01 January 2012

The Queen's Three Strand Pearl Necklaces

Pearl necklaces are part of The Queen's daily uniform, and a three strand version is her favorite for public events. In her book The Queen's Jewels, Leslie Field lists three different triple strand necklaces:
  1. A gift from her grandfather, King George V; this necklace is identified below. 
  2. One The Queen had made from graduated family pearls; this necklace is also identified below. 
  3. A gift for her coronation in 1953 from the Emir of Qatar, with a diamond clasp. We can only speculate which necklace this may be.
Observation of jewels worn by Her Majesty shows that she owns many more triple strands than those listed necklaces, but identification is difficult. The same necklace can appear differently based on the outfit, the photograph, or even just the year. The best way to differentiate between all these similar pieces is by the necklace clasp, but those aren’t usually pictured.  Two can be identified in particular:

The Queen's Three Strand Necklace of Family Pearls 
This is the necklace that we see most frequently. As identified by description in The Queen’s Jewels and by photograph in Sheila Young’s earlier book, The Queen’s Jewellery, it was made to The Queen’s order from family pearls shortly after she came to the throne in 1952. The pearls are graduated in size with a warm, creamy color, and the necklace is fastened with a small diamond clasp. The Queen had more variety in her everyday jewel selections earlier in her reign, but today, this necklace is worn for almost all official daytime engagements.

The King George V Three Strand Pearl Necklace 
In celebration of his Silver Jubilee in 1935, George V gave his two granddaughters a pearl necklace each: a double strand for Princess Margaret and a triple strand for Princess Elizabeth. The Queen's version is made of evenly sized pearls, and was worn by her primarily as a young woman. She has continued to wear it throughout the years, but today it is a rare sight.

Other Three Strand Pearl Necklaces 
The Queen's collection also includes several other variations on the triple strand theme, including longer and larger necklaces worn for evening occasions. The coronation gift from Qatar referenced above is likely among these, and Angela Kelly's book, Dressing the Queen, pictures one triple strand with an ornate pearl and diamond clasp. The examples below are some that I believe to be different from each other; there are certainly more of them that I do not show here. Because of the difficulties in differentiating between pearl necklaces as discussed above, I do not attempt to give these individual identifications on this blog.

There is a diamond and pearl clasp on this particular three strand necklace that I believe corresponds to the necklace shown in the Kelly book:

 This option looks a little longer, with closely spaced pearls of a mostly even size. It appears to have a diamond (and possibly pearl) clasp:

These pearls are graduated, with large gaps between the strands:

 These pearls are longer, with fewer gaps between strands:

And this is the longest triple strand I’ve seen The Queen wear, with huge spaces between the strands:

Just a selection, a few of who knows how many possible options, given all The Queen has been given and has inherited over the years.

My thanks to reader Franck and to posters on the Royal Jewels of the World Message Board, particularly Baxter, for sharing research on these necklaces, and to Jelena for calling attention to the RJWMB post here.

Appearances: The Queen's Three Strand Necklace of Family Pearls is seen almost every day, and so those appearances not listed individually here (they are all tagged, and can be seen by clicking here). The events listed below are those at which a different three strand pearl necklace was worn, but as stated above, I rarely try to identify them beyond that.
4 December 2013: Audiences at Buckingham Palace
27 November 2013: Audiences at Buckingham Palace
9 November 2013: Festival of Remembrance
3 June 2013: Royal National Institute of Blind People Reception
13 May 2012: Windsor Horse Show Diamond Jubilee Pageant
2000: State Visit to Italy, Papal Audience
Various Years: Festival of Remembrance
Various Years: Christmas Broadcast

Photos: via Getty Images as indicated; British Monarchy, PA