03 October 2013

The Diamond Bar Brooches

Not all of the jewelry in the Queen's collection is made for display alone; some of it serves functional and practical purposes. When a royal lady wears a riband - the sash from an order of chivalry - she needs something to secure it in place, and brooches do that job nicely. A decorative brooch (or a Royal Family Order) on the front is a common sight, but many royal women will also use a brooch on the shoulder or back to tack everything in place. There are at least two brooches of a simple bar design in the Queen's collection today which serve that utilitarian purpose particularly well.

The 10 Diamond Garter Bar Brooch 
Composed of 10 round diamonds in two even rows set in gold and silver, this brooch was Queen Victoria's solution to securing her Order of the Garter riband. She originally wore it in two pieces of 5 stones each, but later had it altered to one brooch. For Victoria, this was not merely a decorative brooch; she considered this a part of her Garter insignia, and it was kept with her Garter Star. It was likely commissioned at the same time as Victoria's star, in 1838, from Rundell, Bridge & Co.
Left to Right: Queen Victoria (with the brooch in two pieces and later in one), Queen Alexandra, and Queen Elizabeth
The brooch has passed to successive queens, being used by Queen Alexandra and then Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother kept it until her death in 2002, when it would have passed to the Queen with the rest of her possessions.

The 14 Diamond Bar Brooch
There is at least one other bar brooch in the collection. Queen Mary used a brooch with 14 diamonds set in two even rows of 7, but it is unclear whether it was created specifically for her or if it has another provenance entirely.
L to R: Queen Mary, the Queen using the brooch to secure her tartan sash, purely as a decorative brooch, and on the back of her Garter riband
The 14 stone brooch likely passed to the Queen with the rest of Queen Mary's remaining jewelry. And while the Queen has used it for its designated sash-securing purpose, she's also worn it outside of the realm of insignia, just as she would any other decorative brooch in her collection, though those occasions are rather rare.

We can identify these two examples of diamond bar brooches, but of course there could be more - with a design so simple, it would be hard to differentiate. And we don't often see the Queen's back, so picking up on appearances is a tricky task. (It should also be noted that these are not the only brooches the Queen uses to secure the back of a sash. Other examples include Prince Albert's Sapphire Brooch, which has been seen on the back of the blue Garter sash.)

Appearances:
6 June 2014: State Visit to France, State Banquet 
8 April 2014: State Visit from Ireland
2010: State Visit to the United Arab Emirates and Oman
2008: State Visit from France, State Banquet 

Photos: Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II/Leslie Field/Corbis/Getty Images/AFP