The Cambridge Emeralds came into the royal family through Queen Mary who was the grandmother of the current queen, Queen Elizabeth II. The story is a very interesting one in which the emeralds were originally acquired by Augusta of Hesse- Kassel, the Duchess of Cambridge (Queen Mary’s grandmother) in 1818 at a charity lottery while they were in Frankfort, Germany. The box that was the prize is said to have contained somewhere between 30 to 40 cabochon emeralds (cabochon is a French word meaning a gemstone which is in a natural shape and polished as opposed to being fully cut and faceted).
Duchess of Teck wearing the original Cambridge emerald necklace
The Duchess had some of the emeralds set into a pair of drop earrings and a pendant necklace. After her death her daughter, Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck (Queen Mary’s mother) inherited the emeralds. Unfortunately, the Cambridge emeralds were almost lost to the royal family when they were passed onto Prince Francis of Teck (Queen Mary’s brother) and when he died suddenly in 1910 the emeralds fell into the possession of his mistress. Luckily, Princess Mary of Teck (later to become Queen Mary) retrieved the emeralds under questionable circumstances.
Queen Mary was known to wear numerous pieces of jewelry at one time and on the occasion of the Imperial Durbar held in Delhi in 1911, when King George V was crowned Emperor of India, she had a majority of the Cambridge emeralds set into what became known as the Delhi Durbar parure. (a parure is a set of matching jewelry that would sometimes include a tiara, necklace, bracelet, brooch and earrings)
Then in 1921, Queen Mary bought a diamond and pearl tiara from the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia. The tiara had been smuggled out of Russia by a British diplomat during the 1917 revolution. After acquiring the tiara, Queen Mary had it altered and the original teardrop pearls could be replaced by fifteen Cambridge cabochon emeralds. (Please click on the link, the Queen’s Jewelry Collection – Part One, for additional information on the Grand Duchess Vladimr Tiara)
The remaining Cambridge emeralds were set into additional brooches, necklaces, bracelets and earrings made by Garrards, the Royal Jewelers. These pieces of jewelry were cleverly designed so that the emeralds could be detachable from their setting so that Queen Mary would be able to insert gemstones that would coordinate with the color of her gowns.
All of the jewelry mentioned; the Delhi Durbar parure, the Vladimir tiara and the additional pieces using the Cambridge emeralds, were the personal property of Queen Mary. Upon the death of Queen Mary, her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II inherited the collection in 1953.
The Delhi Durbar Tiara
The tiara was originally part of the Delhi Durbar Parure and was set with several of the Cambridge emeralds, many years later the ten cabochon emeralds would be eventually used in the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara. The Delhi Durbar Tiara is now part of Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewelry collection and is often loaned to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who wears it without the emeralds.
Delhi Durbar Tiara
Delhi Durbar Tiara worn by Queen Mary
The Delhi Durbar Necklace
The Delhi Durbar Necklace was specifically made for the 1911 Delhi Durbar and is set with nine cabochon Cambridge emeralds, six large diamonds, numerous smaller diamonds and the Cullinan VII diamond which is an 8.8 carat marquise shaped diamond. The necklace was made by Garrard at the request of King George V and was presented to Queen Mary on occasion of her 44th birthday. Since Queen Elizabeth inherited the necklace in 1953 she usually wears it paired with the Vladimir Tiara for evening events.
Delhi Durbar Necklace
Delhi Durbar Necklace worn by Queen Elizabeth
The Delhi Durbar Earrings
The Delhi Durbar earrings are set with one of the Cambridge oval shaped cabochon emeralds surrounded by 11 diamonds and a matching emerald provided by Garrard surrounded by an additional 11 diamonds. Since Queen Mary would often wear several necklaces at one time, the earrings were kept relatively simple in style.
Delhi Durbar Emerald Earrings
The Delhi Durbar Stomacher and Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch
The Delhi Durbar Stomacher and Scroll Cambridge Emerald brooch are pieces of jewelry specially made by Garrard for Queen Mary to wear to the 1911 Delhi Durbar. The Delhi Durbar Stomacher is set in gold with seven of the Cambridge emeralds, as well as chips from the Cullinan diamond and several smaller diamonds (a stomacher is customarily a set of elaborate pieces of jewelry that are normally worn over the bodice of a gown) The stomacher was a favorite of Queen Mary and she wore it often with several additional brooches, such as the Cullinan V Heart Brooch and the Cullinan VIII Emerald-cut Brooch, to create an impressive display One of those additional brooches worn with the Delhi Durbar Stomacher was the Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch which included a square-shaped emerald placed in a scrolled diamond setting and a removable emerald pendant. Since the Cambridge Emerald collection passed to Queen Elizabeth in 1953 she rarely wears the Stomacher but occasionally wears the Scroll Brooch for day or evening engagements.
Delhi Durbar Stomacher worn by Queen Mary with Delhi Durbar Brooches
Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch
The Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch
Queen Mary was given the Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch by the ladies of India to wear at the Delhi Durbar in 1911. This brooch does not contain one of the Cambridge Emeralds but it is included in the Delhi Durbar Parure. Set in silver and gold, the large hexagon shaped emerald is intricately carved with the images a rose on the front and an unidentified plant on the back and it is surrounded by several diamonds. Queen Mary wore the brooch pinned at the top of the Delhi Durbar Stomacher with additional brooch pinned below. In 1953, the Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch was passed to Queen Elizabeth and she only wears in occasionally due to its heavy weight.
Delhi Durbar Carved Emerald Brooch
The Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch
Unlike the other pieces of Cambridge Emerald jewelry collection, the Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch was not specifically made for the Delhi Durbar although it was worn for that occasion in 1911. The round cabochon emerald is surrounded by two rows of diamonds with a pear shaped emerald pendant that can be detached. After the death of Queen Mary, the brooch was passed to Queen Elizabeth who wears it often and mostly with the pendant attached and but she will occasionally wear it without the pendant.
Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch
Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch worn with pendant by Queen Elizabeth
Delhi Durbar Round Emerald Brooch worn without pendant by Queen Elizabeth
The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara
In 1921, Queen Mary bought a diamond and pearl tiara from the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia. Queen Elizabeth inherited the tiara in 1953 and frequently wears it with the original teardrop pendants and occasionally with the interchangeable Cambridge Emerald pendants. (Please click on the following link, the Queen’s Jewelry Collection – Part Two, for additional information on the Grand Duchess Vladimr Tiara)
Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara
The Art Deco Emerald Choker
There is some controversy surrounding this Art Deco Emerald Choker and it was always believed that this necklace was created for Queen Mary with the Cambridge Emeralds for the 1911 Delhi Durbar. Recently it was determined that the emeralds used in the necklace were in fact a gift to Queen Mary from the Ladies of India. Then the Art Deco choker was passed to Queen Elizabeth in 1953 but she did not prefer the shortened style. Much later in the 1980s the Queen loaned the choker to Diana, the Princess of Wales. Diana wore the choker often and it became one of her signature pieces of jewelry. Then in 1985 on a tour of Australia she wore the choker in a very unusual way. At an evening engagement in Melbourne Diana cleverly accessorized her beautiful Emanuel designed evening gown by wearing the choker as a bandeau in a distinctive 1920 style across her forehead. Upon Diana’s death in 1997 the necklace was returned to the Queen.
Delhi Durbar Choker
Delhi Durbar Choker worn by Princess Diana
Delhi Durbar Choker worn Princess Diana wears as headpeice
For more information about Emeralds as a wedding gemstone as well as other famous emeralds, please click on the link.