One of the most magnificent pieces in her collection was the Delhi Durbar necklace, which she wore on many state occasions throughout the years.
But did you know that the necklace has a scandalous family history?
To mark what would have been the late monarch’s 97th birthday on 21st April 2023, fine jewellery and engagement ring experts at Steven Stone have revealed everything you need to know about the piece.
Queen Elizabeth II wore the Delhi Durbar necklace on many important state occasions throughout the years, and it’s easy to see why.
Set in platinum and gold, the Delhi Durbar necklace consists of nine of the celebrated Cambridge emeralds that look to be upwards of 20 carats, and six large diamonds that look to be upwards of 10 carat. Impressively, it also features a diamond cut from the Cullinan diamond, which is the largest diamond ever found.
Queen Elizabeth II typically wore the the necklace with other emerald jewels – specifically the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara, which can also be set with emeralds. The late monarch famously wore the piece in a portrait sitting for Dorothy Wilding in 1956.
The History of the Delhi Durbar Necklace
According to Royal Central, in 1817, not long after George III had marked his Golden Jubilee, his granddaughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales, sadly passed away in childbirth. Charlotte had been second in line to the throne and George III had no other grandchildren at that time. His heir was his dissolute eldest son, then Prince Regent, whose marriage was in tatters.
The remaining unmarried sons of George III headed off to find wives. In 1818, the king’s seventh son, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge married the young German princess, Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. At that time, the princess bought raffle tickets for a charity lottery, winning 40 cabochon emeralds, some of which were made into a necklace. The others remained unset until they eventually passed to her daughter, Mary Adelaide, mother of Queen Mary, who bequeathed the gems to her son, Prince Francis.
When Prince Francis died in 1910, he left the emeralds and all of his jewels to his mistress, the Countess of Kilomrey. To try and keep the scandal low-profile, his sister Queen Mary bought the jewels from the Countess, commissioning Garrard to create a necklace with the jewels.
Along with most of her collection, the necklace was inherited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
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