Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Focus on... Kent Jewels: Cambridge Sapphire Parure

This post in our Kent Jewels series will be devoted to one of the magnificent sets that once belonged to the family – the Cambridge Sapphire Parure.
The current button version of the Cambridge Sapphire Tiara
The parure was created in the second half of 19th century by unknown masters. Queen Mary inherited the Cambridge sapphires from her aunt and godmother, Princess Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who herself had gotten them from her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The original parure inherited by Queen Mary consisted of a tiara, a necklace and a stomacher. Now, Mary always had a keen eye for jewellery and of course she didn't leave this piece alone too. She converted the necklace that came with the parure into two brooches and a pair of earrings, and modified the stomacher.
Princess Augusta wearing a necklace composed in part of the sapphire and diamond clusters (left).
Queen Mary wearing Cambridge sapphires as a tiara, a short necklace and a stomacher (right)
She also tasked jewellers to adjust a sapphire necklace already in her possession to compliment the rest of the parure. Even the tiara wasn't left alone: Mary had it made convertible so that it could easily be worn as a necklace. Finally, she added two bracelets (possibly, also made from parts of the original necklace) to the set. 

It was in this form that she presented the new parure as a wedding gift to her own goddaughter, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark upon the Princess’s 1934 marriage to her son George, The Duke of Kent.
Some of Princess Marina's wedding presents on display. The  Cambridge Sapphire parure is in the middle. 
Princess Marina had a good use of this parure and often wore the complete version or different elements of the set. She also chose to wear the sapphire parure in some of her most famous portraits by Cecil Beaton.

Upon Marina’s death in 1968, the parure (along with the bulk of her jewellery collection) was inherited by her eldest son Edward, Duke of Kent. The Duchess of Kent wore the parure several times during the early years of her marriage. 
Marina wearing the full parure: the original tiara, the long necklace, two brooches and two bracelets, a stomacher and a pair of earrings.
She also had a second tiara made by taking the largest sapphire and diamond clusters from the long necklace and forming a button tiara set on a velvet band. 

Unfortunately, the Kents decided to sell parts of the parure for financial reasons. They sold the original tiara (in a diamond prong design with sapphires at the top), the necklace, the stomacher and probably (but not definitely) one of the bracelets and/or brooches. 
The original sapphire tiara in a necklace form
They did retain some pieces though, including the newly-created Sapphire Button Tiara. The Duchess of Kent has since worn the new version of the tiara on several occasions. Judging by the pictures, she also retains at least one of the original sapphire brooches. 

Now, I happen to strongly detest button tiaras with very few exceptions. And unfortunately, this tiara is not one of them. The way the sapphire and diamond clusters are basically stuck into the velvet band just doesn’t work for me. At all.
The Duchess of Kent wearing the original tiara, necklace, stomacher and earrings (left), and the new button tiara (right)
We will be covering Kent Jewels the whole week (until February 24), so don't forget to check the blog from time to time. And while you are here, why not check out the list of Kent Jewels already covered here?

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