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 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 58 Carat Diamond Cartier Necklace.
Luckily, not only was her new husband generous with bejewelled gifts, so was the principality’s main employer, the Société des Bains de Mer.
SBM commissioned the famous french jeweller Cartier to make the new princess a tiara featuring the Monegasque national colours of Red and White.
What they produced was a wonderfully versatile piece featuring three central elements which could be detached and worn as brooches. These elements consisted of round brilliant and baguette cut diamonds with cabochon rubies. Set in gold and platinum the impressive rubies total 49 Carats. Grace returned the compliment by wearing the Tiara at her pre wedding gala and for her first official portrait as Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco.
Princess Grace would often wear the tiara during her early years to state events, such as when visiting the Vatican in 1957.
To complete the Parure, Prince Rainier would go on to gift Grace with a pair of Ruby and Diamond drop earrings and a Ruby and Diamond Ring. She would wear the jewels to numerous events throughout her life, sometimes using the brooches as a necklace or as bejeweled hairpins.
In later years, Princess Grace opted for a more modern and simplistic look when it came to her jewellery.
However, on occasions such as Monaco’s National Day celebrations, she would still wear her most majestic jewels. In 1978, while attending the opera with Prince Rainier, Grace once more wore her Bains de Mer tiara.
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. 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 in turn, makes him a Prince of the United Kingdom. The Hanoverians are related to all the major European royal families so Caroline’s presence is required at high profile events.
Caroline’s younger sister, Princess Stephanie has never been a particularly enthusiastic jewellery wearer but in 2005, while attending the Monaco Red Cross Ball, both sisters chose to wear elements from Princess Grace’s Bains de Mer suite.
In 2014, the film Grace of Monaco was released staring Nicole Kidman. Although criticized by the Grimaldi’s as ‘pure fiction’ and generally panned by critics, the film did feature fairly accurate replicas of Grace’s Jewels. These replicas were made by Cartier.