By Brecken Branstrator
brecken.branstrator@nationaljeweler.com
Queen Victoria wore these jewels to mourn the death of loved ones, including daughter Alice, who was the first of the queen’s nine children to die. They will be up for auction at Sotheby’s London on March 24.
London—Queen Victoria changed the meaning of mourning jewelry, shifting its significance from a tangible reminder of death to a more meaningful, individual one.

Over the course of her nearly 64-year reign (1837-1901), the queen saw many deaths, mourning not only her beloved husband Albert by wearing black every day for four decades, but also her mother and three of her nine children.

During these periods, she adorned herself in black crepe outfits with mementos of her loved ones. Many copied the beloved public figure’s style, making mourning jewelry one of the most fashionable commissions.

Now, some of the queen’s personal mourning jewels are hitting the auction block in—where else?—London.

On March 24, Sotheby’s London will host the sale of the collection of Patricia Knatchbull.

Knatchbull, who died in 2017, was the second Countess Mountbatten of Burma, as well as the great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, great niece of Russia’s last tsarina, first cousin to Prince Philip and the daughter of Britain’s last Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten.

The jewelry auction will feature more than 350 lots, including four of Victoria’s mourning jewels.

Sotheby’s said all four are appearing at auction for the first time, having been passed down through the family over the years.


Three of them mark the death of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s daughter, Princess Alice, including an onyx and seed pearl button commissioned by the queen in 1879 featuring a portrait miniature of Alice.


There’s also an agate and pearl pendant with a lock of hair inscribed “from Grandmama VR,” given to Alice’s daughter, Princess Victoria, by the queen, and a hardstone, enamel and diamond cross centering on an onyx heart with “Alice” beneath a coronet.

RELATED CONTENT: This Locket From Queen Victoria Sold for Well Above Its Pre-Sale Estimate

Prince Albert commissioned the fourth piece for Queen Victoria circa 1861 to mark the death of her mother. The agate and diamond pendant opens to reveal a miniature photograph of her mother with an inscription by the Prince Consort.

Three of the four also contain a lock of hair, which is a testament, Sotheby’s said, to the Victorian belief that hair had a “sacred and immortal quality,” nearly containing someone’s essence.

The sale will offer various other jewels from the royal family.

This includes the “Banks diamond” pendant/brooch from the late 18th century, seen below, featuring a cushion-cut yellow diamond at center.

The piece, which also has a glazed locket containing woven hair and the initials JSB on the reverse, could sell for £40,000-£60,000, or about $55,400-$83,200.

20210218 Banks diamond

There are also a few pieces inspired by the Cartier Tutti Frutti style, including a 1950s necklace (£40,000-£60,000, or about $55,400-$83,200); a pair of gem and diamond brooches (£10,000-£15,000, or about $13,900-$20,800); and a pair of gem-set and diamond ear clips (£6,000-£8,000, or $8,300-$11,100), the latter two of which are from the 1930s.

The auction also features a diamond-set and enameled gold bracelet containing a miniature portrait of Prince Albert as a child circa the 19th century (£4,000-£6,000, or $5,500-$8,300), and an enamel medallion bracelet designed by Louis Mountbatten for his daughter Patricia for her 21st birthday (£400-£600, or $554-$832).

To view “The Family Collection of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma,” which also includes art, photographs and home décor, visit Sothebys.com.


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