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 (which we have yet to cover), 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!).

19 July 2017

The Sapphire Jubilee Snowflake Brooch

Attending an event at Canada House to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation today, The Queen added another brooch to her collection to celebrate her own milestone anniversary.

The Sapphire Jubilee Snowflake Brooch
Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall
The Governor-General of Canada, David Johnston, presented The Queen with the Sapphire Jubilee Snowflake Brooch from Canada. The brooch recognizes Her Majesty's Sapphire Jubilee in 2017, marking 65 years on the throne.

Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall
Appropriately, it does so with sapphire stones. The sapphires contained in the brooch come from a deposit of sapphires discovered in 2002 on near Kimmirut on Baffin Island by brothers Seemeega and Nowdluk Aqpik. Coming from Canada's only known deposit of sapphires, these Beluga sapphires are stones that have a natural blue color that does not require heat to enhance.

Hillberg & Berk
The brooch includes 48 sapphires of varying sizes, shapes, and colors, weighing 10.19 carats in total. The blue stones are arranged with the darkest blue colors at the center, surrounding a diamond dome. The sapphires fade into lighter colors as they approach the edge of the brooch, creating an ombré effect. The stones are surrounded by more than 400 diamonds from northern Canada, weighing 4.39 carats in total, and the brooch is set in 18K Canadian white gold.

Hillberg & Berk
The design, inspired by the Canadian Arctic, is a one-of-a-kind snowflake shaped like the North Star. The brooch was designed and crafted by Hillberg & Berk. The Canadian jewelers also created the Saskatchewan Tourmaline Flower Brooch that was gifted to The Queen in 2013. The center diamond dome around which the snowflake is based is a special Hillberg & Berk touch, recalling their signature Sparkle Ball collection.

Hillberg & Berk
The Sapphire Jubilee Snowflake Brooch measures 61 mm tall and 66 mm wide, or about 2.5 inches square. It's slightly larger than the Maple Leaf Brooch, which is 55 mm x 50 mm, and is right in the size range of The Queen's usual favorite brooches.

The Queen receives the brooch at Canada House from the Governor-General
Royal Family
The Queen smiled as she received this stunning brooch in its beautiful wooden box. She has worn her other Hillberg & Berk brooch on several occasions, and I hope she will be just as fond of this one. It would be a perfect choice for a Christmas service, but I'd love to see it much sooner.

Visit to Canada House

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited Canada House, London, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation.
Royal Family

Surprise, surprise: the Maple Leaf Brooch is back! I know some of you will join me in wishing for a little more Canada brooch variation - she has the Enamel Maple Leaves Brooch plus a smaller diamond maple leaf brooch, if she wanted to stick to the leaf theme - but this one is certainly the best known Canada link in the collection. And it could be a good long while before we see it again, once the 150th anniversary events are done.

Royal Family

The Queen actually picked up another new Canada brooch during today's event! Check out her new Sapphire Jubilee Snowflake Brooch here.

18 July 2017

Audience at Buckingham Palace

The Queen received David Johnston, Governor-General of Canada, and his wife Sharon Johnston during a private audience at Buckingham Palace where he relinquished his appointment as Governor-General of Canada.

I'm picturing a giant countdown clock at the palace, ticking away the moments until Her Maj finally gets to depart for Balmoral. But first, there is more Canada business to take care of: receiving the outgoing Governor-General here, and a reception tomorrow at Canada House. Gotta polish up that Maple Leaf Brooch one more time...

16 July 2017

The Duchess of Cornwall's 70th Birthday Portrait

A new portrait of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall by Mario Testino was released to mark The Duchess' 70th birthday on July 17th.
Mario Testino/Clarence House

If Camilla collected any serious gems for her milestone birthday, none were on show for her official birthday portrait (which, to be fair, was taken back in May). The portrait's very much a reflection of her day-to-day jewel style, though, showing her favorite earrings and a favorite selection from her collection of signature pearl chokers. I'm sure she was plenty bedecked for her private birthday party at Highgrove on Saturday, anyway.

I'll just be over here waiting for a portrait of these two in their full gala splendor to be released. Waiting and waiting some more...