Spencer Diamond Rivière

Today marks the 125th Anniversary of the Birth of Cynthia, Countess Spencer, who was born on this day in 1897! The daughter of the Duke of Abercorn who married the 7th Earl Spencer and was a Lady of the Bedchamber to the Queen Mother for 35 years, Lady Spencer is perhaps best known for being the grandmother of Diana, Princess of Wales and also possessed the spectacular Jewellery Collection of the Spencer Family, the highlight of which are the Honeysuckle Tiara and Spencer Tiara but today we are featuring an even more important family heirloom; the Spencer Diamond Rivière!

Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara | Spencer Tiara | Spencer Diamond Rivière

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But first lets learn about Countess Spencer! The daughter of the 3rd Duke of Abercorn and Lady Rosalind Bingham, Lady Cynthia Hamilton grew up at the Family Seat of Baronscourt in County Tyrone. She married Viscount Althorp, son and heir of the 6th Earl Spencer, in 1919, having two children; The 8th Earl Spencer, thus making her the grandmother of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Lady Anne Wake-Walker. The couple succeeded to the Earldom in 1922, being based at the Family Seat of Althorp in Northamptonshire with brief periods at Spencer House in London, which was usually let out. Countess Spencer was appointed a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth in 1937, and continued in the role until her death in 1972, of a brain tumour, not long after celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Composed of forty-two cushion-shaped diamonds, the splendid diamond rivière was presented by Queen Anne to her favourite, Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, in the early 1700s. The rivière can be worn with three detachable pearl pendants which were presented by the City of London to Princess Elizabeth (The Winter Queen) when she married Frederick of the Palatinate. They were inherited by their son, the famous Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and sold by his illegitimate daughter to the Duchess of Marlborough, who also acquired the two diamond pendants from the Duchess of Shrewsbury’s collection in 1726. The rivière can also be worn with a topaz pendant, while the pearls and diamond pendants can also be worn as earrings, and a pair of diamond drop earrings can also be worn as pendants. After the Duchess of Marlborough’s death in 1744, the Diamond Riviere was inherited by her grandson, the 1st Earl Spencer.

An Heirloom of the Family for over 300 years, the Diamond Rivière has been worn by numerous Countesses Spencer but was not publicly depicted until being pictured on Charlotte, the 5th Countess Spencer at the Wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark in Windsor Castle in 1863, and was also pictured in the Rivière with the Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara for portraits in 1885.

Cynthia, the 7th Countess Spencer was photographed in the Honeysuckle Tiara and Spencer Tiara on numerous occasions from the 1920s to the 1960s, but her necklaces have been harder to identify, with the only notable picture wearing the Rivière taken at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, though she wore the Diamond Pendants as earrings on numerous occasions. At some point, the Rivière could also be worn as the base of the Honeysuckle Tiara.

Later, the Diamond Rivière and the Duchess of Shrewsbury’s Diamond Pendant Earrings were often worn by Raine, the 8th Countess Spencer, for numerous occasions through the 1970s and 1980s, including for the Wedding Ball of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

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While the Princess of Wales wore the Spencer Tiara on countless occasions, she wore the Diamond Rivière only once for the Red Dragon Ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel in 1983, with only one of the Winter Queen’s Pearl Pendant, along with her Collingwood Pearl Earrings.

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The Diamond Rivière was worn once by Caroline, the second wife of the current Earl Spencer, but different elements of the necklace have often been worn by the current Countess Spencer, who has worn it with the Topaz Pendant and also frequently worn the Duchess of Shrewsbury’s Diamond Pendant Earrings. There is no doubt we will continue to see these spectacular earrings for years to come.

Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara | Spencer Tiara | Spencer Diamond Rivière


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