14 June 2012

The Kent Amethyst Demi-Parure

Two versions of Kent Amethyst Brooches: with and without pendants
The Queen has a beautiful and historic set of amethysts in her jewel collection, the Kent Demi-Parure. The most used part of this parure is the brooch without pendants, featuring a hexagonal amethyst surrounded by diamond sun rays on the bottom and scrolls and diamonds on top. There is also a brooch version in which three amethyst and diamond pendants hang below.
Both brooch versions in use
The set was owned by Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, who left it to her daughter. Queen Victoria subsequently left the set to the Crown. The majority of the jewelry worn by the Queen today (excepting items included in the Crown Jewels) originates with Queen Victoria or after, making these pieces some of the oldest in regular use. They have passed down from queen to queen, ending up in Queen Elizabeth's hands after her accession.
Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent (left) and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (right) using the large brooch version
Sometimes the two brooches seen here are listed as separate pieces, and sometimes they are counted as one with the pendants being detachable. The design of the central element appears to be the same and small hooks appear to exist underneath for the attachment of the pendants; however, not all of the pieces in the Kent amethyst parure are accounted for, so I believe it's hard to be definite.
The necklace and earrings, featuring large amethysts surrounded by rays of diamonds. At left, the Queen pairs them with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara.
According to Leslie Field in The Queen's Jewels, the demi-parure (or matching set) includes three brooches, a necklace, a pair of earrings, and a pair of hair combs. We have seen only one or two of the brooches, and the hair combs have never been seen. The set as a whole has rarely been seen, the Queen having only worn the necklace and earrings about twice in public during her reign. This isn't really surprising; other amethyst jewelry has left the family via sale, indicating that neither the Queen nor her mother were fans of the stone, and the brooches are pretty much only used when a purple outfit demands them. All of which is crushing to me, the ardent amethyst fan.

To add to the mystery surrounding this set: in the comments, you will find a practically identical piece (a necklace made from the brooch elements) which was worn by Lady Mary Charteris, daughter of the Earl of Wemyss, for her wedding. A relation, or a replica? I do not know. (Thanks Jeanne!)

Appearances (all of the small brooch version, unless otherwise noted):
28 June 2014: Solemn Drumhead Service
29 December 2013: Church at Sandringham
13 November 2013: Walking with the Wounded Reception
20 June 2013: Royal Ascot, Day 3
29 May 2013: Mount Everest Ascent Anniversary Reception
12 May 2013: Royal Windsor Horse Show 
13 December 2012: Bank of England
7 November 2012: Poppy Factory Visit
9 October 2012: Windsor and Eton Society Jubilee Tribute
14 June 2012: Visit to the Midlands, Day 2
24 February 2012: Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education Presentation 
2010: Visit to Canada 
2009: Order of Merit Service  
2008: Chelsea Flower Show 

Photos: Getty Images/Life/Leslie Field