A novel way to wear emeralds, rubies to woo a Prince and a cheap brand that the Princess loved: Diana's rainbow of rare stones... and why her favourites were fakes
One thing Diana, Princess of Wales, disliked, despite her initial ‘Shy Di’ moniker, was blending in. And what better way to reflect her vibrant, colourful character than adorning herself in gemstones of every hue?
From enchanting emeralds to ravishing rubies and aquamarines, Diana owned a rainbow of gems set in dazzling choker necklaces, bracelets, rings and chandelier earrings.
It’s not easy to wear colourful stones, but she was unafraid to experiment, often mixing metals and wearing clashing colours, pairing emerald necklaces with coral rings, or onyx earrings with bracelets made of rose quartz.
But not all of Diana’s jewels were entirely what they seemed.
Unreal: Diana dons costume pearl earrings on a trip to Italy in 1985. She often wore cheap trinkets — and relished fooling royal-watchers into thinking they were priceless heirlooms
For she often wore cheap trinkets — and relished fooling royal-watchers into thinking they were priceless heirlooms.
‘It’s more sensible for someone who’s only 25 to do so,’ she once said. Her glitzy paste jewellery was not only fashionable, it was fun — and she often scoured Press reports to see if anyone had been able to tell the difference.
She laughed when fashionistas went wild over a pair of crescent-shaped ‘diamond’ pendant earrings she wore in Saudi Arabia in 1986, assuming they were an expensive gift from her host, King Khalid. She had, in fact, picked them up at Butler & Wilson for less than £25.
Gemstones appealed to Diana’s playful personality, set off her outfits — and made for some of her most memorable looks.
The friend who led Diana to Tiffany...
Rosa Monckton, a close friend and confidante of Diana, was responsible for introducing Tiffany & Co to Britain in 1986, so she is likely to have been behind these dainty gold and amethyst heart-shaped Tiffany earrings, believed to have been a Christmas present in 1987.
Diana wears a pair of Tiffany & Co earrings during a visit to Australia in January 1988. The only other time she was seen wearing the earrings was at a polo match in June that year and they were thought to have been a present from Rosa Monckton
Here, Diana sports them on a visit to Australia in January 1988. The only other time she was seen wearing the earrings was at a polo match in June that year.
As she matured, Diana didn’t wear much gold, deeming it too brash for her pale skin tone. These Tiffany gems are something of an exception, suggesting they may have held sentimental value.
The mix and match fakes
These earrings were far from priceless. In fact, the stones in them were fake — bought from a costume jewellery shop for next to nothing. Diana liked them so much, she had four pairs in different colours: a tiny diamond-shaped flower stud from which could be suspended ‘sapphire’, left, ‘ruby’, right, ‘diamond’ or ‘emerald’ gems, pictured centre.
These statement earrings featured huge pear-shaped aquamarine stones, surrounded by tiny diamonds and dangling from pretty, flower-shaped diamond studs.
Diana wore them solely on overseas tours — most memorably with an elegant, pale-blue Catherine Walker gown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 — and often added a tiara or striking necklace to balance them out.
Diana wore these huge pear-shaped statement earrings featuring aquamarine stones solely on overseas tours. She is seen here in a Catherine Walker dress as she goes for dinner in Munich during her Royal tour of Germany November 1987
She also owned a matching ring which she commissioned from Asprey shortly before her death.
She wore it at one of her last public appearances — the auction of her dresses at Christie’s in New York, in June 1997.
Bracelet with a clever twist
Unlike many of Diana’s precious gems, this pearl and aquamarine bracelet had longevity — she kept it in circulation for more than 14 years, between 1982 and 1996, and wore it at least twice a year. The bracelet, believed to have been one of Diana’s many wedding gifts, had a clever secret: on the opposite side of the pearls to the aquamarine was a flower of diamonds, which could transform it into an entirely different piece.
A very novel way to wear emeralds
This eye-catching emerald choker was a gift from the Queen, one of several heirlooms bestowed on the Princess to mark her joining the Royal Family.
Its story can be traced back to 1818, when Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the seventh son of King George III, married Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel.
While the newlyweds were visiting Frankfurt, a lottery was being held in aid of charity. The Duchess bought a ticket and won a box of 40 emeralds.
This eye-catching emerald choker was a gift from the Queen and can be traced back to 1818. Her Majesty rarely wore it but Diana did during 1981 and 1982, before having the 14-inch piece mounted on a band of dark-green velvet so he could wear it as a headband. She is seen at a charity dance on a visit to Australia in October 1985
The stones were turned into earrings, a necklace and a pair of ‘stomachers’, traditional pieces worn over the front of the bust, and were passed down through several generations of the extended Royal Family, with recipients often adapting them to reflect current fashions.
On the death of her grandmother, Queen Mary, in 1953, the necklace was left to Queen Elizabeth II, who rarely wore it, but took it out of storage to give to Diana.
The Princess wore it in 1981 and 1982, before having the 14-inch piece mounted on a band of dark-green velvet that autumn, so she could wear it as a headband at a private party during the Christmas holiday.
It was another three years before she dared to don the unconventional accessory in public: at a charity dance on a visit to Australia in October 1985, paired with a turquoise satin gown. As ever, she looked ravishing — but the look on Charles’s face suggests he wasn’t convinced . . .
Ruby red signals a sexier new Diana
As her marriage crisis worsened, Diana began to be much braver in her style choices. She wore these ruby and diamond winged earrings on several occasions in 1990 and 1991, most memorably to a performance of the Welsh National Opera in Tokyo, Japan, paired with a plunging fuchsia-pink silk dress by Victor Edelstein (above).
Rubies to woo a Prince
A Lady in red at the premiere of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only in London in June 1981, just a month before her wedding to Prince Charles, Diana accessorised her sequined Bellville Sassoon dress with this ruby, gold and diamond link choker.
This ruby, gold and diamond link choker was Diana's choice for the premiere of James Bond film For Your Eyes Only in London in June 1981. The short choker length perfectly complemented the gown’s sweetheart neckline
The provenance of the piece is unknown, but even in her early days of courting the spotlight, Diana knew how to wear it to maximum effect.
The short choker length perfectly complemented the gown’s sweetheart neckline, making her look simultaneously like a hopeless romantic and something of a siren.
Sensational stones sparkle in Venice
Strutting through Venice in 1995 in a thigh-skimming scarlet dress by Jacques Azagury toting a matching red bag and stilettos, Diana draped herself in rubies (of course).
Diana draped herself in rubies as she visited Vienna during 1995. The piece was a late addition to her collection and possible given to her by an admirer
The necklace — rubies set in diamond clusters, with a single ruby drop at the front — was a late addition to her collection and may have been a gift from an admirer.
While Diana and Charles were now separated, it would be another few months before their divorce was finalised and her love life then was strictly private.
Butler & Wilson: the cheapies Diana loved
Finding herself with a rare afternoon to spare, Diana would ask her driver to take her to Fulham Road.
There, she donned a baseball cap and sunglasses to dodge the paparazzi and snuck into Butler & Wilson, West London’s finest purveyor of costume jewellery — and the Princess’s guilty pleasure.
Diana first discovered the shop, run by flamboyant Glaswegian Simon Wilson, in 1984 when she spotted something she liked in the window.
Just like the real thing: Star-shaped white beads with onyx-lookalike gems on a visit to a ballet studio, left, while she opted for this Butler & Wilson starburst clip attending a fashion show at the Sydney Opera House in 1988
Fooled you! The Press thought Diana’s crescent earrings she wore during a trip to Saudi Arabia in 1986 were the real deal. They cost £23
After that, she used to pop in every few months.
‘She wasn’t grand. She just came in with a single bodyguard and behaved like a normal customer,’ explains Simon today.
‘The bodyguard would stand in the corner and she would go and look at the earrings and hold them up to herself in the mirror and say to the other customers: “What do you think? Do you like these?”
‘Some of them nearly fainted when they saw it was her.’
He adds: ‘She used costume jewels to customise her clothes and to add wit and individuality to her wardrobe.’
The faux-pearl heart earrings, which are the first image in this article, were her first Butler & Wilson pieces.
‘They were very girly, very youthful,’ says Simon. ‘It gave her a kick that they were fake.’ But Diana wasn’t the only royal customer. Astonishingly, the avant-garde military-style star brooch was bought for Diana by Charles, who picked it up at a Butler & Wilson concession in Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago in 1986.
Diana waited just a month before debuting the £48 token, boldly pinned to the centre of her Murray Arbeid dress.
Wild: A beaded gemstone snake brooch adds an edge to a tuxedo, left, while Diana wears a gift from Charles that cost £48
Another Butler & Wilson purchase, slithering up the left lapel of her black Jasper Conran tuxedo, was a black bead and gemstone snake which looked the epitome of Eighties bling as the Princess stepped out at a rock concert in 1986.
And the Princess really fooled royal-watchers with her crescent-shaped earrings, first worn in Saudi Arabia in 1986. The Press assumed them to be real gold and diamonds; a gift from her generous host.
But the jewels were Butler & Wilson paste and cost just £23.
Diana’s striking monochrome necklace, was another classic from the Fulham Road shop, comprising star-shaped white beads interspersed with onxy-lookalike paste gems.
As was the dazzling starbust clip which kept her elegant chignon in place and seemed perfectly co-ordinated with her diamond ‘tennis’ necklace. Worn to a fashion show in Sydney, Australia, in 1988, the piece was pure diamante.
Most watched News videos
- Sinead O’Connor posts concerning suicidal video on Facebook
- CCTV: Jogger pushes woman into busy road and keeps on running
- Cheering as 'ISIS schoolgirl' Linda Wenzel is captured in Mosul
- North Korea threatens United States following UN Sanctions
- The farmhouse where model Chloe Ayling was kept for six days
- Bikini gals in cheeky line-up competing for best bottom in Brazil
- Spanish border officer breaks leg as he trips fleeing migrant
- Paramedic violently kicks pregnant nurse in outrageous CCTV footage
- Heart-warming moment man serenades grandma on 98th birthday
- Chloe Ayling is 'naive' to get into that position says friend
- Malia Obama looks 'dazed' being carted out of Lollapalooza
- Google fires James Damore, employee behind gender gap memo
The comments below have not been moderated.
The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
By posting your comment you agree to our house rules.