Today marks the 160th Anniversary of the Birth of Queen Olga of Greece, who was born on this day in 1861! The Russian Grand Duchess who married the first Greek King and was the grandmother of the Duke of Edinburgh among Royals from Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, Romania, Serbia, and Italy, Queen Olga possessed many magnificent jewels as Queen for almost five decades. To mark the anniversary of her Birth, we are featuring the splendid Greek Emerald Parure, which remains one of the Royal Family’s most spectacular Heirlooms!
Now consisting of a Tiara of seven round, cabochon emeralds in a diamond scroll frame, as well as a pair of pear-drop cabochon emerald earrings, and a corsage brooch that features five more detachable pear-drop cabochon emeralds, which are usually worn from a necklace, the Greek Emerald Parure likely originates from Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna of Russia, who gave them as a Wedding gift to her daughter, Grand Duchess Olga when she married King George I of Greece in 1967.
Since they were not in their own setting, Queen Olga studded her gowns with the numerous cabochon emeralds, wearing them in loose settings on a fabric Kokoshnik, as a necklace, as well as a mass of brooches for a variety of portraits. Her son, Prince Christopher remembered the Emeralds:
My mother possessed some perfect emeralds, including a cabochon as big as a bird’s egg. When I was eighteen, I borrowed it to wear at a masked ball in Athens, to which I had been invited. The guests came in historical Polish costumes and the jewel was an important accessory. She gave me the stone, warning me several times to take great care of it. I had fastened it as brooch to my hat. The last notes of the mazurka played and I was talking with my friends, when my sister-in-law, Princess Nicolas came over to me and said: ” The emerald on your hat is the largest I have ever seen. Can I look at it?” As soon as she took it from my hands, the stone came apart from its brooch setting and fell to the ground. Emeralds, unlike diamonds, are very fragile jewels and can shatter like glass. We stood stiff as stone as we watched the jewel roll on the carpet, toward the marble floor and feared the worst. Words cannot describe, how relieved I was, when I saw it stop its course, unharmed.”
Queen Olga spent much of the First World War in her native Russia, at her brother’s Pavlovsk Palace, making a tumultuous escape, with only the swift actions of her companion, Anna Egorova, managing to save her jewels from the Bolsheviks, who ransacked the Palace.
Either around the time of the Wedding of King George II of Greece and Princess Elisabeth of Romania in 1921 or after Queen Olga’s death in 1926, the Emerald Parure was inherited by her grandson, King George II, to be worn by Queen Elisabeth, who put the cabochons in a series of bandeau tiaras before setting them in a Russian-inspired Kokoshnik frame, made of inter-locking ‘E’s by the late 1920s. Despite her big design contribution to the Parure, Queen Olga’s Emeralds remained with King George II after their divorce.
The Emerald Parure did not get a wearer during the rest of King George II’s lifetime and reigns, and were next seen on Queen Frederica in the late 1940s, soon after the accession of her husband, King Paul, who had inherited the Emerald Parure from his brother, King George. Queen Frederica usually wore the Emerald Tiara as a necklace with Queen Sophie’s Diamond Tiara, which became her trademark look for the 1940s and 1950s, and also wore the emeralds for many important occasions, like the Wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh (a grandson of Queen Olga) in 1947 or the Wedding of her brother, Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover, and Princess Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg in 1951.
Queen Frederica also occasionally wore the Tiara of the Emerald Parure, most notably on the Greek State Visit to France in 1956, the Greek Monarchy Centenary Gala at the Royal Palace of Athens in 1963, when QUeen Ingrid of Denmark had to borrow Queen Sophie’s Diamond Tiara, and the French State Visit to Greece in 1963.
The following year, Queen Frederica gave the Emerald Parure, and Queen Olga’s Ruby Parure, as a wedding gift to Princess Anne Marie of Denmark when she married her son, King Constantine II of Greece, and it was displayed with their other wedding gifts in Athens.
The new Queen Anne Marie first wore the Greek Emerald Parure for her First Official Portraits taken in the days leading up to the Wedding and then for her Wedding Gala at the Royal Palace of Athens. Later, the Parure was frequently worn for portraits, and events like the Greek New Year’s Reception and the Christening of Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece in 1967, during the short years of King Constantine’s Reign.
The Emerald Parure was taken into exile when the Greek Royal Family fled Greece in 1967, being worn a few weeks later at her sister, Princess Benedikte’s Wedding Gala and later for King Frederik IX’s 70th Birthday in 1969 and the Persepolis Celebrations in Iran in 1971.
The Greek Emerald Parure has remained a favourite of Queen Anne Marie for the most formal occasions throughout her exile, being worn for Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in 1992, Princess Benedikte’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in 1993, King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 50th Birthday in 1995, Prince Joachim’s Wedding Ball in 1995, Queen Margrethe’s Silver Jubilee in 1997, and the Wedding of Princess Alexandra of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Count Jefferson von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth in 1998.
In more recent years, the Emerald Parure has been worn by Queen Anne-Marie for the Wedding of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 2004, the Norwegian Independence Centenary Gala in Copenhagen in 2005, Queen Margrethe’s 70th Birthday Gala in 2010, Queen Margrethe’s Ruby Jubilee Banquet in 2012, and Queen Margrethe’s 75th Birthday Banquet in 2015, with pieces from the Parure last making an appearance at King Harald and Queen Sonja’s 80th Birthday Gala in 2017. There is no doubt we will continue to see these splendid Royal Heirlooms for years to come!