Jewel of the Day: The Queen Mother’s Heart Shaped Amethyst Pendant Necklace

  October 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm by

Queen Mother's Heart-Shaped Amethyst Pendant Necklace

As first pictures of the Duchess of Cornwall at Skyfall première emerged, a lot of people (at least, lot of jewellery watchers) wondered about the amethyst necklace she was wearing. It was certainly not one she had ever worn before, and not an easily recognizable piece from British Royal Jewellery collection.

My first thought was that the necklace was brand new, and had it not been for a more careful member of this Forum, many of us would have dismissed it as just a new acquisition – and not a century-old heirloom it in fact is. Luckily, ldmemail remembered that a necklace with similar description featured among the wedding presents of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (future Queen Mother), and from there I carried out an investigation into the world of jewellery to uncover the identity of the mysterious sparkler (sorry, I’ve been reading a lot of detectives lately).

The history of the necklace starts with Queen Alexandra who was known for her love of amethysts. In 1923, she commissioned this necklace and gave it as a wedding gift to Elizabeth Bowes Lyon on the occasion of her marriage to the Duke of York (future George VI).  Suzy Menkes describes the original necklace as a large, heart shaped amethyst set in brilliants dangling on a long chain of amethysts and pearls.

The Duchess of Cornwall at Skyfall première

We got even a better description from Leslie Field; according to her, the necklace was re-designed in 1923 and now consists of three rows of small pearls interspersed with eight large oval amethysts, each surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds. Hanging from the front largest cluster is a heart-shaped amethyst pendant surrounded by brilliants.

If Alexandra hoped to pass her love for amethysts to her granddaughter-in-law, that didn’t work: there is no documented evidence the Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon ever wore the necklace during her tenures as the Duchess of York, Queen Consort or Queen Mother. When Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, her mother gave the necklace to her. Unfortunately, she also appears to have passed her dislike for amethysts, for the Queen never publicly wore it either. However, Prince Charles is said to be fond of the stone, so it’s perhaps no surprise that his wife was the one to finally début the magnificent necklace.

Now, there hasn’t actually been a public confirmation that’s it’s the same necklace but let’s face it: do we need it? The description is very clear: it mentions three rows of small pearls – check, large oval amethysts surrounded by smaller diamonds – check, a heart-shaped amethyst pendant surrounded by brilliants – check. As a member of The Royal Forums pointed out, how many “necklaces of three rows of pearls with oval amethysts and a heart-shaped amethyst pendant surrounded by brilliants” can there be in British Royal Family jewellery vaults? So, unless it is officially announced this is not the same necklace as the Queen Mother’s wedding gift, I mark it as a “mystery solved” in my list of never or rarely seen royal jewellery (yes, I do have such a list).

Filed under British Royals, Historical Royals
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8 Responses to Jewel of the Day: The Queen Mother’s Heart Shaped Amethyst Pendant Necklace

  1. Foggyworld says:

    I did notice it in an earlier photograph and the color of the stones doesn’t work well with the color of the earrings. This piece frankly belongs at this point on someone in Kate’s age group.

    The Duchess of Cornwall really overdoes the dripping in gems bit and given the current state of affairs in the world, it is a bit offensive. Recently she went to the theater just dripping in emeralds and it was discordant to say the least and highlighted the proles she and her husband in their limousine don’t always relate to very well.

    The Queen is the Queen and yet only on the biggest of occasions does she do herself up to the nines and for her it works because it is very controlled. This Duchess is not particularly beautiful and the overload of glitter in fact takes a toll on her face. I realize she is trying to make a loud statement but it seems to me there is blowback to her attempt.

    Both Diana and Kate who were striking examples of English beauty rarely, but rarely felt or feel the need to light themselves up like Christmas trees. Diana especially knew how to have fun with jewelry and often wore costume pieces because they could be made at reasonable prices and yet were often very effective.

    Recently I spotted what I think may have been Diana’s triple or quadruple strand choker pearls with the stunning sapphire on the Duchess of Cornwall who may have changed the main stone so the color is different and much lighter in tone. Why not give that piece to William to put away for the right occasion to present to Kate. Nothing much seems to be sacred to Camilla and it’s sad really. Charles’ children should have precedence over the Duchess of Cornwall in any and all situations where Diana’s things are brought out again. Respect counts and if she wants it for herself, she ought to give it to others first.

    I often look at Carol Middleton and compare her with the Duchess of Cornwall and without fail the better and only elegantly dressed of those two ladies of a certain age, is Mrs. Middleton.

    And I don’t intend to be mean here but several members of the Royal family need some serious wardrobe consulting and Camilla and Andrew’s daughters top that list.

  2. Elizabeth Pease says:

    Don’t you people at ‘The Royal Forums Royal News’ have proof readers? Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was Alexandra’s granddaughter-in-law, since she was married to Alexandra’s grandson, Albert, second son of her second son, Prince George of Wales who became King George V.

  3. Suze says:

    I love amethysts. I wonder why the royal ladies were not fond of purple jewelry since that is the ‘royal’ color. I wonder what other pieces of cool jewelry sre hidden in the vault!

  4. Artemisia says:

    @ Elizabeth Pease
    My bad. I know, of course, that the Queen Mother was married to Alexandra’s grandson, not son; just a simple error on my part.

  5. natalya says:

    Thank You ! Thank You ! Thank You !

  6. Mark J says:

    Hi All,

    I think Camilla looks really nice and I beleive she would be very careful and respectful of Princess Diana and her memory/legacy. Much of what Diana wore would have come from the royal jewellery collection and this is why items are worn in a variety of ways by a variety of royals past and present.

    If the ryaols do not love amethysts, perhaps Camilla had little to choose from to match her beautiful necklace.

  7. HRH the Duchess of Cornwall is hardly “dripping in gems” as Foggyworld mentions! The Duchess as an older lady is able to wear with aplomb the larger pieces in the Royal Collection which would simply overpower the younger ladies. Neither does she ever wear Diana’s jewels!
    HRH has her own style which she is at liberty to endulge and quite frankly looks wonderful!

  8. kjr says:

    The Duchess of Cornwall wears a three strand pearl and aquamarine choker that was inherited from her mother, nothing to do with Diana at all.
    I think she carries off the bolder pieces of jewellery very well.

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