12 October 2018

Princess Eugenie & Jack’s Wedding: The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara

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I assumed that Princess Eugenie would wear her mother’s tiara, the York Diamond Tiara, when she married Jack Brooksbank; I’m happy to say I was completely wrong. The tiara that we got instead is sort of a deep cut from the royal vaults – one probably only known to those who dig deep into the unworn pieces of the Queen’s jewel collection. This tiara was suspected to be in the royal vaults, but since it hasn't been worn since it came into royal hands (just, oh, 76 years ago or so), you really couldn't be sure.

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The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara was made by Boucheron for the Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville in 1919 and was bequeathed by Mrs. Greville to Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, in 1942. Mrs. Greville was a social climber regarded as a snob and a gossip by many ("a galumphing, greedy, snobbish old toad who watered her chops at the sight of royalty and the Prince of Wales’s set, and did nothing for anybody except the rich," in the eloquently savage words of Cecil Beaton) - but to the royals whose company she sought, she was a good friend.

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She was also a tremendous collector of jewelry and a frequent patron of Boucheron and Cartier. The extraordinary collection inherited by Queen Elizabeth is reported to have included over 60 pieces, many of which we still can’t identify today. The Greville bequest is such an important part of the jewelry collection of the Queen Mother (and now of the Queen's collection, since she inherited all her mother’s jewelry), I wrote a two-part series on it at the Jewel Vault: check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara
But back to the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara. An archival photo from Boucheron was included in Boucheron: The Secret Archives by Vincent Meylan, which includes excellent information on the Greville pieces thanks to the Boucheron archives. However, the tiara itself hadn’t been seen on any member of the royal family since it was inherited, casting doubt on whether it still existed. (Mrs. Greville was fond of changing her jewels.) We can now obviously confirm that it was in the bequest the entire time. The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara was presumably inherited by the Queen on her mother’s death in 2002. The Queen loaned it to Princess Eugenie for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank.

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It’s a striking piece, isn’t it? Designed in the kokoshnik style popularized at the Russian imperial court, the tiara includes brilliant and rose cut diamonds pavé-set in platinum with a central emerald and emeralds on either side (the official press release lists six emeralds on either side; only four or five to a side are visible). According to Boucheron: The Secret Archives, the oval central emerald is a whopping 93.70 carats. (Worth noting: the same book, drawing from Boucheron’s own archives, states the piece was bought by Mrs. Greville in 1921.)

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It’s hard to imagine how such a piece could go unworn for more than 75 years. Things did tend to remain tucked away in the Queen Mother’s collection, though; she had her favorite pieces and rarely strayed from those. (She did wear other emerald pieces that were reportedly part of the bequest, such as the magnificent Greville Emerald Necklace.)

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As a wedding tiara, it went perfectly with the color scheme and with the diamond and emerald earrings the bride received from the groom. And of course with Princess Eugenie’s overall look, which we covered here.