Once the home of the glittering Georgian court, Kensington Palace has been the scene of lavish parties for centuries; a place to see and be seen. In the 18th century, its candlelit rooms would have sparkled with elaborate jewellery, an essential feature in court dress. This summer, the palace will once again host a spectacular collection of jewellery as part of its major new exhibition, Crown to Couture. Showcasing remarkable Georgian fashion alongside a star-studded line up of contemporary couture, the exhibition explores the parallels between the Georgian Court and today’s red carpet with an intimate contemporary jewellery display curated by Melanie Grant in what is its largest exhibition to date.
Many of the pieces on display in the exhibition were worn at the Met Gala, one of the most high-profile events in the fashion calendar today. The exhibition compares the Met Gala to the Georgian Court and explores the roles played by designers, stylists, and celebrities in showcasing the very best of contemporary creativity at this major global event. A highlight will be a custom tiara by Lorraine Schwartz, worn by Blake Lively at the 2022 Met Gala. The copper tiara, which was a collaborative design, was inspired by the Statue of Liberty. Like the statue, it features seven points to reflect the seven seas and continents of the world, standing for welcomeness, inclusiveness, and freedom – all key themes of the 2022 Gala: ‘In America, an anthology of fashion.’ The tiara features over 100 carats of nude and bronze-coloured diamonds and Paraiba tourmaline gemstones and will be displayed alongside custom Lorraine Schwartz earrings worn by Blake Lively at the event. The earrings feature approximately 90 carats of nude diamonds, alongside fan shaped mint green Colombian emeralds.
Another Met Gala highlight will be the ‘Rebel Black’ ring worn by Rihanna to the 2021 event and designed by Thelma West for Sotheby’s Brilliant & Black exhibition in New York of the same year, also curated by Grant. West set a 5-carat pear shaped diamond from Botswana into a black ceramic and gold setting to create the dramatic piece. The ‘Disco’ earrings worn by Emily Blunt to the Palm Springs Film Festival in 2019 will also go on display, as a celebration of light by the Brazilian designer, Fernando Jorge. They feature 12.26 carats of brilliant cut diamonds set into a gold disco-ball inspired design that creates optical illusion. The ‘Pensive’ Lizworks earrings worn by Cate Blanchett to the ‘Joker’ 2019 Premiere at the Venice Film Festiva and designed with Cindy Sherman are made of Sardonyx cameos set in gold with pink and lemon quartz and were hand-carved in Italy. These modern-day cameos were inspired by Sherman’s photography on Instagram and what she describes as the ‘original selfie’.
The subject of political dressing is a key theme of the exhibition – the use of fashion to make a statement, which was a common practice in the 18th century court and continues to be an important communication tool today. A Schiaperelli ‘Dove’ brooch will go on display, reflecting on the moment that Lady Gaga wore an identical brooch with a gown designed by David Roseberry to the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in 2020. Following the outfit’s critical acclaim, the gilded pewter brooches were made available for purchase and proceeds donated to Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ Foundation.
The exhibition is sponsored by Garrard, who have several pieces on display throughout the Palace. Highlights include a replica of the pearl, diamond and sapphire ‘Marguerite’ necklace and earrings worn by Beyoncé to promote her ‘Mrs Carter’ world tour in 2019, and a replica of the Cullinan V brooch worn by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to London Fashion Week in 2018. The royal connections don’t end there – a vintage gold and diamond ‘Feather Headdress’ tiara, part of the Verdura Museum collection, will also be displayed. The tiara was commissioned by Ambassador John Hay Whitney for his wife Betsey Cushing Whitney, on their presentation to the Court of Saint James in 1957. The titanium orchid earrings from Chopard’s Red Carpet collection and worn at The Cannes Film Festival by Sharon Stone, demonstrate a new type of precious worn my modern-day Hollywood royalty. From gem encrusted stems bloom white enamel petals in an articulated cascade to the shoulder.
This stunning contemporary collection will be showcased alongside an array of historic jewellery and portraiture, bringing to life the jewellery and accessories worn at the Georgian court, where diamonds (real or paste) were a key part of the courtier’s fashion arsenal. A portrait of Princess Augusta dripping with a full set of court diamonds will show how the royal family led and epitomised Georgian style. Wearing diamonds – borrowed or otherwise – to court was an important way to demonstrate family or political allegiances. Men were no exception and used badges, buttons and even shoe buckles to demonstrate their wealth and style. A range of items in the exhibition will illustrate the Georgian male penchant for Jewellery.
Claudia Acott Williams, curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said, “Dressing for the Georgian court may feel like a distant custom, but Crown to Couture will shine a new light on these historic traditions by directly placing them in conversation with similar high-profile fashion events of today. We’re thrilled to be collaborating with a wide variety of well-known fashion houses and jewellery designers in order to explore the fascinating world of the Georgian court through a new contemporary lens.”
The contemporary jewellery artists are:
Verdura (who’s feather headdress tiara is above)
Cindy Sherman via Liz Works
For more information contact: Sophie Lemagnen in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office via email@example.com / 020 3166 6166
Crown to Couture opens at Kensington Palace on 5 April 2023, and will run until 29 October 2023.
Tickets: Adult £25.40 / Concession £20.30 / Child £12.70. Free for Historic Royal Palaces members.