Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Little-known family fact makes Camilla's 'the most romantic of all royal engagement rings'


Since Camilla Parker Bowles married the Prince of Wales in 2005, the Queen has leant her a plethora of prominent pieces; many of which belonged to the Queen Mother before her death in 2002, while many others are either her own family pieces or presents from Prince Charles – so let’s look at them and their provenance. The Prince of Wales might have given Princess Diana an enormous sapphire and natural diamond engagement ring from Asprey (of course now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge), but when he asked Camilla to marry him – he gave her an art deco ring set with a five carat emerald cut natural diamond, with three natural diamond baguettes on either shoulder.

It is said to have belonged to Her Majesty the Queen Mother and was also part of the gargantuan Greville collection that arrived at Buckingham Palace in a simple black tin in the middle of WWII.

And in happy symmetrical synchronicity, Dame Margaret Greville was the godmother of the Duchess of Cornwall’s beloved mother, Rosalind Shand – is this perhaps the most romantic of all royal engagement rings? The piece is far from the only piece of jewellery with incredible royal providence Camilla has worn.

And so to a personal family heirloom that once belonged to none other than Camilla’s grandmother Sonia Keppel, daughter of Alice Keppel – mistress of Edward VII and friend of …. Margaret Greville.

The Greville Diamond Tiara is perhaps one of the most impressive and extravagant and is part of 60 or more pieces bequeathed to the Queen Mother in 1942 by a loyal friend of Queen Mary’s, Dame Margaret Greville. The tiara, also known as the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara, which we have seen her wear on numerous occasions, was created by Boucheron in 1921 using the natural diamonds from an earlier tiara (1901) by the iconic Parisian jeweller.

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The tiara is constructed around a geometrical honeycomb pattern, pavé-set with diamonds which are surrounded by millegrain setting in platinum, increasing the sparkle so spectacularly; round brilliant diamonds placed within the honeycomb sections, are also bordered by millegrain. In 1953, Cartier increased the height of this already significant piece by rearranging clusters of brilliants on the top layer, as well as adding four round brilliants from one of Her Majesty’s brooches and crowning the piece with a large marquise at the apex.

The duchess wore this most favourite of royal jewels for the first time in Uganda in 2007, alongside the sumptuous Greville Festoon Necklace. The natural diamond necklace by Cartier, originally had two rows of plaques set with pavé-set diamonds around a central round brilliants and a back-chain of two simple lines of diamonds fastened with a large brilliant also within a pave-set plaque.

In 1938 Mrs Greville commissioned Cartier to add four more plaques to this design and redesign the back clasp, she also had the French jeweller create a second matching necklace with three rows of 18 plaques that could be attached within the original necklace to create a five row festoon necklace. According to Suzanne Martinez of Lang Antiques in San Francisco, the word festoon comes from the Latin ‘festo’ meaning festive – and how fabulously festive is this piece.

Camilla also owns a family tiara, which she wore to her first wedding. The Cubitt-Shand Tiara is a delightful diamond floral tiara that was worn by Camilla at her wedding to Andrew Parker Bowles, and subsequently by their daughter Laura at her wedding in 2006.

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The piece is designed as a garland of flowers and leaves which rises to its central apex in an asymmetric spray, it is very delicate and although the duchess has worn it several times, she has not done so for a few years.

Jewellery expert, Lisa Levinson of the Natural Diamond Council said: “Since marrying into the British Royal Family, the Duchess of Cornwall has many new magnificent tiaras at her disposal.

“Even so, Camilla still sometimes reaches for a more familiar sparkler: the Cubitt-Shand Tiara she inherited from her own family and aristocratic roots. Natural diamonds have a rich history as family treasures with powerful emotional value reaching across generations. 

“This is at the core of the appeal of natural diamond jewellery; its irreplaceable value and sentimental significance which stands the test of time.”

It is said that the Prince of Wales loves giving his wife jewels with sentimental significance, and continuing the Keppel angle – he enjoys buying her pieces that belonged to her great grandmother Alice Keppel, his great great grandfather’s mistress.

This includes a further diamond tiara, which has been transformed into a necklace and earrings; and the Keppel ruby and diamond tiara – which is in fact set with synthetic rubies, alongside diamonds, in an intricate design and has been worn by Camilla as a necklace.

This piece is markedly less grandiose than most of her coloured gemstones and natural diamond set necklaces, such as several magnificent ruby and diamond bib necklaces; an emerald and natural diamond riviere; aquamarine and natural diamond, and sapphire and natural diamond pendants; and one of my favourite combinations: a turquoise and natural diamond festoon necklace with matching earrings.

The duchess’s Diamond Serpent Necklace is set with round and square-cut natural diamonds in segments, which allows the piece to sit smoothly around her neck.

As with most snake necklaces, the head, with two tiny rubies as eyes, and tail are joined together to represent eternal love; Prince Albert’s engagement ring to Queen Victoria was a gold snake set with emeralds, rubies and natural diamonds.

Prince Charles is thought to have given it Camilla in 2001, and that it is not necessarily an antique piece of jewellery.

Camilla is often seen with her three strand pearl necklaces, worn either as a collar or a choker, and set with a central clasp of a variety of coloured gemstones surrounded by diamonds.

Another ‘contemporary’ favourite is Van Cleef & Arpel’s iconic Alhambra Collection of which Camilla has several pieces, the most superb of which are perhaps these Magic Alhambra earrings: the lucky and familiar four leaf clover motif, set with 158 pavé-set natural diamonds surrounded by millegrain detailed borders in white gold.



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