to be cut in two due to the difficulty of finding buyers in the 1930s.

Judging by the original mount it was a fairly simple design, typical of the Art Deco period.
Set in platinum the ring featured baguette cut diamonds on either side of the main emerald.

According to documentation, this ring had been bought and paid for on 30th October 1936, two months before the abdication. As an important client of the firm, Cartier quoted a ‘special price’ of £10,000 (£500,000 in 2023).

However, despite Edward’s strong desire for Wallis to become his queen, the government and the Church of England would not accept a divorced woman as his consort. Moreover, there were underlying concerns about Edward’s suitability for the throne, which led to his eventual abdication in December 1936.

In his famous speech, the now Duke of Windsor declared:
‘I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.

They would marry in the France in 1937 and the new Duchess of Windsor would kept the original design for many years, proudly showing it off during photoshoots.

But to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, Wallis had Cartier remount the ring into an extravagant gold and platinum creation which reflected the lavish mid century styles.

After her death, the ring along with the original platinum mount, together with the rest of her jewellery collection, was sold at auction at Sotheby’s. The proceeds from the sale were donated to Pasteur Institute in Paris

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor - Emerald Engagement Ring - Auction, 1987
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor – Emerald Engagement Ring – Auction, 1987

bookmark_borderThe Jewels of the Princess of Wales

As the wife to the the heir of the British thrown, the Princess of Wales holds a special position within the Royal hierarchy. Unlike the other monarchies of Europe, there are no set jewels designated to the title but a few jewels have become unofficially associated with the name.

Princess of Wales Jewels - Prince of Wales Brooch - Princess Alexandra of Denmark

The Prince of Wales Brooch
Made for the wedding of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to the future Edward VII in 1863, this Pendant/Brooch was composed of eighteen Round Cut diamonds with small emeralds that surrounded the traditional symbol of the Prince of Wales, three ostrich feathers surrounded by a crown with the motto ‘Ich Dien’ (I Serve). It also came with a detachable cabochon emerald pendant that can be hung from the bottom of the Pendant.

On her marriage in 1981, the Pendant/Brooch was gifted to Princess Diana as the first Princess of Wales in over a century. She would go on to merge it with the diamond necklace from her Saudi Sapphire Suite

The Pendant/Brooch made a welcome reappearance on Catherine, Princess of Wales in Nov 2022 when she debuted the piece during the South African State Visit and again at the Commonwealth Day celebration service in 2023.

Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara

Princess of Wales Jewels - Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara
Princess of Wales Jewels – Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara

Originally made in 1911 for Queen Mary, this tiara was based on a similar design that was popular amongst the nobility of Europe.

As with the majority of her jewels, Queen Mary left it to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen did wear the tiara early in her reign but it appears to have fallen out of style and wasn’t seen again until the 1980s.

The tiara became truly iconic though once it began to be worn by Princess Diana. Although it has been said that she preferred her the Spencer Tiara as it was easier to wear, she nether the less wore the Lover’s Knot tiara to many important occasions. After her death in 1997, the tiara returned to the Royal Family.

When she became the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, Kate Middleton faced many comparisons with her deceased mother in law. Given that she would one day become the Princess of Wales it was assumed that she would wear elements of Diana’s Royal jewellery collection. To everyone’s delight, the Lover’s Knot Tiara has now become a staple of Kate’s Royal wardrobe.

Queen Mary’s Emerald Choker
Once thought to be a part of the Cambridge Emeralds, this choker was actually a gift from the Ladies of India and presented to Queen Mary at the Delhi Dhurbar in 1911. The original necklace laid flat on the neck.

Princess of Wales Jewels - Queen Mary's Emerald Choker - Queen Mary of England
Princess of Wales Jewels – Queen Mary’s Emerald Choker – Queen Mary of England

In 1921, Queen Mary had the Crown Jeweller Garrard remodel the necklace into an Art Deco Choker.

Princess of Wales Jewels - Queen Mary's Emerald Choker - Queen Mary of England
Princess of Wales Jewels – Queen Mary’s Emerald Choker – Queen Mary of England

Like most of her other jewels, she left it to her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II but she was sadly never photographed wearing it.
Thought to have been given as a wedding present from the Queen, Princess Diana wore the choker very conventionally at first.

Then on a tour of Australia 1985, she made one of her most memorable fashion statements and wore the choker as a Bandeau headband (although apparently this was due more to a sunburnt neck)

Diana continued to wear the Emerald Choker after her separation from Prince Charles.

Like the Lover’s Knot Tiara and the Prince of Wales Brooch, the choker returned to the Royal Family after Diana’s death only to resurface with Catherine, Princess of Wales in 2022.

Diana’s Sapphire Earrings

The common consensus is that these earrings originated in the wedding gift from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The original set did include a pair of Sapphire and Diamond earrings but it is said that Diana had the links from the watch converted into earrings.

Princess of Wales Jewels -  The Saudi Sapphire Earrings -  Princess Diana's Saudi Sapphire Suite
Princess of Wales Jewels – The Saudi Sapphire Earrings – Princess Diana’s Saudi Sapphire Suite
Princess of Wales Jewels – The Saudi Sapphire Earrings – Princess Diana’s Saudi Sapphire Suite

When she became the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, Kate Middleton faced many comparisons with her deceased mother in law. As she had inherited her engagement ring it has been assumed that she has also inherited elements of Diana’s Sapphire jewellery but there has never been any official confirmation.

Princess of Wales Jewels -  The Saudi Sapphire Earrings -  Catherine, Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton
Princess of Wales Jewels – The Saudi Sapphire Earrings – Catherine, Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton

bookmark_borderMeghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex Wedding Tiara – The True Story.

Meghan Markle wanted to wear an Emerald Tiara for her Wedding but she was told that the one she wanted was not available as it had ‘unknown Russian origins’.

Regardless of your opinion of Harry & Meghan, this story is completely false

There are several sides to this story and all can be deconstructed and explained.

There are no items in the Royal Collection that have ‘Unknown Russian Origins’

The Royal Collection of the British Royal Family is the largest private art collection in the world. It is made up of over one million objects, including 7,000 paintings, over 150,000 works on paper, this including 30,000 watercolours and drawings, and about 450,000 photographs, as well as around 700,000 works of art, including tapestries, furniture, ceramics, textiles, carriages, weapons, armour, jewellery, clocks, musical instruments, tableware, plants, manuscripts, books, and sculptures.
It is meticulously catalogued and all information is publicly available

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara - Meghan Markle Emerald Tiara

‘Unknown Russian origins’ was picked up and used to infer that Meghan had wanted to wear the Grand Duchess Vladimir’s Tiara with the Cambridge Emerald drops.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir’s tiara has very clear and documented origins. It was made for Maria Pavlovna, The Grand Duchess Vladimir in 1874 and purchased by Queen Mary from Princess Nicolas of Greece (Maria’s daughter) in 1927.

There is an Insurance valuation from Cartier and a note in the Royal Accounts stating how much was paid for it.

The Emerald pendants seen in this tiara did not originate in Russia either. After she bought the tiara, Queen Mary converted the frame to accommodate not only the original Pearl drops but Emeralds that had belonged to her own family (The Cambridge Emeralds).

Mary regularly bought pieces from the exiled Russian Royals after the Revolution in 1917, such as Tsarina’s Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duchess Xenia.
It has been suggested that Queen Mary may not have paid the true market value for the pieces given her ‘enthusiasm’ for collecting but the Royal Family did pay allowances to the Romanovs and ensured that they had a comfortable (if not grand) life in exile.

Perhaps Meghan saw this tiara and asked to wear it for the wedding, unaware that she would be given a selection and could not just choose any tiara she pleased.
But again, why bring Unknown Russian Origins in to it? A clear indication that this part of the story is false.

The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara

It is worth noting that this story only came about after Princess Eugenie’s wedding where she wore the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara.
Speculators assumed this had been the Emerald tiara that Meghan had coveted. But once again, it’s origins are well documented and can be easily traced.

The word Kokoshnik is a Russian word meaning ‘Cock’s Crown’. It is used to describe a traditional Russian peasant headdress.

During the period of Russification in the 19th century, the Russian nobility began to wear Kokoshnik style tiaras but in true Romanov style, they covered theirs in precious jewels. As the Grand Duchesses began to marry into the European Royal houses, this style became the height of fashion and was adopted by the other courts.

One such admirer was Mrs. Margaret Greville. A prominent society hostess in the 1930s, she became friends with Queen Elizabeth, the future Queen Mother. In an effort to leave a lasting legacy for the royal collection, she left some of her most exquisite gems to her friend when she passed away in 1942.
Amongst the ‘Greville Bequest’ was a Boucheron Emerald and Diamond Tiara.

Made by the French jeweller Boucheron in Paris between 1919 – 1921, the Kokoshnik features a 93.70 Carat Cabochon Cut Emerald with 6 Step Cut Emeralds interspersed around the diamond Art Deco style band.

So the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara is ‘Russian Style’ but does not have ‘Russian Origins’

Princess Eugenie had already picked the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara for her Wedding because it is considered in the ‘1st Class of Tiaras’

Another confusing detail added to this story was that Meghan wanted the Greville Kokoshnik but it had already been promised to Eugenie and as a Royal Princess, Eugenie would’ve had access to the ‘1st Class tiara’s’ where as Meghan would only be allowed to use a tiara from the ‘3rd Class’.

In his memoir ‘Spare’, Prince Harry wrote that Meghan was presented with a selection of five tiaras by Queen Elizabeth II to choose from.
It seems very odd to show someone something that they cannot have?
And while certain tiaras are worn exclusively by certain senior members of the family, there is no class system when it comes to tiaras.

And if the Greville tiara was such a 1st Class tiara then why was it not worn between 1943 and 2018? The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family have worn numerous pieces from the Greville Bequest over the years so why not this Tiara?

It can therefore be concluded that this story was invented by the media, intended to increase views and clicks but has no basis in truth.

bookmark_borderThe Grand Duchess Vladimir and her Rubies

Her imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, The Grand Duchess Vladimir is considered one of the most important jewellery collectors in history. Born Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin she married the second son of the Russian Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich in 1874.

Grand Duchess Maria became renowned as ‘the grandest of the grand duchesses’ and her home, the Vladimir Palace, became the centre of Russian aristocratic society. In 1902, Consuela Vanderbilt (who had married the 9th Duke of Marlborough) visited Maria Pavlovna in St. Petersburg :

‘She [Maria] had a majestic personality, but could be both gracious and charming. After dinner she showed me her jewels set out in glass cases in her dressing room. There were endless parures of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls to say nothing of semi-precious stones such as turquoises, tourmalines, cat’s eyes and aquamarines.’  What a night that would be! It seems Russian etiquette called for the hostess show off her jewels to honoured female guests. Not what would be called tasteful by others but I would be OK with seeing jewellery at a dinner party! 

Although she had a sumptuous collection of Sapphires, Emeralds, Diamonds and Pearls, Maria Pavlovna’s collection of Ruby jewellery does not seem to have been as extensive as its counterparts.

After the 1917 Russian Revolution, The Bolsheviks spread the belief that the Romanovs were ignorant and superstitious, believing rubies were unlucky and symbolised bloodshed.
This was of course, untrue.
Several of the Imperial Grand Duchesses received jewellery made with rubies, frequently as wedding gifts. Maria Alexandrovna, the sister-in-law of Maria Pavlovna, married Prince Alfred of the United Kingdom in 1874 and was given an exquisite suite of diamonds and rubies by Bolin, the Russian court jeweller.

Just as she had done with her Sapphires, Grand Duchess Vladimir took a number of her ruby and diamond pieces to Paris and deposited them with her good friend, Louis Cartier. These jewels were to be reset into a new tiara and corsage.

Paul Cheyrouze, an assistant to Cartier, handed Maria Pavlovna an itemised list of the gems that had been dismantled on June 1st, 1908, according to Jewelry of the Romanovs. These included:
Fourteen pins

Two necklaces

Single necklace

Amongst the jewels were a bracelet and brooch in the shape of a horseshoe that were documented in a rare jewellery album.

Maria Pavlovna owned the 5ct “Beauharnais” Ruby, which is supposed to have belonged to Empress Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon. This gem would be the tiara’s focal point.
The Octagonal stone was to be surrounded by the pear-shaped diamonds, square-cut rubies and oval ruby cabochons taken from the horseshoe brooch and the bracelet.

A large ruby and diamond corsage (brooch) was also created to compliment the new tiara. Featuring three of the rubies, the gems were surrounded with garlands of round diamonds.

In 1918, Russia finally exploded in to Revolution. Grand Duchess Vladimir fled to the Crimea leaving her jewels hidden in the Vladimir Palace, thinking she would return when the situation had improved.
Below, Prince Michael of Kent (Grand Duchess Vladimir’s Great Grandson) explains how when reality finally set in, she instructed her son Grand Duke Boris and her close friend Albert Stopford to retrieve her jewels.

(This is a Danish documentary but Prince Michael speaks in English)

Grand Duchess Vladimir passed away on the 6th September 1920 in Switzerland. Her vast jewel collection was divided amongst her children with her sons Andrei and Kyril inheriting the Rubies & Sapphires. Grand Duke Boris acquired her famous emeralds and her only daughter Elena received the Diamonds and Pearls.

The Grand Duchess Vladimir and her Family
The Grand Duchess Vladimir and her Family

Like many other exiled Romanovs, Grand Duke Andrei was forced to sell his mothers jewels in order to survive. The Rubies were returned to Cartier who would arranged their sale to Princess Anastasia of Greece (formerly Mrs Nancy Leeds) who interestingly, owned a tiara that Cartier had modelled after The Grand Duchess Vladimir’s

When her 2nd Husband died in 1908, Nancy became an enormously wealthy widow. She met and married the King of Greece’s youngest son Prince Christopher in Biarritz in 1914.

In 1921, Nancy’s 19-year-old son, William B. Leeds, Jr married Princess Xenia Georgievna of Russia (Prince Christopher’s niece.)

In a post from Greek Royal Jewels and Stories, the newspapers of the time reported:
“Never will bride have a richer wedding dowry than the young Princess Xenia of Greece on her marriage to Mr. William Leeds, the young son of the famous American millionaire’s widow, who is herself, by her second marriage, Princess Anastasia of Greece. Mrs Leeds has been in Paris for the last two weeks devastating the shops in the Rue de la Paix of their best and finest jewels. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires – all perfect specimens of their kind – have been purchased regardless of price to form the wedding gift to her pretty future daughter-in-law.”

Sadly though, like so many of the Romanov treasures, the fate of these pieces remains unknown.

bookmark_borderMonaco’s Royal Tiara – The Cartier Diamond and Pearl Drop Tiara

Before the American actress Grace Kelly enlarged the royal jewellery collection with her marriage to Prince Rainier in 1956, the next best thing were the personal jewels of Rainier’s mother, Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois. Continue Reading…

bookmark_borderRussian Royal Jewels – Tsarina Maria Feodorovna Sapphire Brooch

Before the Russian Revolution Maria Feodorovna was at the centre of Imperial Court life. Unlike her antisocial daughter in law (Tsarina Alexandra), Maria Feodorovna believed it was the duty of the Empress of Russia to be on display. Being one of the wealthiest monarchies of all time, the Romanovs displayed their power using their outstanding jewel collections. Continue Reading…

bookmark_borderGrace Kelly’s Van Cleef and Arpels Diamond Wedding Bracelet

Grace Kelly's Van Cleef and Arpels Diamond Wedding Bracelet - Princess Grace of Monaco

Although their Principality may be famous for its Grand Prix, generous income tax laws and being the second smallest state in the world, the Princes of Monaco do not have a conventional collection of royal jewels unlike their dynastic counterparts throughout Europe.
Therefore, when she married Prince Rainier in 1956, the American actress Grace Kelly had to start her own jewellery collection from scratch. Prince Rainier’s mother, Princess Charlotte, did own several impressive pieces (such as her Cartier Pearl and Diamond Fringe Tiaras) but these were personal property and she was apparently unwilling to share with her new daughter in law.

Fortunately for Grace, she had received several impressive jewelled wedding presents to kick start the collection, including a beautiful Pearl and Diamond Parure from the French Jeweller, Van Cleef & Arpels,
two engagement rings and a Diamond and Ruby tiara from Cartier

In order to make up for causing a minor scandal, the National Council of Monaco purchased their new princess a 58 Carat Diamond Cartier Necklace and an intricate diamond bracelet from Van Cleef and Arpels.

Set in platinum, this beautiful bracelet contains Round Brilliant and Baguette Cut Diamonds set in an interlaced pattern with three large diamond elements interspersed throughout.

Keen to live up to the fairy-tale image, Princess Grace would wear her most impressive jewels during her early years to state events, such as when visiting the Vatican in 1957.

She would continue to wear her Diamond bracelet (along with her other Wedding presents) throughout her life, for both official and social events.

After her tragic death in 1982, Princess Grace’s jewellery became part of the ‘Palais Princier de Monaco Collection’.
This Collection encompasses not only jewels but fine art, furniture and Prince Rainier’s famous vintage cars. Princess Grace’s Jewels are often loaned out to exhibitions.

Grace Kelly's Van Cleef and Arpels Diamond Wedding Bracelet - Princess Grace of Monaco
Grace Kelly’s Van Cleef and Arpels Diamond Wedding Bracelet – Princess Grace of Monaco

The jewels are available for use by any member of the Grimaldi family but it has been Princess Caroline who has been the main wearer of her family’s pieces over the years.  From the time of her mother’s death in 1982 to her brother Albert’s marriage in 2011, Caroline was effectively Monaco’s first lady.
As such, she would wear her mother’s jewels when representing and promoting the Principality. In 1999, Princess Caroline married Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick. This marriage elevated Caroline from a Serene Highness (HSH) to a Royal Highness (HRH) and put her at the heart of the European Royal Society.
Ernst August is head of the House of Hanover which makes him related to all the major European royal families. Therefore, Caroline’s presence is required at high profile events where she will often wear elements of her mother’s jewellery collection.

Continuing the tradition, the younger Grimaldi’s have now begun to wear Princess Grace’s jewels.
At the annual Rose Ball in Monte Carlo in 2019, Tatiana Santo Domingo (wife of Grace’s grandson Andrea Casiraghi) wore the Diamond Bracelet along with Princess Grace’s anniversary earrings.

bookmark_borderPrincess Diana’s Sapphire Jewels

It is hard to remember Princess Diana without thinking about her magnificent collection of Sapphire jewellery. She was synonymous with the dark blue jewel from the moment she entered the public eye and over the years she managed to build a sumptuous collection featuring some outstanding pieces . Continue Reading…

bookmark_borderMonaco’s Royal Jewels – Grace Kelly’s Pearls

When she married Prince Rainier in 1956, the American actress Grace Kelly had to start her own jewellery collection from scratch. Fortunately for Grace, she had received several impressive jewelled wedding presents to kick start the collection including a beautiful Pearl and Diamond Parure from the French Jeweller, Van Cleef & Arpels. Continue Reading…

bookmark_borderThe Greek Royal Rubies

Worn by the Queens of the Hellenes (Greece), this beautifully delicate Ruby and Diamond Parure includes a Ruby Olive Wreath and Diamond tiara, a pair of Diamond and Ruby drop earrings, an impressive Diamond and Ruby necklace and two magnificent Diamond and Ruby brooches. Originating in Imperial Russia, it can still be seen at important Royal events today. Continue Reading…

bookmark_borderBalkan Royal Jewels – The Royal Emeralds of Yugoslavia

The jewels we know today as the Yugoslavian Emeralds actually started their journey at the Court of Imperial Russia. The gemstones were sent to the Imperial Court Jeweller (Bolin) who set them into the traditional headdress of the Russian court, the Kokoshnik. Bolin also created a matching necklace, earrings, brooch and stomacher. Continue Reading…