29 September 2016

Tiara Thursday: The Cambridge Sapphire Parure

The origins of this set of jewelry are old, and as is the case often with old jewels, things change over time. Pieces are added/subtracted/changed within the parure, and so on. And this set passed through the hands of Queen Mary - the consort of George V, and a woman who never met a jewel she didn't want to alter - so change was practically a foregone conclusion.

Princess Augusta of Cambridge, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
The Cambridge Sapphire Parure takes its name from Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, who became the Duchess of Cambridge in 1818 when she married Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge and tenth child of George III. The Duchess of Cambridge gave these sapphire and diamond jewels to her daughter, also named Augusta, when she married the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1843.

Queen Mary
We've come across both of those names here in the past, because the Duchess of Cambridge was grandmother to Queen Mary, and the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was Mary's aunt (as well as her godmother and frequent correspondent). The Cambridge emeralds and the Cambridge Pearl Pendant Brooch came from the Duchess of Cambridge; the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara was inspired by a piece worn by both ladies.

Princess Marina wears the tiara to the State Opening of Parliament in 1960
British Pathé screencaps
These family connections also provided the path for the Cambridge sapphires to enter the British royal family, when Queen Mary inherited them from her aunt in 1916. In 1934, the parure was Mary's wedding gift to her goddaughter Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who was marrying Mary's son Prince George, Duke of Kent. Queen Mary set all her daughters-in-law up with substantial jewels, and I'm guessing she couldn't pass up the significance of giving her goddaughter jewels she received from her own godmother.

Princess Marina in the original tiara
According to Leslie Field's The Queen's Jewels, the oldest parts of the set date from approximately 1800, and originally included a tiara, a necklace, and a stomacher that could be separated into three brooches. Queen Mary added to the rest of the set and increased its flexibility. The Cambridge Sapphire Parure Tiara consisted of a substantial tiara of graduated sapphire and diamond clusters set on top of sapphire and diamond scroll designs; given the difference between the tiara in the portrait above and the later photographs, the number of sapphire elements appears to have changed over time. The accompanying parure, at its most extensive, allowed that tiara to be worn a pair of earrings, a long necklace or a shorter choker necklace, a stomacher, smaller brooches, and bracelets. Some of those pieces included detachable pendants, and the overall flexibility means some pieces may have done double duty.

Princess Marina died in 1968, at which time the parure went to her son and daughter-in-law, the current Duke and Duchess of Kent. Eventually - and quietly - it seems the tiara was sold. It came to auction as a necklace, with seven tall sapphire elements. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

The Duchess of Kent wears the new Cambridge Sapphire Parure Tiara
In lieu of the grander tiara, a smaller one was created by using five large sapphire and diamond clusters from the long necklace and arranging them on a frame, button style. The Duchess of Kent wore this version of the tiara with the shorter necklace, earrings, and a brooch. Even this reduced set has basically ceased to be seen in public, however, as the Duchess withdrew from many official royal events. She hasn't been seen in a tiara in years. Even in a reduced state, the Cambridge Sapphire Parure is a grand set of jewels, and one that would be nice to see worn again.

New style or old style tiara, what's your pick?