03 April 2014

The Russian Sapphire Cluster Brooch

The Russian Sapphire Cluster Brooch
A classic cluster design with a colored stone framed in diamonds, this brooch includes a large central sapphire with two rows of surrounding diamonds - the inner row is an intricate setting in gold, and the outer row is a ring of 18 round diamonds. According to the palace, Queen Mary acquired the brooch in 1934; it is said to have been one of the jewels she purchased from the daughters of the late Empress Marie Feodorovna, who sold some of her jewels after her death; there was companion brooch from that Russian collection as well (click here for more)*. Other sapphires were purchased by her at that time as well, including the sapphire and pearl brooch the Queen wears today, though it is worth noting that the records that exist from the sale of those jewels list Mary's last purchase in 1930. Again according to the palace, the brooch was left to the Queen when Queen Mary passed away in 1953, but it was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who would carry on wearing it. After the Queen Mother's death in 2002, it presumably returned to the Queen's collection, and she debuted the brooch in 2014.
Left to right: Queen Mary, the Queen Mother, the Queen
This particular brooch seems a piece destined to be the source of much confusion. Like the Carrington Sapphire Feather Brooch, it has a stone that might lean to the purple side of the color spectrum and it has been worn on both blue and purple outfits, leading some to identify it as an amethyst. It is sometimes misidentified as the brooch that was given to the late Diana, Princess of Wales as a wedding gift by the Queen Mother (the same brooch that she turned into the centerpiece of her most famous pearl choker), though Diana's sapphire brooch does not have the gold detailing on the interior diamond ring and has more diamonds on the outer ring. This simple design - a sapphire surrounded by diamonds - leads to confusion with other sapphire brooches too, such as Prince Albert's Sapphire Brooch, or any of a number of similar brooches in existence today. Perhaps this similarity is one of the reasons the Queen waited so long to bring this one out of her vault.

20 October 2015: State Visit from China, State Banquet (on the back of the Garter sash, likely) 
3 April 2014: Visit to Rome

*Thanks to Rae for sending in this link.

Photos: Getty Images/Leslie Field/Corbis/BBC