Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the death of Cynthia, Countess Spencer, who passed away on this day in 1972! 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 another important family heirloom; the Spencer Tourmaline Brooch/Pendant!
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.
A spectacular large Tourmaline ringed by diamonds, as well as another elaborate diamond frame, this versatile Brooch/Pendant is of an unknown provenance, and while it may not date from the early 18th century like the Spencer Diamond Earrings and Spencer Diamond Rivière, but has been in the collection of the Spencer Family since at least the mid 19th century.
The Brooch was first photographed on the 5th Countess Spencer, along with the Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara and Diamond Rivière for portraits in 1885, as well as at the legendary Devonshire House Ball in 1897.
Cynthia, the 7th Countess Spencer was photographed in the Tourmaline and Diamond Brooch on numerous occasions from the 1930s, when she became a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, usually with a smaller Brooch, which can also be worn as a Ring, as the Pendant, along with the Winter Queen’s Pearl Pendant. The two Tourmaline Brooches were also worn as a Pendant for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Later, the Tourmaline and Diamond Pendant was worn suspended from the Spencer Diamond Rivière, when worn by Raine, the 8th Countess Spencer, most notably for an event turning on the illuminations at Blackpool in 1981.
More recently, the current Countess Spencer has also worn the Tourmaline and Diamond Pendant suspended from the Spencer Diamond Rivière, an image of which has also been shared by the Earl. There is no doubt we will continue to see this spectacular earrings for years to come!