Opens 17 November 2021
As the jeweller of choice for generations of British kings and queens and once holder of the coveted role of ‘Crown Jeweller’ for over 160 years, the name Garrard is synonymous with royalty. Now, in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces – the independent charity which cares for Kensington Palace – a new display situated in Kensington Palace’s Jewel Room will explore the relationship between the famed jeweller and the British royal family, and consider how their company’s historic creations continue to inspire Garrard’s designs to this day.
Going on public show for the first time are examples of the firm’s ledgers which carefully document royal commissions dating back to 1735. From silver communion cups to crowns laden with precious gemstones, they reveal the many and varied items hand-crafted for some of Kensington’s most famous former residents, including Queen Victoria and Queen Mary – wife and consort of King George V – both of whom were born at the palace.
Set across two display cases, the new exhibit also shines a spotlight on one of the most iconic pieces ever created by Garrard; Queen Mary’s fringe tiara. Made in 1919 using diamonds taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding gift to Queen Mary - who married Victoria’s grandson, the future King George V - this spectacular diamond headpiece was a personal commission by the then Queen Consort, and reflects not only the early twentieth century trend for Russian influenced tiaras, but also Mary’s own interest in the design and setting of her jewels. The original technical drawing used by the craftsmen at E Wolff – one of the trusted workshops used by Garrard to bring their designs to life – in the creation of the tiara goes on public view for the first time, and reveals the incredible skill involved in the piece’s production. Handcrafted from gold and silver, and set with almost 1,000 white diamonds, the tiara’s signature shape requires 47 graduated rays of diamonds, each separated by a narrower spike of diamond brilliants, all of which increase in height towards the centre of the frame.
In 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth – now Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – selected this tiara to wear on her wedding day, with images and footage of the young royal bride in this dazzling Garrard tiara cementing the piece’s place in jewellery history. To mark the occasion, Queen Mary also presented her granddaughter with a number of significant pieces from her legendary jewel collection, and members of the royal family were invited to Garrard’s Mayfair premises to view the glittering display of gifts. The page in Garrard’s visitor’s book which documented the visit – signed by both Queen Mary and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – joins the Kensington Palace display.
These archival treasures will be accompanied by examples of the company’s current collections, including the Albemarle suite, which draws upon motifs featured in the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara – one of the gifts presented to Princess Elizabeth at Garrard in 1947 - illustrating how these historic commissions continue to inspire contemporary Garrard designs.
Claudia Acott-Williams, Collections Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said: ‘Jewellery has always been central to the image of monarchy, and no two members of the royal family understood this better than Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Their appointment of Garrard as the first official Crown Jeweller in 1843 established a collaboration between the company and the crown that would not only craft some of the most recognisable jewels of our time, but also shape the very images called to mind when thinking about the British monarchy over the last two centuries.’
Sara Prentice, Creative Director at Garrard, said: “The Jewel Room welcomes visitors to browse our jewels and experience Garrard - past, present and future. Our design process is inspired by the many motifs found in Garrard’s royal commissions. Each jewel is testament to our stone-led design ethos, coupled with exquisite craftsmanship. We continue to create elegant and exciting pieces to be passed on from generation to generation.”
These new additions join an already glittering exhibition of gems in the palace’s Jewel Room, including an incredible suite of gems specially commissioned for Queen Victoria by her beloved husband Albert. Comprising a magnificent diamond and emerald diadem, emerald necklace, earrings and brooch, this parure – or matching suite of jewels – showcases both the exquisite workmanship of nineteenth century goldsmiths, and Prince Albert’s own flair for design. Albert was fascinated by jewellery, and personally designed this dazzling headpiece - set with cushion-shaped diamonds and step-cut emeralds, and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs an astonishing 15 carats – for his wife.
Touchingly, Victoria and Albert’s children and grandchildren continued the tradition of giving gifts of jewels to mark significant events, and a number of other impressive royal gifts are also on show. The majestic Fife tiara, given to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Louise on her wedding day by her new husband the Duke of Fife, comprises hundreds of diamonds ranging in weight from one to ten carats, and features a spectacular row of pear shaped ‘swing set’ diamonds, which would have dazzled onlookers when worn.
Like Queen Mary’s fringe tiara, another of Louise’s jewels, a remarkable kokoshnik style tiara with graduated pavé-set rays of diamonds in white and yellow gold, takes inspiration from the cockscomb style headdresses of the Romanov court, and reflects the familial web created by Queen Victoria’s descendants throughout Europe. A gift from her parents the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra), its clever construction means it could be worn as a tiara or converted into a necklace, and it became one of Louise’s favourite pieces of jewellery. As with Queen Victoria’s diamond and emerald parure, the kokosnhik is on long-term loan from the estate of the 3rd Duke of Fife, while the Fife tiara was accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to Historic Royal Palaces for display at Kensington Palace.
Notes to Editors
For further information and images please contact Adam Budhram in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office via [email protected]
Tickets: Adult £19.50 / Concession £15.60 / Child £9.70. Free for Historic Royal Palaces members.
Historic Royal Palaces is a team of people who love and look after six of the most wonderful palaces in the world. We create space for spirits to stir and be stirred. We want everyone to feel welcome and accepted. We tell stories about the monarchs you know and the lives you don’t. We let people explore and we set minds racing. We are a charity and your support gives the palaces a future, for everyone. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk
Garrard has created some of the most famous jewellery in existence for clients including Queen Victoria and Diana, Princess of Wales, rock and roll’s own royalty and Indian maharajas. The uniquely British formula: designs that endure an eternity, jewels that make history and craftsmanship that delivers a bold vision. See more at www.garrard.com