The gorgeous piece, with a market value guessed to be almost 20 Million USD in today’s currency, was made famous by Catherine’s late mother-in-law, Lady Diana, when she wore it on her head as a Bandeau during a dance with Prince Charles in Melbourne in 1985. As per the Royal biographer, Kitty Kelley, Diana did not intentionally wear the choker as a bandeau but instead, it stuck on her forehead and was not going below her nose so she decided to keep it as a head ornament for the night.
Originally a 16 cabochon emeralds choker, it belonged to Queen Mary, wife of King George V and grandmother of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Mary received the stunning diamond and Emerald necklace as a gift in 1911 during the Delhi darbar from the Maharani of Patiala. The choker was part of the Delhi Darbar Parure.
Queen Mary was very fond of jewels and she quite liked the piece and was seen wearing it many times. She had it redesigned to its current 14 cabochon emeralds set in platinum in the Art Deco style in 1921 by Garrard.
In the picture shown above, Queen Mary is wearing the original version of the choker. After the 1911 Delhi Durbar(that also happened to be the last British Durbar in India), The Queen wrote a personal thank you note to the Maharani for the beautiful Emeralds and said that the jewels will be passed to future generations as an imperial heirloom, and shall always stand as a token of the first meeting of an English Queen with the Ladies of India.
In the picture above she paired it with Delhi Darbar Tiara. After Queen Mary’s death in 1953, the necklace came into the possession of her granddaughter, Elizabeth, who became The Queen in 1952. The new Queen never wore this choker publicly. Queen Elizabeth II presented the choker to her eldest daughter-in-law, Lady Diana Spencer, as a wedding gift in 1981 as a life-long loan. From 1981 to 1997 it remained in Diana’s possession. She last wore the choker on her 36th birthday during a visit to Tate Gallery.
After Diana’s death, the choker went back to the Royal vault. Since then it has been part of various Royal exhibitions but we did not see any other Royal lady wearing it. You can find more about the timeline of Diana wearing the choker here at the Royal Watcher blog.
After 25 years, tonight, Diana’s elder daughter-in-law, Catherine, who is now The Princess of Wales, brought the stunning piece back to the limelight and it was worth the wait. As the jewel is a Crown piece, I believe King Charles III has loaned it to The Princess of Wales and I hope to see it in future too.