Little was known about this popular royal brooch until it was featured in Hugh Roberts’s authoritative The Queen’s Jewels. It was then that royal jewellery watchers realized its shape wasn’t a paisley, as many thought, but actually a palm leaf. Its clean, graphic design makes it a royal brooch that stands out on patterned as well as plain outfits. Its size and sentimental history makes it a royal brooch that can be worn to everything from flower shows to investitures.
ROYAL BROOCH COMPOSITION
In the shape of a curling oriental palm leaf, it contains nine large brilliant diamonds (marquise, pear- and cushion-shape) within a pave-set diamond border that is edged with lobes of more diamonds. Set in platinum, it measures 6.5 cm x 3.6 cm. The royal brooch’s large two-prong clip allows it to be used on a hat, on the edge of a neckline and in the standard brooch position on a lapel.
According to Roberts, its shape is inspired by the principal feature of a sarpech, an Indian turban ornament.
It was in 1938 under the supervision of A.W. Foreman, Cartier’s assistant managing director. Hugh Roberts states it was assigned the code AWF.11530 by Cartier Archive, with the following notes: “Supp 1 btn dia and mtng wi yr 3 drop dias, 3 drop dias & 3 navette dias, 194 brints in pltn as clip brooch to design £71.” (That is the equivalent of £4,500 or US$6,400 in 2017.)
Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother) loved jewellery and had old-fashioned pieces broken apart to made new items. She ordered this brooch less than two years after her husband, King George VI, inherited the throne. It was created using loose stones belonging to the queen that were stored at Cartier’s store in London. The cryptic notes, “3 drop dias, 3 drop dias & 3 navette dias,” likely refer to the nine larger diamonds at the centre of this royal brooch.
It has been worn by two women, both queens. Its first owner, Queen Elizabeth frequently pinned it to her outfits. Most famously, it shines on her black mourning dress in the iconic “Three Queens” photo taken as she, Queen Mary and the new Queen Elizabeth II wait on a railway platform for the coffin of her husband, King George VI, in 1952.
After she died in 2002, her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, inherited the bulk of her mother’s jewellery collection, including her palm leaf royal brooch. Since then, she has chosen to wear it fairly often, including four times in 2017, according to the Queen’s Jewel Vault blog. Given the size of the Queen’s collection, that makes it a popular royal brooch indeed.