Jewellery, Watches and Objects of Vertu (23 November 2021)

Date of Auction: 23rd November 2021


Estimate: £40,000 - £50,000

Formerly from the Collection of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon:

An aquamarine and diamond brooch by Cartier, 1932, the oval hoop set with circular-cut aquamarines, each shoulder with hexagonal-cut aquamarine highlight set between twin scrolls of brilliant-cut diamonds, mounted in platinum, engraved with the ownership mark ‘M’ beneath The Princess Margaret’s coronet, numbered ‘9865’ and ‘6656’, width 51mm. £40,000-£50,000


Accompanied by the Certificate of Provenance from Kensington Palace, dated 13 June 2006, in original embossed leather folder.

Christie’s, Lot 12, Property from the Collection of her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, sale 13 June 2006, London.

The brooch was purchased by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from Cartier on 23 January 1947 for £175.

The brooch is unsigned however Cartier Geneva confirmed this brooch was made by Cartier London in 1932.

This brooch was purchased a week before the Royal family set sail to South Africa on 1st February 1947. The major tour was both the first trip abroad for Princess Margaret and also the first time a reigning monarch had undertaken a tour with his whole family. The three month-long visit was not only an important display of imperial solidarity but an opportunity for the young Princesses to witness first hand the statecraft, duty and hard work required in order to fulfil their royal roles in public life. The tour was remembered for being the first occasion that Princess Margaret spent significant time with Captain Peter Townsend, equerry to King George VI. The Princess later confided how the time they spent together “in that wonderful country, in marvellous weather” was when “I really fell in love with him.” Later that year Townsend was to become the official charge on Princess Margaret’s first solo visits.

Prior to the South African tour, it was agreed that the engagement between Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten would be formally announced upon the family’s return to England. The purchasing of the aquamarine brooch before departure perhaps foretold of the busy months ahead, with the engagement announced in July and the wedding planned for November. It was therefore decided that Princess Margaret would take on a greater role in public life. In August 1947 the Princess turned seventeen and it was widely reported at the time that this birthday would mark her official “coming out” and signal a turning point in her own independence. To celebrate the occasion, King George VI appointed the Princess to Colonel-in-Chief of the Highland Light Infantry and on her first official duty for the Regiment, in March 1948, Princess Margaret wore this aquamarine and diamond brooch to the reception at Glasgow City Chambers. It is likely that the brooch had been given to Princess Margaret the previous year on the occasion of her seventeenth birthday.

In a letter to Queen Mary written in April 1944, Queen Elizabeth discusses the jewellery being given to Princess Elizabeth for her eighteenth birthday from her father, King George VI, and states: “It is almost impossible to buy anything good, but he may find something second hand.”
This aquamarine and diamond brooch purchased from Cartier by Queen Elizabeth in 1947, yet manufactured in 1932, certainly reflects a similar perspective in regards to buying jewellery.

Princess Margaret’s love of brooches was apparent throughout her lifetime and was highlighted by the jewellery auction in June 2006 at Christie’s which included over sixty brooches from her collection. This particular aquamarine and diamond brooch was one of the few Art Deco examples included in the sale and, more importantly, one of only a handful of jewels with Royal provenance extending back to previous generations. A large number of the brooches offered in the auction had been acquired directly by the Princess from the 1960s onwards.

Unlike her sister, Queen Elizabeth II, who favours wearing brooches on the traditional left, Princess Margaret followed her grandmother’s style in regularly wearing them to the centre front of her neckline. One such photograph, taken in a garden during the official visit to The Caribbean in 1958, shows the Princess wearing this brooch at the centre of a floral dress. An earlier photograph, taken in 1950 at a dance at the Dorchester Hotel, shows the young Princess wearing the brooch on a strapless ballgown in ice blue brocade. Known for her sense of fashion and style, the Princess always coordinated her jewels to match her outfits. In 1959, when opening an exhibition, The Bulletin newspaper reported that Princess Margaret had pinned ‘a delicate ornament in aquamarines and diamonds’ to the side of her pale blue chiffon hat. The Princess was photographed wearing this brooch throughout her lifetime, seemingly always when dressed in blue. One such photograph shows Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon introducing baby David Linley to his grandmother, The Queen Mother, in 1961. A more recent example from 1989 shows the Princess wearing the brooch on a striking blue suit at the Trooping the Colour ceremony. The photographs depict the whole Royal family with Princess Margaret standing beside Princess Diana and her two young sons, Princes William and Harry, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

During the 1930s and following on from the Art Deco, Cartier displayed a progressive attitude towards design, materials and palette choices. The rigidity of geometry was gradually lost to a flexibility of form that, as seen with this brooch, featured curves, volutes and loops, combined with unusual six-pointed cuts that livened up the usual sequence of stones. The introduction of semi-precious materials saw a preference for colour overtake the monochromatic palette of the previous decade. Black and white jewels set with diamonds, rock crystal, onyx or enamel gradually evolved to feature aquamarines, topaz and amethysts. This brooch made in 1932 is an early example of the evolution seen in design over the course of the coming decade and showcases the originality and foresight of Cartier at the time.