The timing could not be more auspicious. As the nation prepares for next month’s Coronation of King Charles III, a unique piece of jewellery is about to come onto the market that, if it could speak, would undoubtedly tell a few royal tales of its own.
The jewel in question is a magnificent antique diamond and emerald dragonfly brooch set with two Colombian emerald briolettes weighing approximately 25cts that can be detached to make a pair of earrings.
This will be the first time in its storied history that the brooch will go on sale at Mayfair’s oldest family jewellers, Hancocks London, for £350,000 (US $440,000).
The brooch was commissioned by the 5th Countess of Rosse, Frances Lois Parsons, to wear at the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary on June 22, 1911.
The countess gave the Crown Jewellers Garrard & Co. a pair of emerald briolette drops from a pair of existing earrings – part of the Rosse family emerald parure (a set of jewels intended to be worn together), to use as part of the commission.
Guy Burton, Managing Director, Hancocks London, comments:
“The handwritten note that is pinned inside this original brooch box tells us that the dragonfly was designed by her father, Sir Cecil Lister Kaye, 4th Baronet making it not only a historic jewel but also a truly sentimental one.”
At the time of the 5th Countess of Rosse’s commission, Garrard would have been very busy making sure all the coronation jewels and regalia were cleaned and polished and looking their very best. The Mayfair-based jewellers to the great and the good had also been issued with a hugely important commission from Queen Mary, that of creating a crown for her to wear at the coronation.
Now known as Queen Mary’s Crown, this is the crown that will be worn by Queen consort Camilla at the up-coming coronation of King Charles III.
A coronation is a state occasion steeped in history and tradition and the jewels worn by the Peeresses to accompany their formal coronation robes reflect this. Parures of historic family jewels passed down through generations were de rigueur, topped off with the most important tiara each Peeress owned.
Guy Burton comments:
“The dragonfly brooch flew in the face of traditional formal jewellery at the time. To have a new jewel commissioned for such an occasion, particularly one of this size and design, was unusual and would certainly have made a significant impact and a real statement.
“The rich green emeralds no doubt proved a vibrant contrast to the deep red of the coronation robes and complimented the emerald necklace and tiara that Frances wore.”
Set throughout with old cut diamonds, the dragonfly’s lower wings are embellished with a single round emerald and upper wings with the emerald briolettes originally supplied by the countess, the wings are set ‘en tremblant’ so flutter delicately as the wearer moves, allowing the gemstones to catch the light beautifully.
These briolettes detach to form a pair of drop earrings making the brooch the ultimate versatile jewel to have in a collection today.
The full parure, including the briolettes in their earring settings, was worn to the next coronation, that of King George VI in 1937, by Frances’s daughter-in-law Anne Parsons.
Anne had previously been married to Ronald Armstrong-Jones with whom she had two children, Anthony and Susan. However, wedded bliss escaped Anne and Ronald and they divorced in 1934. The following year Anne married Frances’s son Michael, 6th Earl of Rosse thereby becoming 6th Countess of Rosse on her wedding day.
Anne would go on to wear the emerald jewels again in 1953 at the coronation of our late Queen Elizabeth II, meaning these emerald briolettes have been present at three of the 20th century’s four coronations.
Furthermore, in 1960 Anne’s eldest son, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, married HRH Princess Margaret and Anne wore the full Rosse parure, including the emerald briolettes in their original earrings, to the wedding celebration ball at Buckingham Palace.
Guy Burton adds:
“The dragonfly brooch was a favourite jewel of Countess Rosse, she wore the brooch regularly, along with the other pieces of the parure. Images of her wearing the dragonfly show it on evening dresses, cocktail dresses and coats, this was a woman with a passion for both jewellery and fashion.”
“It is thanks to her that we know the details regarding the commissioning of this piece. She made careful handwritten notes on the provenance of the Rosse jewels, often on her calling cards, which she pinned inside the boxes of significant pieces.”
“It is a truly spectacular jewel and would have attracted many an admiring glance, the tremblant setting causing it to quiver and catch the light with every movement she made.”
“We are honoured to be offering this remarkable jewel for sale and wouldn’t it be wonderful for it to be snapped up and worn by one of the 1,000 guests at the Westminster Abbey ceremony on May 6? It would be back in its familiar surroundings and in extremely good company.”
The single pin brooch comes in the original Garrard box and is priced at £350,000 US $440,000*.
(*based on exchange rates 21 April 2023)