15 February 2013

Flashback Friday: Mediterranean Engagement Rings

For the next installment in our royal engagement ring mini-series, we're heading to the shores of the Mediterranean for some of the royal (and princely) rings of their current (and former) monarchies. Ready?

Princess Grace of Monaco
It's only natural to start with the most famous of the bunch - perhaps the second most famous royal engagement ring, after the Diana/Kate sapphire gumdrop, maybe? The e-ring that Grace Kelly is best known for is the 10.47 carat emerald cut trinket from Cartier, a ring so luxurious it doubled as a film prop for her role in High Society. The ring - set in platinum, with a baguette diamond on either side of the main stone - has been on display with various exhibits on the princess in the past years. But actually, it wasn't her first: Prince Rainier originally presented Grace with a much simpler Cartier eternity band of rubies and diamonds (the colors of the Monegasque flag), which she happily showed off at their engagement announcement (that's it in the picture on the left, above). Later he upgraded to the mega-diamond; some versions of the story say Rainier quickly changed the ring after realizing the size of the rocks most Hollywood stars received, but others say that the ruby and diamond ring was a friendship ring and placeholder for the larger diamond ring, which was not ready. Either way, the famous ring is one of my very favorite royal engagement rings - big like a royal ring should be, but not ostentatiously humongous.

Princess Charlene of Monaco
When Prince Albert announced his engagement to Charlene Wittstock, a photo was released showing an enormous diamond ring (left, above). But when Charlene was finally photographed wearing the ring in real life, it appeared much smaller. Though some believe she has two rings, one large and one smaller, I think the engagement portrait suffered a bit of a Photoshop fail in an effort to add in a ring that wasn't complete (the jeweler had to be called back from vacation the day before the official announcement so that Albert could pick out a ring). The ring provided by Maison Repossi is called Téthys, a 3 carat pear-shaped diamond with brilliant diamonds embellishing the sides, set in gray gold. It remains mostly unworn by Charlene, who doesn't wear much jewelry.

Princess Caroline of Monaco
For her first marriage to Philippe Junot, Princess Caroline received a Ceylon sapphire ring with a diamond trillion on either side. Of course, she's been married twice since, so this is a thing of the past.

Tatiana Santo Domingo
There was no formal press conference to mark the engagement of Andrea Casiraghi, son of Princess Caroline, and Tatiana Santo Domingo. That means there was no "show us your ring" shot to be sure, but she was pictured with a pretty hefty ring following the engagement.

Queen Anne-Marie of Greece
We have a bit of a sapphire ring tradition in the Greek royal family as we did with the Windsors: Anne-Marie wore a double sapphire ring, each surrounded by diamonds, when her engagement was announced to Constantine of Greece.

Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece
Crown Prince Pavlos used a cabochon sapphire that belonged to his mother, Queen Anne-Marie, and added a heart-shaped diamond on the side when he proposed to Marie-Chantal Miller.

Princess Tatiana of Greece
Prince Nikolaos also proposed with a sapphire that was a gift from mum Anne-Marie, and added a diamond surround.

Princess Alexia of Greece
Alexia's ring, unlike the sapphires of her family members, is a simple and starkly modern single diamond on a wide band. Her husband Carlos Morales Quintana is an architect, which is fitting.

Queen Sofia of Spain
Some say Sofia received an engagement ring from Juan Carlos, the future King of Spain; others say it was a bracelet, which is a different engagement tradition. Some say she received both. Apparently the proposal involved JC tossing the bauble, whatever it was, at her. "Catch!" Anyway, I don't know that she wears any particular engagement jewel on a regular basis today, but she has a tendency to wear multiple bracelets and rings at any given time.

Infanta Elena of Spain
Elena turned up at the announcement of her engagement to Jaime de Marichalar wearing a ring containing a sizable diamond said to have been taken from a tiara belonging to her future husband's family. The couple are now divorced, though.

Infanta Cristina of Spain
Cristina's ring from future husband Iñaki Urdangarín was a simple eternity band. It's somewhat similar to the ring Cristina's brother Felipe would later present to his bride - which is ironic, sort of, now that Cristina and her husband are all wrapped up in the saga of the Princess of Asturias' engagement ring.

The Princess of Asturias
The eternity ring Felipe gave Letizia came from Suarez jewelers, with a reported value of €3000. In addition to the ring, which contains 16 baguette diamonds and a white gold band on either side, Felipe gave Letizia a necklace from the family collection; she gave him a pair of sapphire cufflinks and a book. Up until a few months ago, the ring and her yellow gold wedding band could both be spotted on Letizia's hand, but they have been missing lately. Though not wearing one's engagement or wedding ring is not an uncommon thing, in Letizia's case it's all tied up in the big scandal the Spanish royal family is dealing with right now.

They've been fighting scandal on a few fronts for the past year or two, really; the King was caught enjoying an extravagant trip to hunt elephants in Botswana last year, during a trying time for the Spanish economy. (Oh, and his alleged mistress was with him. Oh, and it was all supposed to be done under the rader - until he broke his hip and had to fly home for an operation. Oops.) But that's not the biggest threat to the royal goodwill that comes from the role the King played in guiding Spain to a democracy following the death of General Franco. No, the biggest problem seems to be Iñaki Urdangarín.

Since late 2011, Iñaki's been under investigation for corruption. He and his former business partner are accused of embezzling public funds, diverting them for their private profit through the Noos Institute, the supposedly nonprofit organization he once chaired which arranged events for regional governments. He's persona non grata, basically, at royal events (Cristina's not around much either these days), and he's been removed from the royal website, but the problem is not solved. The investigation keeps growing - and Letizia's ring is one of the things that's been drawn into the mess.

A book on Urdangarín published last year stated that Felipe asked his sister Cristina to pick up the engagement ring from the jeweler (this makes sense, since his engagement was top secret). But supposedly Cristina was sick, so she asked her husband to handle it. The book alleges that it was paid for with the Noos credit card...and there's your problem. Allegations go further too, saying that Iñaki may have refused to allow Felipe to pay him back. Letizia stopped wearing her rings when this came about, which is a hard coincidence to ignore. Even if this is false, the association alone seems to be enough to warrant ditching the ring. (She also stopped wearing her wedding ring, but Felipe still wears his. She avoids most jewelry, even more now that Spain's economy is hurting, and she's been seen to remove or fiddle with her rings following events with lots of handshaking. Maybe she wasn't terribly averse to going ringless, we have no way of knowing.) What a mess, huh?

Anyway. That's that for today's installment. Until next week...

Which one is your favorite here?

Photos: Palais Princier/Cartier/Getty Images/Maison Repossi/AFP/Suarez/PPE