23 March 2017

The Queen Mother’s Rock Crystal Brooch

The Duchess of Cornwall wears The Queen Mother's Rock Crystal Brooch, 2012
UK in Sweden via CC BY-ND 2.0
The Duchess of Cornwall is fond of this delicate oval brooch featuring a rock crystal disk with a diamond center and a diamond frame. Small details in black on the sides and center are likely onyx (or possibly enamel). The rock crystal has a frosted, translucent appearance and appears to be etched.

The Queen Mother, then The Duchess of York, wears the brooch on her hat, 1927
State Library of Queensland, via Wikimedia Commons
Although the brooch was largely unknown until The Duchess started wearing it, it has been in the royal family for at least 90 years. It was part of the collection of the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who fashionably perched it on her hats in the 1920s and 1930s. The then-Duchess of York and her husband were regular patrons of Cartier, who made multiple Art Deco brooches using the combination of crystal, diamond, and onyx; Cartier thus seems a likely candidate for creator of this brooch.

Lucy the Kitten makes a play for the brooch, 2010
The Rock Crystal Brooch would have passed to The Queen in 2002, who included it among the many other pieces from The Queen Mother’s collection she has loaned to The Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla wears it regularly, and its appearance can vary from highly visible (on a dark outfit) to practically invisible (on a light outfit), thanks to the translucent crystal revealing the color of the fabric behind.