Today marks the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Princess Hélène of Orléans, Duchess of Aosta, who was born on this day in 1871! The Orléans Princess who married an Italian Prince and became a noted traveller and big-game hunter before becoming the Head of the Italian Red Cross, the Duchess possessed many splendid jewels, many of which have already been featured, so today we are featuring the Duchess’ splendid Emerald Necklace, one of her most well-known pieces today!
An historic early 19th century emerald and diamond fringe necklace, circa 1810, this piece is designed as a series of nine graduated emerald and diamond square-shaped clusters, the central cluster with a large cushion-shaped emerald drop suspended from a diamond-set scroll mount and flanked by two smaller drops, the diamond collet intersections with smaller emerald and diamond square-shaped cluster drops.
The necklace originates from the collection of Princess Maria Carolina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, the Duchess of Aumale who left the piece to her husband, Prince Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, upon her death in 1869, with no surviving children. In 1895, the Duke of Aumale gave the Emerald Necklace and accompanying Tiara as a wedding gift to his goddaughter, Princess Hélène of Orléans, when she married the Duke of Aosta. The Duchess of Aosta was notably pictured in the emerald necklace for a portrait in which she affixed cabochon emeralds from her other emerald necklace on the top of her Savoy Knot and Star Tiara. Both those pieces remain with Princess Hélène’s grandchildren.
At some point in the early 1930s (as found by the wonderful Beth), for no apparent reason, Princess Hélène, Duchess of Aosta sold the Duchess of Aumale’s Emerald Tiara and Necklace. It was bought by Sybil Sassoon, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, and worn for a series of stunning portraits as early as 1930, along with an Art Deco Emerald, Sapphire and Diamond Buckle Brooch. Lady Cholmondeley’s collection also included the Tiara and Necklace from the French Crown Jewels.
In 1953, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley loaned the Emerald Necklace and the accompanying Tiara (the only time it was publicly worn and pictured) to her friend, Lady Churchill, for the Nobel Prize Ceremony, when she wore the necklace to receive the Prize from King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden on behalf of Sir Winston.
After Lady Cholmondeley’s death in 1989, the Emerald Necklace, and Tiara, were auctioned at Christie’s London on 20 June 1990, and went into a private collection until appearing at auction at Christie’s Geneva in 2015, when the necklace sold for CHF 2,629,000. Entering the famous Al Thani Collection of the Qatar Royal Family, the Aosta Emerald Necklace went on display at the Rois du Monde exhibition at the Château de Fontainebleau in 2018. The following year, the Emerald Necklace was again auctioned, at the Christies’ Magnificent Jewels Sale in May 2019, where it sold for CHF 1,815,000, into another private collection.