The British Royal Family has long had a love affair with coloured stones, and rubies are no exception. These burning red gems reflect the passion that various members of the royal family have had for bearing the weight of their office. A number of great ruby necklaces have graced the necklines of British nobles, and placed the warm red glow of rubies near their ember-filled hearts, showing the world the lion’s roar within.
The Duchess of Cornwall currently possesses a phenomenal ruby necklace that was originally given to the British Royal Family as an official gift from the royal family of Saudi Arabia. This extravagant bib necklace features 36 matching oval shaped rubies set within a diamond accented lattice. The Duchess received the necklace along with two others, one set with emeralds and the other with sapphires, during a trip to Saudi Arabia in 2006, and has since been seen wearing it on a number of occasions. Since the necklace was given to the Duchess in an official capacity, she has use of the jewel for her lifetime but the necklace will become part of the Royal Family’s collection after her death, like many other treasures received by British nobles over the centuries.
Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor was famous for having an extensive jewellery collection featuring exquisite items set with coloured stones. Among the many jewels in the Duchess’ collection was an elegant ruby and diamond necklace crafted by Van Cleef & Arpels. The necklace was originally commissioned by the Duke of Windsor for Wallis as a 40th birthday present, and was finished with an inscription on the clasp that read “My Wallis from her David - June 19, 1936”. The necklace had been given a redesign years later by Rene-Sim Lacaze at Simpson’s request and featured numerous rows of rubies and diamonds entwined in a rope motif ending in a spectacular ruby tassel. Months after her 40th birthday, the Duke of Windsor, then King Edward VIII, abdicated his throne on December 11, 1936. The Duke fled to Austria and Simpson fled to Cannes, France. As a Christmas gift that year, the Duke sent a Van Cleef & Arpels brooch to Simpson. The brooch features a double holly leaf motif, with one leaf encrusted in rubies and the other in diamonds, and was one of the first Van Cleef & Arpels pieces to utilize their new “invisible setting”. Both the Duchess’ ruby necklace and ruby brooch were sold in 1987 as part of the Duchess of Windsor auction with the necklace fetching $2,603,308 and the brooch fetching $806,000. These two pieces of ruby jewellery are some of the more elegant ruby jewels to captivate the world in recent years, and remain incredible displays of both rubies and romance.
The Duchess of Windsor’s Van Cleef & Arpels ruby necklace. Image: The Enchanted Manor
The Greville Ruby and Diamond Floral Bandeau Necklace is one of the most famous necklaces owned by the British Royal Family. The necklace features a number of large rubies with their settings interspersed across a floral diamond bandeau that slopes to the centre and is accented by a single large diamond drop at its apex. This magnificent necklace was originally owned by the Honourable Mrs. Roland Greville, who had purchased the jewel from Bucheron in 1907. Mrs. Greville was a close friend of King George VI and the Queen Mother, and she left her jewellery collection to the Queen after her death in 1942. The Queen Mother kept many of Greville’s jewels for herself but gave the Boucheron necklace to her daughter Elizabeth in 1947 as a wedding gift. Elizabeth wore the necklace on many occasions including a stately visit to Canada in 1951, and it remained one of her favourite jewellery pieces even after taking the throne in 1952, but by this point the jewel had been shortened to fit the Queen’s preference for shorter necklaces. The Greville Necklace seemed to make fewer and fewer appearances over the coming years, but was famously seen in 1983 at the official ceremony for the State Opening of Parliament in London. The necklace appeared one more time for an official portrait in 1987, and then was not seen again by the public until 2017 when it was worn by the Duchess of Cambridge for a stately banquet held by King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain. The following year in 2018, Queen Elizabeth wore the ruby necklace in public for the first time since 1987 for the Commonwealth Dinner and Buckingham Palace.
Another famous piece of ruby jewellery owned by British nobility, the Baring Ruby Necklace is a magnificent example of ruby neckwear. Queen Elizabeth II acquired this necklace in 1964 and has been seen wearing it on a number of occasions since then; prior to owning the Baring Necklace, the Greville Floral Bandeau had been Elizabeth’s ruby necklace of choice, but the Baring necklace became an attractive addition her her collection because of it was less cumbersome to wear. Once part of the Baring Collection, the Baring Ruby Necklace features three large matching pear shaped rubies accented with diamond halos and suspended from a ruby and diamond chain. The middle ruby of the three centre stones is larger than the other two, and it is thought that at one point in time the smaller two stones were worn as earrings before being attached to the pendant that held the largest ruby. The Queen has worn the Baring Ruby Necklace quite often in recent years and is frequently seen pairing it with one of her ruby tiaras. The Baring Ruby Necklace is certainly one of the great ruby necklaces of history.
The Crown Ruby Necklace and its accompanying earrings are important pieces of the Crown’s jewellery collection. The Crown Ruby Necklace was originally purchased by Queen Victoria in 1854 along with a brooch, a pendant, and a pair of earrings, but these jewels featured opals as their main stones rather than rubies. After her death, Queen Victoria left her opal suite to the crown. Eventually the necklace and earrings fell into the possession of Queen Alexandra, who was not partial to opals due to superstitions surrounding them and had the iridescent gems replaced with Burmese rubies that had once been given to Victoria by Indian dignitaries. The Crown Ruby Necklace and Earrings were passed on through the generations but spent a large quantity of time in the care of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Her daughter Queen Elizabeth II should have taken possession of the Crown Rubies and the Oriental Circlet after her coronation, but her mother retained the jewels until her death in 2002 when they were passed on to Elizabeth II. Some say that Elizabeth’s acquisition of the Baring Ruby Necklace was meant to fill the gap in her jewellery collection left unoccupied by the uninherited Crown Ruby Necklace.
The ruby necklaces of the Royal Family are integral parts of the family’s collection, and they make perfect companions to the ruby tiaras often worn with them. In the next part of this series, learn about the ruby tiaras of the British Royal Family.
Here is some of our ruby jewellery from the Skyjems catalog:
© 2020 Yaĝé Enigmus a.k.a. Kevin Back