kate middleton

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nizamThe Duchess of Cambridge stepped out on her first official event of the year in great style, with an elegant navy Jenny Packham evening gown and her signature wavy locks. But what stole the show was what she was wearing on her neck, a priceless diamond necklace known as the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Named after the man who bestowed this extravagant gift, it has been a part of the Royal Collection of Jewels since 1947 when the Nizam of Hyderabad gave it to Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift. At the time, the Nizam was one of the richest men in India, and he governed over an area that indisputably is the origin of the most valuable diamonds in the world. The Golconda region, located just west of the Hyderabad district has produced large diamonds of such purity and quality that many are located in museums and royal collections to this day. The Hope diamond (Smithsonian Natural History Museum), Daria-i-Noor (Central Bank of Iran), Koh-i-Noor (British Crown Jewels), and the Archduke Joseph (recently sold at auction for a record-breaking price) are some famous diamonds with Golcandan provenance.nizam

This is the first time where the Duchess has stepped out in jewels from the royal vault, and she chose the fundraising gala at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  Despite the host of celebrities also attending and the priceless paintings themselves, all eyes were on the Duchess’ neckline. Media reports speculate that Kate will be undergoing a change in wardrobe to look more regal in the coming months.

The Nizam of Hyderabad is constructed of colorless diamonds and platinum, featuring a double drop pear-shaped pendant and thirteen emerald cut diamonds. It is seen worn by the Queen in many official portraits, and like other priceless jewelry pieces is unlikely ever to leave the British Crown’s possession.

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royal babyAs part of the royal tradition, Kate Middleton is rumored to receive a new mommy gift (or “push present”) for the birth of her first child, Prince George Alexander Louis. It can’t be easy to figure out what to give the mother of the future King of England, but Prince William seems like he has it all figured out.

It is believed that William has commissioned one of the royal jewelers to find a pink diamond that will become the centerpiece of a custom brooch for Kate. He is very involved in the design process, adding sentimental touches to make it that much more special. Due to the scarcity of colored diamonds, in particular high quality ones of a larger size, it may be a while before we see the completed piece. Originally he was contemplating giving her one of his late mother the Princess Diana’s jewels, but decided that he wanted something made just for her. Prince Charles had also presented the late Princess Diana with a gift when William was born – a necklace of diamonds and pearls with a heart-shaped center, and a gold ‘W’ charm for her bracelet.

Fancy colored diamonds have a tradition for the English royal family, especially pink diamonds. Queen Elizabeth II owns one of the most famous pink diamonds in the world: the Williamson Pink, a flawless diamond of over 54 carats rough given to her as a wedding gift in 1947 by Canadian geologist John Williamson. The rough diamond was cut into a 23.6 round brilliant, which the Queen then had set into a diamond flower brooch.

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Margaret ThatcherMargaret Thatcher, the longest serving Prime Minister of the UK (1979-1990) and first and only female PM is one of the 20th Century’s most famous and influential women. She came from modest roots with a dedication to justice and problem solving that took her well beyond the barriers of gender and class to not only be heard but respected in a male dominated world.

The Prime Minister’s stoic nature was reflected in her fashion sense as much as in her political diplomacy. A style that was understated yet defined, consistent while sentimental.

She is most well known for her skirt suits and handbags – standing out from the sea of black and grey men’s suits and briefcases of her contemporaries. She even coined the used of the term ‘handbagging’ which eventually made it into the Oxford English Dictionary to describe Mrs Thatcher’s abrasive style when dealing with those who displeased her. Her handbag for almost 30 years was an Asprey box style in black leather, it was auctioned for charity at Christie’s in 2011 and reached £25,000.

Pearls were another staple. As Meryl Streep who plays her in the 2012 movie, “The Iron Lady” says “I may be persuaded to surrender the hat… The pearls, however, are absolutely non-negotiable”. Ultimately feminine just as the skirt and handbag, the tough player was almost never seen without her pearl earrings and usually the double strand necklace she was given by her husband after the birth of her twins, or a single strand.

In an interview for the Times newspaper in 1975, she is described as wearing “all the jewelry she has—every piece her husband’s gift—two modest rows of pearls (“a present when the twins were born”); a sapphire and diamond engagement ring and a small diamond half-hoop ring; a slim gold watch; a marble-sized amethyst ring on her right hand and a jangle of cairngorms on the wrist; a nice pearl and diamond display brooch on her right lapel, pearl and gold filigree earrings and an aquamarine brooch on the dress under the jacket. Her foulard scarf matched it.”

Her sapphire and diamond engagement rings is re-emerging as a popular style now, especially since the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Thatcher’s was smaller than Middleton’s (originally Princess Diana’s), while her amethyst worn on her right hand was oval and much more substantial.

‘Cairngorms’ is the name given to citrine quartz mined in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. It is an amber-brown or richly orange variety used extensively in Scottish jewelry in the Victorian period. The larger sized cairngorms were particularly prized and often handed down through families. Thatcher’s amethyst could also have been from this period and location.

Just as it was a secret what she kept in her handbag, it seems there were private and sentimental stories attached to her daily jewellery also. Iron Lady on the outside, but always maintaining that feminine mystique – what does your jewellery say about you?

What special memory does your bracelet hold for you?

Who do you feel you hold close to your heart when wearing that pendant?

How many generations have worn those pearls?

Which piece of jewellery would most express how much your partner means to you?

Old jewellery heirlooms can be remodelled to suit today’s fashion while still using the stones and metal for sentimentality. Custom jewellery can be made specifically to your design to create a unique statement piece. Look for independent jewelers (they are often more accommodating) in your area and talk to them about your options.

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While pearls used to enjoy a conservative almost ‘grandma’ position in the jewellery box, they are now being strung and set into funky jewellery worn by the edgiest of popstars.

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Of course the natural elegance and femininity of these gems still lends them beautifully to bridal wear, often being used in the embroidery of the dress itself. And just because the fashion world has adopted them into the ‘cool’ category, they will never be out of place where elegance and class are at their highest. Great ambassadors for the classy pearl are Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton – always immaculate high profile females.

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Looking to trendy celebrity fashion wear we are seeing long strands of pearls wrapped around randomly and often mixed in with other textures. The gentle pearl works dramatically with thick metal chains for a rock look. Worn against black they really pop out. Check out Rihanna in multiple strands of different sized pearls worn with black, simple makeup, slick hair and bright red lipstick. She was also seen last November at the Victoria Secret show wearing Chanel pearl sunglasses with a multi strand pearl choker paired with black lace and sexy black dress.

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Pearls come in many shades and colors, better quality pearls have thicker naiker and more luster with fewer imperfections. But don’t be held back by these things anymore. Today it is all about breaking the rules – pearls are no longer meek and mild. Wear crazily shaped pearl drops and mix up those strands to create interesting organic and fun detail to your look. Check out these from Margo Morrison – a celebrity favorite.  Lori Bonn also uses genuine pearls in her silver Bonn Bonn charms that can be mixed into other charms on a full bracelet/necklace/ring but also strung onto your own chain or ribbon to add to the layers or as an interesting detail.

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So get out those old pearls from Granny and get them restrung, cleaned, or just mix them up with some of your other favorite necklaces. Pearls keep best with a little moisture, so just wearing them next to your skin will bring back some luster and make them glow again. You don’t need to save them for visits with the Queen – wear them with a little black dress at a sexy cocktail party, and with a fun t-shirt or tank top on the weekend….

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