Jewel of the Day: The 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.
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 Historical Royals, The United Kingdom
Tagged Alexandra of Denmark, Jewellery, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, The Duchess of Cornwall.