March 10, 2017—It seems almost impossible that 20 years have gone by since Princess Diana died at 36-years old in a car accident in Paris. To mark the somber anniversary, the royal family has chosen to celebrate her life with various activities throughout 2017. One of the most highly publicized events is the exhibition Diana: Her Fashion Story staged at Kensington Palace.
The presentation, that opened on February 24 and runs until 2018, got me to thinking about Diana’s jewelry style. While all the reviews of the exhibit mention how her clothes changed from demure designs, at the time she married Prince Charles in 1981 at the tender age of 20, to confident glamour looks, I think it is interesting that her taste in jewelry remained more or less the same. She was never “Shy Di” when it came to the big-time baubles. Diana seemed at ease wearing the crown jewels from the get go—making the historic collection look youthful and modern.
Clearly, she loved jewelry. While Prince William may not have known that specifically from his mother, he seemed to understand it intuitively when he presented Kate Middleton with Diana’s iconic 18-carat oval sapphire and diamond engagement ring from the British crown jeweler, Garrard. When the proposal was announced, William said “It was my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today’s excitement and the life we would spend together.”
Following are a few of Diana’s favorite jewels that she wore creatively and repeatedly during the period she was the Princess of Wales.
The Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara
Princess Diana received a treasury of precious wedding presents befitting her new position and the British royal family’s legendary collection. Among all the jewelry, the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara was the most impressive. The diamond headgear, made in 1914 by Garrard for Queen Mary, had 19 pear-shape pearl drops. Inspired by a popular nineteenth-century design with diamond ribbons and floating pearls, the tiara was as feminine as it was majestic. Diana often wore the tiara with diamond and pearl pendant earrings—a gift from Collingwood Jewellers in London—with white gowns for a very modern regal effect.
Princess Diana wearing the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara on a trip to Hong Kong in November, 1989 with an outfit by Catherine Walker often described as her Elvis ensemble.
Triple Strand Pearl Choker
Pearls were Diana’s favorite gemstone. She wore them in any number of variations, several of which were chokers. Her triple strand pearl choker was an 18th birthday present from her family. The cluster at the center originally had turquoise but Diana had the blue gems replaced with pearls. Usually she styled the cluster, that acted as a clasp, at front of her neck.
Princess Diana wearing her triple strand pearl choker while she is holding a young Prince Harry in her arms and watching Trooping the Colour in June 1988 from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Princess Margaret is in the background.
Princess Diana wearing her triple pearl choker with a hat by Frederick Fox during an April 1985 visit to Anzio, Italy.
Sapphire, Diamond and Seven Strand Pearl Choker
The oval sapphire and diamond centerpiece of Diana’s beloved seven strand pearl choker was a wedding present from the Queen Mother. It was originally a brooch. Diana had it converted into a choker and wore it perpetually. Certainly the most well known occasion was on her 1985 visit to Washington when she took a spin on the White House dance floor with John Travolta.
At the White House in 1985, John Travolta dancing with Princess Diana who is wearing the sapphire, diamond and pearl choker.
Princess Diana wore her sapphire, diamond and pearl choker to a film premiere in London on September 1993.
The Spencer Tiara
Three-quarters of a billion people in 74 countries watched Lady Diana Spencer marry Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981. For the big event the bride chose her “something borrowed” from her family’s jewelry collection. The Spencer Tiara anchored her veil. Garrard designed the diamond jewel in 1937 around the motifs of a nineteenth-century family brooch with scrolls and a floral pattern. The tiara became world famous from the wedding and Diana continued to wear it happily ever after.
Princess Diana wearing the Spencer Tiara with pearl and diamond earrings, a wedding present from the Emir of Quatar, to a state banquet in Bahrain.
Princess Diana wearing the Spencer Tiara while talking to ballerinas from the English National Ballet after their 1992 gala performance in Budapest.
Princess Diana at a Claridge’s banquet in 1988 wearing the Spencer Diamond Tiara, Queen Mary’s cabochon emerald and diamond choker, a wedding gift from the queen, and a Royal Family Order as well as pendant earrings with emerald drops