Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Gloucester, who turns 76 today! The wife of the Queen’s cousin, the Duchess has been a hardworking member of the Royal Family for 50 years, and possesses an enormous collection of heirloom jewellery, bigger than some main royal collections, which includes this splendid Emerald Necklace!
A spectacular Belle Epoque creation of large square emeralds set in diamond swags and festoons, this splendid necklace has an unknown provenance but likely originates from Queen Mary, who would have left it to her son, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, in 1953. The Duchess of Gloucester began to wear the Emerald and Diamond Necklace soon afterwards, with notable appearences during the Swedish State Visit to Britain in 1954, the Portuguese State Visit to Britain in 1955, and at a Reception given during the Shah of Iran and Queen Soraya’s visit to London in 1955.
The current Duchess of Gloucester expected life as a minor royal with a career, but family tragedies made her the Duchess soon after her marriage and she began a role as a full-time working royal. Princess Alice passed along many of her jewels, including this Emerald Necklace, and it made frequent appearences at galas and in portraits though the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, though it appears that it was never worn with pieces of the Gloucester Pearl and Emerald Suite, which has cabochon emeralds unlike the faceted emeralds in the necklace.
More recently, the Duchess of Gloucester has mainly worn the spectacular emerald necklace when she is wearing the emerald version of the Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara, though appearences have declined as gala events have decreased and the Duchess usually prefers the other versions of the Honeysuckle Tiara. However, there is no doubt we will continue to see this magnificent heirloom for years to come!