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Why Do the Royals Wear Pearls in Mourning? (Plus: Expert Values Kate’s Brooch at $70k)

"The sparkling brooch had been loaned to Kate who has worn it twice previously."

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In times of mourning, everything that the Royals wear has meaning. The women in the Royal Family have been paying tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth via their jewelry, and their selections are both sentimental and significant. Kate (now Princess of Wales), Camilla (now The Queen Consort), and Meghan Markle (still Duchess of Sussex) have all worn pearls to honor the late monarch.

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Why pearls? “The royal tradition of wearing pearls for mourning dates back to Queen Victoria, who was so overwhelmed with grief when Prince Albert died that she wore nothing but black for the rest of her life,” reports Steven Stone, a UK retailer. “Occasionally, her black ensembles were broken up with jewelry — though it was always black, colorless, or pearl.”

Another royal jewelry tradition started by Queen Victoria was the brooch: The monarch, who ruled from 1837 to 1901, wore brooches to mourn the loss of her husband, Prince Albert (died 1861), and her daughter Princess Alice (died 1878). “The brooches were made with Prince Albert and Princess Alice’s initials — a jet-black pendant set completed by a single, white pearl,” says Stone. “And so began a tradition that has lasted to this day.”

Kate wore the Queen’s pearl and diamond leaf brooch.

Kate Middleton wearing pearl and diamond brooch, Prince William and Meghan Markle beside her
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“A touching choice is the Pearl & Diamond Leaf Brooch that Kate wore to a service for the Queen yesterday,” says fine jewelry expert Maxwell Stone (of Steven Stone). “Originally belonging to the Queen, who wore it on her 73rd birthday, the sparkling brooch had been loaned to Kate who has worn it twice previously. Featuring a trio of pearls placed in the centre of a pave-set leaf, it’s quite a substantial brooch that is worth approximately $70,000 (£60,000).”

Camilla wore a thistle brooch.

Queen Consort Camilla wearing thistle brooch Sept 15 2022
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“Camilla’s choice of brooch is also incredibly poignant,” says Stone, “particularly as it features a thistle, which is the national flower of Scotland, where the Queen passed away. Worth $86,000, (£75,000), the stunning piece features micro pave set stones and was gifted to Camilla by the Queen.”

Princess Anne wore her Grima pearl earrings.

Princess Anne wearing pearl grima earrings september 15 2022
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“Princess Anne’s choice to wear her Grima pearl earrings [designed by jeweler Andrew Grima] is perhaps the most heartwarming,” Stone says. “Gifted to her by her parents in the late 60s, they possess a huge amount of sentimentality and have made appearances at some very important personal events in her life — including her first royal tour as an adult, in Australia when she was with her Mother at just nineteen years old, her wedding to Timothy Laurence in 1992, and to Prince Phillip’s funeral in 2021.” Stone values Princess Anne’s earrings at $3,500 (£3,000).

Meghan wore pearl and diamond stud earrings.

Meghan Markle wearing pearl and diamond studded earrings september 15 2022
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According to Vogue, Meghan wore pearl and diamond stud earrings to Westminster Hall, where the Queen will lie in state until her funeral on Monday. The earring selection was meaningful, because the late monarch gifted them to Meghan from her personal collection. Subtle and elegant, the earrings completed the Duchess of Sussex’s all-black, two-piece ensemble and veiled headpiece.

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