Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Devonshire, who turns 79 today! The aristocrat married into the illustrious Cavendish family, who is the chatelaine of Chatsworth and a patron of contemporary art and sculpture, the Duchess has worn several of the family heirlooms, one of the more iconic pieces being the Ruby Brooch/Clasp!
Duchess of Devonshire’s Tiaras | Duchess of Devonshire’s Ruby Brooch
A striking star ruby surrounded by diamonds, the brooch is an heirloom of the Cavendish family and first appeared on Evelyn, the 9th Duchess of Devonshire with the Devonshire Coronet in a series of portraits taken around 1920.
The Ruby Brooch was among the Jewels passed on to the 10th Duchess in 1938, and in 1950, they came into the possession of Deborah, the 11th Duchess of Devonshire, who wrote:
A few weeks after Eddy’s death, Moucher handed me an old Elastoplast tin fastened with a rubber band. When I opened it I was amazed to see some family jewels, including row upon row of pearls. The pearls were such an inseparable part of my mother-in-law – I had seldom seen her without them, town or country, day or night – that I could not imagine wearing them and gave them straight back to her. But I kept the other pieces, including a star ruby brooch which I had made into a clasp for my own cultured pearls. This necklace, together with a high-collared shirt that appears in many portraits and photographs of me, became my uniform.”
The Duchess wore the Pearl Necklace with the Ruby clasp for several daytime and evening occasions, as well as iconic portraits taken by Norman Parkinson in 1956 and a painting by Pietro Annigoni from 1954.
The Duchess of Devonshire continued to wear the necklace with the Ruby Clasp throughout the next several decades, usually for daytime occasions but also for portraits, like her iconic photograph taken by Bruce Weber in 1995.
The Duchess wore the necklace with the Ruby Clasp until the Duke’s death in 2004, with one of the last notable appearances being on their Diamond Wedding Anniversary with the Devonshire Coronet, when it passed on to to the current Duchess:
“After Andrew’s death, I handed the family jewellery on to my daughter-in-law, Amanda. It was not mine, just as it had not been Moucher’s: it belongs to Chatsworth, to be worn by the wife of the Duke of Devonshire.”
The current Duchess has slightly altered the pearl necklace, wearing it as the clasp of a much longer necklace than the one worn by her mother-in-law, with the piece being notably worn for a portrait with the pearl and ruby earrings. There is no doubt we will continue to see this spectacular heirloom for years to come!
Duchess of Devonshire’s Tiaras | Ruby Brooch/Clasp | Insect Brooches | Craven Brooch