Today marks the 5th Anniversary of the Death of Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones, who passed away on this day in 2017! The American Spy who became a Spanish Countess and glamorous socialite, the Countess wore some spectacular jewels, the highlight of which was her Emerald Necklace Tiara!
But first, lets learn about the Countess! Born Aline Griffith in Pearl River NY, she worked in Madrid as a spy during the critical years of the Second World War, before marrying the Aristocratic Luis de Figueroa y Perez de Guzmán el Bueno, the Count of Quintanilla. The Spy turned Countess soon became a popular society figure and was the member of the International Best Dressed List since 1962. The glamorous socialite was friends with the Duchess of Windsor (who she once involved in a plot), Princess Grace of Monaco, Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy among others. The Countess passed away at the age of 94, though her legacy continued.
Composed of a necklace designed as graduated series of thirteen clusters, each centring on a cabochon emerald, to a border and connections collet-set with brilliant-cut diamonds, the central drop is detachable and may be worn as a dress clip, together with a pair of ear pendants similarly set, which could lo be broken down into individual elements.
The Emeralds originated with the Maharajkumar Ajit Singh, son of the Maharaja of Kapurtala and the famous Spanish actress Anita Delgado, before it was sold to Luis Gil, who had them set into this necklace and earring before it was acquired by the Countess of Romanones in the 1960s.
The Countess soon began wearing her Emerald Necklace mounted as a Tiara, with a prominent appearance at the Wedding Ball of Princess Theresia zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn and her son, the 11th Count of Quintanilla, in 1973, and also on the cover of one of her books, An American in Spain (1980).
In 1974, the Emerald Necklace Tiara was worn by Lucila Domecq Williams when she married the eldest son of the Count and Countess of Romanones, the 10th Count of Quintanilla, when the Countess herself wore her Diamond Bracelet as a Tiara.
While the piece was sometimes worn as a Tiara up to the 1990s, the Countess more frequently wore the piece as a necklace, with the jewels becoming an iconic symbol of her glamorous lifestyle and public persona.
The Countess continued to wear the Jewels up into old age, in her 80s, frequently donning it for photoshoots and all sorts of galas and parties, with the jewels further becoming an integral symbol of the Countess, who continued to be a leading society figure. She said:
My Era was the end of the glamour the world had known for centuries, where quick wit, beauty and elegance were of paramount importance. With great Jewels you can walk into any exceptional place and know you belong” she adds, stressing that although dress, hair and makeup are always important, jewels are indispensable. The jewels give importance to you and what you wear. It is what their sparkle do for you. A simple black dress and a knock-out jewel always light a room. They make you glitter. Jewels are a definite advantage to women”.
In 2011, the Countess of Romanones decided to Auction her Jewels at Sotheby’s in Geneva, which included her Ruby Suite and other Jewels, and this Emerald Necklace and Earrings, which had an estimate of 95,000 – 135,000 CHF and ended up fetching 362,500 CHF.
It seems the Emerald and Diamond Necklace Tiara was possibly acquired by King Juan Carlos of Spain, a friend of the Countess, for this mistress the former Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who was the former wife of a nephew of the aforementioned Princess Theresia zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein notably wore the Emerald Parure at the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg in 2014, and since she has been open in her criticism of the Spanish Authorities and Monarchy in hounding her since the King’s abdication, it would be a surprise if we see her wearing the Parure again anytime soon!