09 January 2016

The Greville Emerald Necklace

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother wearing 
the Greville Emerald Necklace
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother owned a show-stopping emerald and diamond necklace created from clusters of square or rectangular emeralds surrounded by diamonds with a central pendant, a jewel that appears in basic design as a green counterpart to the Crown Ruby Necklace she loved so much. The necklace was reportedly part of the Greville bequest, which makes sense because it did not appear until after her 1942 inheritance of the Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville's jewels (Queen Elizabeth began wearing it in the late 1940s/early 1950s), and because Mrs. Greville was known to have had an impressive collection of emeralds.
1972: During the Dutch state visit
Other details about the necklace are complicated, but there are a few mentions of items from Mrs. Greville's collection that could apply. Boucheron: The Secret Archives by Vincent Meylan mentions the firm's valued client bringing one small and one large emerald necklace to the firm to be made into one, which may or may not refer to this necklace. Most commonly associated with this jewel are some powerful potential provenances: society reports of the day mention an emerald necklace said to have belonged to Empress Joséphine, and a diamond necklace allegedly from Queen Marie Antoinette.
The Queen's Jewels by Leslie Field swaps those descriptions, identifying The Queen Mother's necklace as an 18th century emerald necklace from Marie Antoinette. Consequently, you will see either provenance -  Empress Joséphine or Marie Antoinette, with Marie Antoinette probably more common - repeated. (I'm inclined to believe that the Marie Antoinette necklace was diamond and not emerald as per those contemporary reports, which Mrs. Greville was prone to planting herself. But it should be noted either way that both provenances are fairly frequently claimed and not nearly as frequently proven.)

If indeed The Queen Mother's necklace corresponds to those reports, it wouldn't be the only serious emerald necklace in the royal collection with such a rumored provenance: the Godman Necklace was said to have belonged to Empress Joséphine, a connection that was unsupported by research.

1959: During a state visit from the Shah of Iran
(Also interesting in this video: An early - if not the earliest - appearance of the Poltimore Tiara on Princess Margaret, a year before she married)
From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Greville Emerald Necklace was regularly seen on The Queen Mother during state visits and at other important occasions, such as her goddaughter Princess Benedikte of Denmark's 1968 wedding. She often wore the necklace with the Greville Tiara and a pair of emerald pendant earrings also from the Greville bequest. Its last appearance may have been in 1990, when she wore it in a birthday portrait. The Queen inherited her mother's necklace in 2002, and we are still waiting for it to make a magnificent reappearance.

1972: State Visit from the Netherlands
1958: State Visit from Germany 

Photos: British Pathe screencap, ANP Archief/Central Photo, via Getty Images