28 September 2015

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Visit

The Queen, Colonel-in-Chief, visited the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at the regiment's new barracks at Leuchars, Fife.

Scottish engagements signal the impending end of the Balmoral break and the return of Her Maj to our current events radar! Huzzah. As we can see, she's got her contrasting outfits ready to go for all her large group photography needs.
Army in Scotland/Crown Copyright
She's wearing the appropriate regimental badge, which we last saw in a portrait taken when she was celebrating the 60th year of her colonelcy. This seems a nice way to ease back into the royal grind - she always looks particularly delighted to be with her regiments, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards had something else up their sleeve she particularly enjoys:

21 September 2015

The Duchess of Cornwall's Three Strand Pearl Choker with Aquamarine Clasp

The Duchess of Cornwall's Three Strand Pearl Choker with Aquamarine Clasp
One of most distinctive pearl chokers in The Duchess of Cornwall's collection features three strands of pearls and an aquamarine clasp. The pearls, which look to be natural pearls, are large and slightly irregular. The clasp has a large square aquamarine stone embedded in a nest of twisted gold strings studded with small diamonds.
Of all her pearl necklaces - and she has several - this one may have been in Camilla's personal collection the longest. She's been wearing it since at least the 1970s, and continues to do so today. It is a family heirloom that came from her mother, the Hon. Rosalind Shand (née Cubitt), according to an article in Hello! magazine. The Duchess of Cornwall has worn the choker for special events like Trooping the Colour as well as evening events, and the size of the clasp makes it an instantly memorable statement piece.

Photos: Carfax2 derivative work: Tktru Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

17 September 2015

The Duchess of Cornwall’s Cosmos Clip Brooches and Earrings

The Duchess of Cornwall's Cosmos Clip Brooches (Examples)
The Van Cleef & Arpels Cosmos collection is built around one of the famed jeweler’s classic designs, a combination of a four leaf clover and a flower that dates back to the 1950s. These four petal flowers are handmade in a variety of jewelry types and in different sizes and materials. The Duchess of Cornwall has two of the Cosmos clip brooches in her collection.
Both of her clips are the same design, with heart-shaped petals, a stem paved in round diamonds, and the largest round diamond sitting in the center of the petals, but one is set in yellow gold and one is set in white gold. The Cosmos clips come in three sizes (small, medium, large) and I believe Camilla’s clips are the large size, which would have 101 diamonds apiece. The clips shown as examples here are from the range that is currently for sale, and they can also be used as pendants on a chain, but The Duchess uses hers solely as brooches. 

These have been a part of her personal collection (presumably) since at least 2005, when they appeared at Ascot. She usually wears them together on one shoulder, occasionally splitting them up on her lapels or wearing just one at a time.

Top: Medium earclips, yellow gold setting. Bottom: Large earclips, white gold setting, approx. 6.8 carats total.
At a 2005 garden party (shown above), she also wore matching Cosmos earrings. Like the brooches, the earrings are available in a variety of materials and three different sizes; I believe she wore either the medium or large size, and again the diamond version.
The earrings are scarcely seen (in fact, I’m not sure they’ve been spotted in her ears since that 2005 outing), but I think she may have worn one of them as a brooch when attending the 2011 wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (above). For that appearance, the lower brooch was smaller and without a stem, perhaps a smaller size brooch or maybe an earring repurposed. Most of the time, though, she wears the matched brooch set, and they make regular appearances.

You can see a video on the history of the Cosmos collection here.

17 June 2017: Trooping the Colour
9 March 2016: Clarence House Reception for Women of the World
20 October 2015: State Visit from China, Welcome Ceremony
2011: Wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge 

Photos: Van Cleef & Arpels, Clarence House, and via Getty Images

15 September 2015

The Queen's Emerald or Diamond Pendant Earrings

The Queen's Emerald or Diamond Pendant Earrings
One of The Queen's more versatile pairs of earrings are these pendants, which can be switched from diamonds to emeralds. Each features a large hoop of single diamonds (creating a scalloped edge, which is how the earrings are described in Leslie Field's The Queen's Jewels) hanging from a detailed cluster of smaller diamonds, and surrounding a pendant which can include either a large diamond or a large emerald.
Queen Mary
I don't believe their provenance has been officially confirmed, but one eye-catching brooch of Queen Mary's may hold the key. The portrait above is sent to me often with inquiries about the jewels worn, either the necklace* or that intriguingly-shaped brooch in the center of her bodice. If you look closely at the brooch, the two sides seem to match the hoops used by The Queen as earrings.
Queen Mary was typically pictured with small earrings, so perhaps she had a brooch made from a larger pair she wouldn't wear. That is merely my speculation. As for The Queen, she's used these earrings in their diamond format on many occasions, including a state banquet at the White House in 2007 (pictured above).
In their emerald format, they've been used at the Order of the Thistle service and to accompany other emerald pieces like the Godman Necklace. They remain one of the larger pairs of earrings she still wears today.

*Since the question comes up often: The necklace is commonly known as Queen Alexandra's Collier Résille, made for her by Cartier and worn by her and Queen Mary. It hasn't been seen since Queen Mary's days.

Photos: via Getty Images/DR/Royal Collection

12 September 2015

The Queen's Pear Drop Diamond Earrings

The Queen's Pear Drop Diamond Earrings
These earrings from The Queen's collection feature two large pear drop diamonds suspended from two smaller diamonds and set in gold, a simple but classic design for the use of large stones like this. According to Leslie Field in The Queen's Jewels, they were created from family diamonds; they've been set in the current design since at least the 1960s.

Diana, Princess of Wales
These are best known for being worn by one very famous member of the family: The Queen loaned them to The Princess of Wales for her tour of Australia and New Zealand with The Prince of Wales in 1983. (You may recall that Diana was also loaned the King Faisal Diamond Necklace at this time.) I don't believe that they became a steady part of Diana's collection after that, so they were possibly just on short-term loan.

Video: The Queen wears the earrings in 1968
Since then, they have returned to their status as infrequently worn members of The Queen's earring collection, at least when it comes to public appearances. Even when they are worn, they are easy to mistake for similar designs, such as the Coronation Earrings or the Greville version. I can't help but think that makes them a good candidate for a loan to another family member, and hope we'll see them used as such again.

2010: State Visit from South Africa

Photos: Queen Elizabeth II/Royal Collection / and via Getty Images

10 September 2015

Queen Victoria's Hesse Diamond Jubilee Brooch

A brooch with a Queen Victoria connection in a week full of comparisons to Victoria, shall we?

The gifts poured in for Queen Victoria when she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Among the presents received were the Diamond Jubilee Brooch, now worn by The Queen, and another brooch of diamonds and cabochon sapphires. As detailed by Royal Magazin, which offers more on the history of the brooch and Jubilee, this was a family gift from four children of Victoria's daughter Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, together with their spouses: Prince and Princess Louis of Battenberg (later the Marquess and Marchioness of Milford Haven), Grand Duke Sergei and Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, and the Emperor and Empress of Russia.
Queen Victoria's Hesse Diamond Jubilee Brooch
The main shape of the brooch is a line of diamonds forming a heart shape with a knot at the bottom, from which two large sapphire pendants hang. A third sapphire is located at the top of the brooch. The interior of the heart features a design of the number 60 in Slavonic characters.

Unlike the Diamond Jubilee Brooch, which became an instantly recognizable favorite of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the Hesse Brooch went unseen (or so it seems) for about 110 years - all the way up until 2007, when The Duchess of Cornwall wore it during a visit to the United States. It seems likely that the sapphire brooch was in The Queen Mother's possession, given that Camilla wears a large portion of her jewels. If true, it certainly wouldn't have been the only piece of jewelry left unworn for decades in that collection.
The Duchess of Cornwall has worn the sapphire brooch several times, including during a visit to Norway in 2012. That appearance carried double significance because she and The Prince of Wales were visiting in honor of The Queen's own Diamond Jubilee, and because King Harald V is another descendant of Queen Victoria. The Hesse Diamond Jubilee Brooch may be one of the oldest pieces at Camilla's disposal, and is certainly one of those with the longest royal history, and I'm glad she's brought it out of hiding.

Photos: Stella/via Getty Images

09 September 2015

The Longest Reign, and the Borders Railway Opening

The day is here! At approximately 5:30 local time, The Queen will pass Queen Victoria as the longest reigning monarch in Britain and the other realms, a reign of 63 years, 7 months, 2 days, 16 hours, and 23 minutes. Her Majesty is staying at Balmoral Castle with her family, but emerged for one engagement today.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, opened the Borders-to-Edinburgh railway in Scotland.
Could it have been anything other than one of Queen Victoria's Bow Brooches? This is one of the brooches best known for having come from her great-great grandmother, but it's also one that we see all the time - right in keeping with her desire not to make a fuss on this day.

BBC video screencap
She did make a short speech today (which you can see here, along with other tributes). Making brief note of her milestone, which she said was "not one to which I have ever aspired," she also conveyed her thanks: "Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones - my own is no exception - but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness."

Buckingham Palace also released a new portrait by Mary McCartney (yes, daughter of Paul) for the occasion. With her favorite pearls in place, the Small Pink and Diamond Brooch pinned on, and her trusty handbag nearby, this is a reassuring image of The Queen that everybody knows so well. (A second shot can be seen here.)
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Picturing the 89-year-old sovereign at work with one of the famous red boxes of state papers and in front of a photograph of her mother, who lived and worked past the century mark, it seems there is a clear message to be read here: Her Majesty's not done yet. And long may she reign!

08 September 2015

Flashback: State Visit from South Africa, 2010

We're rolling in just under the wire with the last of our flashback countdowns to QEII's big day! We've hit one visit from each decade of her reign, and - in a happy coincidence - we have just one left from the current decade to cover here: South Africa in March 2010.

Jewel-wise, this state visit included some specially selected pieces, and even a couple we have not yet covered here.
Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, via Flickr
To start, however, she left her signature piece of jewelry at home. The buttons did all the talking as The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh welcomed the President of the Republic of South Africa and Mrs. Thobeka Madiba Zuma to London at the beginning of their state visit.

She more than made up for a brooch-less start by basically doubling the size of her usual brooch selections for the state banquet. The Queen Mother's Lily Brooch is popularly referred to as the "foot long" brooch, because, well, it's enormous! The brooch, which was made by Cartier for Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) in 1939, was positioned opposite her Royal Family Orders and Garter Star to hold South Africa's Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo. This banquet was the brooch's first appearance since The Queen inherited it in 2002.
Her Majesty's "best diamonds" - the South African Necklace and Bracelet, a present from the South African government for her 21st birthday - were a special and sentimental choice for the banquet, and a nice match for Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik Tiara. I believe her diamond earrings are a smaller pear drop pair, The Queen's Pear Drop Diamond Earrings, but it's difficult to tell.

Video: The state banquet
Among the tiaras to spot in this video: The Duchess of Cornwall in the Greville Tiara, with her Pear Drop Diamond Demi-Parure Earrings, her Royal Family Order, and an emerald necklace likely from Saudi Arabia (and not yet covered here).

The Queen donned one final significant selection to bid President Zuma farewell.
This peacock-style brooch of multi-colored stones was commissioned by the South African government and given to The Queen by Nelson Mandela. It, too, has not been covered here in depth.

Tomorrow's the big day! The Queen has an engagement and they've released a new photo for the occasion, so we'll be all over that. Stay tuned...

Photos: Foreign and Commonwealth Office / via Getty Images

07 September 2015

Flashback: Official Visit from Norway, 2005

Norway celebrated its 100th year of independence in 2005, and as part of the celebrations, the Norwegian royal family came to the United Kingdom for an official visit in October. Queen Maud, the first queen consort of the newly independent Norway, was the daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, making the trip a perfect highlight for a landmark year.

This visit was not only the first that The Duchess of Cornwall participated in after her marriage to The Prince of Wales, it is the last time (to date) that The Queen has received a fellow European monarch for a visit as big as this one. Since King Harald V brought not only Queen Sonja but also other family members along for the trip, it turned out to be the most sparkly visit of recent years, and this flashback is here for the tiaras.

They pulled out all the stops we usually expect for a state visit even though this was billed as an official visit, including a state banquet at Buckingham Palace. The Queen wore her favorite suite of pearls, which we've seen over and over again in these flashbacks (the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara, the Duchess of Gloucester's Pendant Earrings, Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Necklace, the Dorset Bow Brooch), and the Norwegian Order of St. Olav with her Royal Family Orders.

Video: The state banquet
As you can see in the video above, Princess Alexandra of Kent's copy of the Golden Jubilee necklace was also in attendance, worn with her Ogilvy Tiara. Never one to be shown up in the tiara department, Queen Sonja brought her own big gun, Empress Joséphine's Emerald Tiara with its accompanying emerald and diamond parure.

We don't usually get a posed picture with anyone outside of The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, and their honored guests at banquets like this, but the visiting guests don't usually bring along the heir. Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, then pregnant with the couple's second child together, accompanied the sovereign couple, and Mette-Marit wore her Amethyst Necklace Tiara for the palace banquet.

The star of the show, however, was Camilla, at the very first tiara event of her royal career. The Queen loaned her the Delhi Durbar Tiara, and she paired it with her Diamond Flower Pendant Earrings and her Diamond Serpent Necklace. As is often the case, seeing a tiara worn and in action can give an entirely different impression than still pictures can, and the Delhi Durbar at work on video is something different than the Delhi Durbar on display in a photo. It doesn't appear as big and out of place as it looks in some of the shots, and it makes me hope that we see Camilla give it another go some day.

The Norwegian royals had another tiara occasion on this trip, at a banquet at the Guildhall. The Queen  was not present, represented as usual by The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
Once again, Queen Sonja emphasized the importance of the trip with her second big gun, Queen Josephine's Diamond Tiara. This is a gorgeous piece, and I've never figured out why she doesn't wear it more often.

The Duchess of Gloucester wore her Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit defaulted to her favorite tiara, the reliable Diamond Daisy. (By the way, this pink dress is one of my absolute favorite M-M looks. So very lovely.)
Adding one more carefully selected tiara to the pile, Princess Astrid of Norway wore the striking turquoise and diamond circlet that once belonged to Queen Alexandra. Those types of tiara crossovers are just one of many reasons we need more monarchy-to-monarchy state visit opportunities, don't you think?

Photos: via Getty Images

05 September 2015

The Braemar Gathering

The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of Rothesay, and Peter and Autumn Phillips, attended the annual Braemar Gathering in Scotland.
The Braemar Feather Brooch, which has been her choice for this annual event since receiving it as a Golden Jubilee gift from the Braemar Royal Highland Society, really pops on a rich solid color - as, coincidentally, does Her Maj. They're hard to spot, but The Queen also has on her more "casual" set of pearls, with simple stud earrings and a single strand necklace.
Autumn Phillips looks pretty elegant, doesn't she? Nice to see some family gathering as The Queen's big day approaches (September 9th, when she will pass Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch, if you've not been paying attention).

Photos:via Getty Images / ITV News video screencap

03 September 2015

Flashback: State Visit to the United States, 1991

State visits are so carefully coordinated that the eventual mishaps often become the most memorable part of the trip. Such was the case when The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh traveled to the United States to visit President George H.W. Bush in May 1991. What happens when you don't provide for the height difference between Her Majesty and the President? The "Talking Hat" speech is born.

Video: The infamous speech
It's a good thing she wore that jaunty purple and white striped chapeau for this accidentally hat-centric event, but it's a downright crime that the podium obscured the real treasure of the appearance: the Kent Amethyst Brooch with its three pendants in place. We see the brooch alone often enough - it's even made the favorites list in some years - but the pendants are a special event.
(About that speech incident, by the way: Doro Bush Koch's book about her father's presidency says it was actually President Bush's mistake. The chief of protocol had provided a stand that the President was supposed to pull out from the podium after his speech, before moving away to let The Queen speak, and he forgot to do it.)

The state banquet
Photo:  Susan Biddle/NARA/Wikimedia Commons
The state banquet hosted at the White House featured The Queen's Modern Sapphire Tiara with the George VI Sapphire Demi-Parure, the luscious sapphire necklace and earrings given to her by her father as a wedding gift, and her Modern Sapphire Bracelet. Since it was a black tie dinner, she wore only the Star of the Order of the Garter and her Royal Family Orders. I know many are not fans of that sapphire tiara, but I find that I'm so happy to see a colored stone at a state banquet that I can't be bothered one bit.

The Queen hosted a return dinner at the British Embassy and wore some of her old state visit faves, Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Necklace and the Duchess of Gloucester's Pendant Earrings - both, I must say, not the greatest matches for her dress. But she did wear something else interesting in the jewel department...
Did you spot it? Queen Victoria's Wheat-Ear Brooch in her hair! She's done that on a few occasions, but not frequently, and it's always fun to see her add a little hair sparkle even when forgoing her tiara.

Arriving in Texas in Queen Victoria's Bow Brooch.
Photo:  SRA Jerry Wilson/DOD Media/Wikimedia Commons
In addition to the required stop in Washington, D.C., this trip took her to Baltimore, Miami, Texas, and St. Louis, and it was captured on video for the 1992 documentary Elizabeth R. The excerpt below (a fun watch that includes her reaction to the Talking Hat incident, which made me laugh) features another evening appearance, wearing the King Khalid Diamond Necklace and the Antique Girandole Earrings.

There are a bunch of brooches spotted here, all much closer to the brooch roster we see today than the larger ones we've seen in earlier state visit flashbacks, as her favorites are now firmly in place. But we'll always have the Kent Amethyst moment...