09 August 2017

The Duchess of Cornwall's Ruby Garland Demi-Parure

We'll finish up our 70th birthday round of features on Camilla's most impressive official gifts with one last addition to the pile...

Eight years after she wore a ruby and diamond necklace so staggeringly opulent it changed the way Clarence House discloses official gifts, The Duchess of Cornwall did it again. Not with the same necklace, mind you; with a completely different, yet no less extravagant, ruby and diamond demi-parure.

The Duchess of Cornwall wears her Ruby Garland Demi-Parure

For the Royal Film Performance of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2015, The Duchess of Cornwall wore a necklace featuring four strands of diamond garlands adorned with 18 pear-shaped rubies, including four down the center of the necklace in diamond surrounds, and multiple pear-shaped diamond elements. The long matching earrings include more diamond-framed rubies finished with a diamond fringe. A matching ruby and diamond bracelet was also worn.

While the provenance of the Ruby Garland Demi-Parure has not been officially confirmed, my strong suspicion is that it was a gift from the late King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. My guess is based on a few reasons, the first and most obvious being that the complete extravagance of the design screams of the lavish gifts given by Middle Eastern monarchies. Second, the official gift list for a trip by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Saudi Arabia in 2013 listed Camilla as receiving a "parure" (with no further details given) from King Abdullah. It's also possible that she received some jewels when the King came to Britain for a state visit in 2007. Third, she debuted this parure shortly after the King passed away, so it could have been worn as a tribute. I also suspect that King Abdullah gave Camilla her Saudi Sapphire Demi-Parure in 2006.

The bracelet from the demi-parure can be seen peeking out from under her sleeve

If these rubies were an official gift, then they are not The Duchess of Cornwall's private property. You can read more about the rules for official gifts in our feature on the Saudi Ruby Demi-Parure.

 So far, the Ruby Garland Demi-Parure has been worn just once. None of her larger necklaces are worn with any regularity, and this will probably not be an exception. The earrings would be nice to see worn more often; her hair covers shorter earrings, making longer models a better choice for her eveningwear, and these are perfect.

17 February 2015: Royal Film Performance of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

05 August 2017

Balmoral Holiday, 2017

By Stuart Yeates from Oxford, UK - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Queen started her annual summer Balmoral holiday in July at Craigowan Lodge on the Balmoral estate, while the castle was still open to the public, followed by taking up official residence at the castle itself in August. Her break usually ends around late September/early October with an engagement or two in Scotland before heading south.

Any appearances by The Queen during her holiday will be gathered in this post. A link for this post will be on the sidebar under Recently Updated Events and it will include the date of the last update, so you can find it any time and don't miss anything. (And if you see I've missed one, help me out and drop a comment below!)


August 13: NEW! The Queen and other members of the Royal Family attended church at Balmoral, in another unidentifiable brooch. Photos at the Daily Mail.

August 7: The traditional welcome ceremony kicks off the start of The Queen's official residence at Balmoral Castle. Her inspection of the Royal Guard included both the Royal Regiment of Scotland Badge - which is getting a lot of mileage this year - and Cruachan IV, the mischievous regimental mascot that tried to take a bite out of Her Maj's flowers at their last meeting.
Army in Scotland
Army in Scotland

August 6: NEW! Church at Balmoral, in an unidentifiable brooch. [Facebook] 

August 5: The Queen made a surprise appearance at the Aboyne Highland Games to mark its 150th anniversary. She wore her Diamond Art Deco Double Clip Brooch. [STV]

July 30: Church at Balmoral, wearing what appears to be an emerald brooch - maybe the Round Cambridge Emerald without its pendant, but it's impossible to say for certain. [Daily Mail]

July 23: Church at Balmoral in the Greville Scroll Brooch.

31 July 2017

The Pearl and Diamond Leaf Brooch

Attending the commemorations for the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, The Duchess of Cambridge wore a brooch borrowed from The Queen's jewel vault. The Pearl and Diamond Leaf Brooch is a large piece featuring three big pearls at the center of a diamond leaf shape.

The Duchess of Cambridge wears the Pearl and Diamond Leaf Brooch

This piece is something of an obscure member of The Queen's brooch collection. Its provenance is so far unknown and its appearances are scarce; The Queen most notably wore it during a State Visit to South Korea in 1999 (you can see a photo of her wearing it here at the Royal Jewels of the World Message Board). Now the brooch has joined the growing collection of pieces loaned by The Queen to other members of the Royal Family, a collection which certainly makes one wonder if Her Majesty has recently been sorting through some of the many pieces she never wears these days.

Brooches are not really a regular part of The Duchess of Cambridge's wardrobe, but her use of the Pearl and Diamond Leaf Brooch - together with the Collingwood Pearl and Diamond Earrings from the collection of the late Diana, Princess of Wales (first worn for the Spanish state banquet) - adds a nice touch of extra formality for a significant remembrance occasion.

31 July 2017: Passchendaele Centenary Commemoration (on The Duchess of Cambridge)

27 July 2017

The Duchess of Cornwall's Saudi Emerald Demi-Parure

Continuing our feature on Camilla's most impressive official gifts, in honor of her 70th birthday...

What is assumed to be the last of the three demi-parures (one ruby, one sapphire, and one emerald) collected by The Duchess of Cornwall on her March 2006 trip to Saudi Arabia with The Prince of Wales was finally debuted in June 2009, at a Royal Gala Performance of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

The Duchess of Cornwall wears the Saudi Emerald Demi-Parure (Necklace, Earrings, Bracelet) 

This set's centerpiece is an emerald and diamond necklace of a simple design, square emeralds in diamond frames strung in a row. The design is not unique; the Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar had a nearly identical one. (They are not likely to be the same; The Duchess' is most likely a newer creation.) A matching pair of earrings in this set uses single square emeralds in diamond frames as pendants, and a matching bracelet features a row of small emeralds surrounded by diamonds.

The Saudi Emerald Demi-Parure Necklace
British Asian Trust

Like the Saudi Sapphire Demi-Parure, the provenance of this emerald set is officially unconfirmed. It is assumed to be part of the bounty given to The Duchess of Cornwall by members of the Saudi royal family based on the description of the gifts included in the official gift list, the style of the jewels themselves, and the timing of their debut. It is also possible she received jewels on King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's state visit to Britain in 2007. If these emeralds were an official gift, that means the jewels are not Camilla's private property; she is responsible for the gifts on behalf of The Queen (in right of the Crown).

Wearing the necklace with the Pear Drop Diamond Demi-Parure Earrings, 2017
British Asian Trust Screencaps

The 2009 debut of the Saudi Emerald Demi-Parure is the only time to date that the matching earrings (and possibly also the bracelet) have been worn. Subsequent outings have featured Camilla's favorite Pear Drop Diamond Demi-Parure Earrings instead. The necklace has been worn only a handful of times - but that still makes it the most used necklace of the pieces assumed to be official Saudi gifts. She typically wears it with an green velvet gown that she favors when not in one of her usual white gowns.

2 February 2017: British Asian Trust Gala
2010: State Visit from South Africa

25 July 2017

The Duchess of Cornwall's Saudi Sapphire Demi-Parure

Continuing our feature on Camilla's most impressive official gifts, in honor of her 70th birthday...

On her official visit with The Prince of Wales to Saudi Arabia in March 2006, The Duchess of Cornwall picked up three sets of jewelry centered around magnificent necklaces as gifts from members of the Saudi Arabian royal family: a ruby necklace, an emerald necklace, and a sapphire necklace. Although the ruby debut made the biggest headlines - and prompted the disclosure of the gifts' provenance - the necklace assumed to be the sapphire gift actually received the first public debut.

The Duchess of Cornwall debuts her Saudi Sapphire Demi-Parure Necklace in 2006, worn with her Diamond Flower Pendant Earrings

First publicly worn to the Prince's Trust Gala in November 2006, the necklace features a diamond base with nine sapphire and diamond pendants. Matching sapphire and diamond earrings were later worn with the set. These pieces were Camilla's choice to wear to the state banquet held for King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia at Buckingham Palace in 2007, leading me to speculate that sapphire demi-parure was specifically a gift from the late King himself. Official gifts are not The Duchess of Cornwall's private property, as explained more fully in our feature on the Saudi Ruby Demi-Parure.

The single sapphire pendant, worn with the earrings that belong to this demi-parure

The full necklace has only been worn a couple of times to date. In recent years The Duchess has, however, worn a single sapphire pendant on a delicate chain; this pendant is the same style as the pendants on the necklace and could either be one of the pendants repurposed or could be an additional feature of the parure. It makes a lovely accessory for the flowing salwar kameez-style evening ensembles Camilla favors, but I wish we saw more of the full necklace. It is, in my opinion, the most attractive of her Saudi sets.

24 July 2017

Church at Balmoral

July 23: The Queen attended services at Crathie Church, Balmoral.

The Balmoral break has begun! The Queen will stay on another property on the estate until the castle closes to the public on July 31st, after which time she'll officially take up residence at the castle and we'll officially start our annual big Balmoral break post to gather all other sightings. Until then, I believe I spy the petite Greville Scroll on its first 2017 appearance.

22 July 2017

The Duchess of Cornwall's Saudi Ruby Demi-Parure

The Duchess of Cornwall is celebrating her 70th birthday this month, and that's all the reason we need to celebrate by featuring a few of her most opulent official gifts. To start:

The Duchess of Cornwall wears her Saudi Ruby Demi-Parure, 2007

Attending a white tie concert at Philadelphia's Academy of Music during a United States tour with The Prince of Wales in 2007, The Duchess of Cornwall stopped traffic by debuting a necklace that is nothing short of outrageous. Glittering away above her sleek burgundy velvet Robinson Valentine gown was a bib necklace featuring 36 perfectly matched oval rubies nestled in a trellis of diamonds. Much smaller - and harder to see beneath her hair - were a pair of matching earrings, each with a pendant ruby surrounded in diamonds. She may also have worn a matching bracelet tucked under her sleeve.

The appearance won praise for Camilla's glamorous look while also sparking plenty of debate about the necklace and its origins. The royal couple's office at Clarence House - which, like most royal households, is generally reluctant to divulge jewelry details - initially stated that the jewel was a gift from an official tour and declined to name the generous party. When questions continued to be raised about disclosure of official gifts and even whether that explanation was being used as an excuse to dodge taxes and import duties, Clarence House released a list of official gifts received on royal tours for the first time. They've done so every year ever since.

The section of the gift list referencing the jewels in question

The list revealed the ruby necklace to be a gift given to The Duchess of Cornwall from a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family during the couple's March 2006 tour of the country. The list also revealed that the ruby demi-parure was far from the only gift she picked up; she also received necklace sets in sapphires and emeralds. Richard Kay later reported in the Daily Mail that the ruby parure was given to Camilla by billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. In press reports, the value of the necklace was estimated at wildly differing amounts from £100,000 to £5 million (all figures which should be taken with a healthy grain of salt).

Sapphire and emerald necklaces debuted by The Duchess around this time have been pinpointed as the other gifts from this tour. (More to come on those shortly!) The Middle Eastern monarchies are known for their extravagant gifts of jewelry to visiting royal women, but I can't think of another royal who has picked up so much extravagance on one trip. It's staggering.

Here, a small look at the earrings. They appear to be pear-shaped rubies surrounded by diamonds.

Of course, these pieces are not Camilla's private property. As stated in the Royal Gift Guidelines of 2003:
Official gifts are not the private property of the Member of The Royal Family who receives them but are instead received in an official capacity in the course of official duties in support of, and on behalf of The Queen. As such, Members of The Royal Family are responsible for such gifts on behalf of The Queen (in right of the Crown).
The Duchess of Cornwall can store and use these gifts during her lifetime; on her death, any official gifts will be passed to the sovereign, who will decide if the gifts become part of the Royal Collection of if they should continue to be held in right of the Crown by her successors. Gifts from heads of state or hosts on official tours will generally be considered part of the Royal Collection.

This particular breastplate/necklace hasn't been worn again since its initial appearance. This is not surprising; controversy aside, it's not really the type of thing that can be thrown on with any old dress. This one practically requires a dress made specially for its use. She did, however, debut another similarly extravagant - and possibly also Saudi - ruby set in 2015 (another one with a feature to come shortly!).