Interestingly, “The Catherine the Great Emerald Necklace” was not a necklace at all in the time of Catherine the Great, but rather a collection of emeralds that passed through the hands of English nobility. It was not a necklace until 1831, 35 years after the Empress’ death.
Here’s the story:
Sir John Hobart, the 2nd Earl of Buckinhamshire, became the Ambassador to Russia in 1762. He and wife, Lady Ann Hobart, were well thought of by Catherine the Great. In appreciation of Sir and Lady Hobart’s
service, The Empress often gave them gifts of gems and jewelry. The emeralds of the famous necklace were a gift from her. At this stage though, they were a collection of loose emeralds tucked away in the Lord and Lady’s stocking drawer.
Lady Ann passed away after their return to England and Sir John married Caroline Connoly. The couple had only one surviving child. That child became Lady Amelia Anne Hobart, the lucky Lady who inherited the emeralds (along with the rest of the stockings). I couldn’t find any pictures of Lady Amelia Anne Hobart, but I did find a portrait of the man she married in 1794, Robert Stewart, the Viscount Castlereagh, and later the 2nd Marquess of Londonderry. This man is hunky in any age! Not only was he handsome, but he is rumored to have been completely devoted to his wife, and he bought her numerous pieces of jewelry. I love husbands like that, don’t you?
Anyway, the Lady Amelia bequeathed the emeralds to her nephew, John William Robert Kerr the7tMarquess of Lothian. (Definitely NOT a hunk)
Now the boring part is over and we’re in the beginning of the 1800’s. You don’t hear much about
the necklace’s whereabouts for a hundred years or so. I guess it stayed in the hands and around the necks of the British Aristocracy until it shows up again, around the neck of famous heiress, Edith Rockefeller McCormick. Then Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth fortune bought it. (Barbara Hutton had some
other famous jewelry, including a pearl necklace from my personal favorite jewelry Queen, Marie Antoinette)I’ve often wondered if famous jewelry pieces have a mind of their own that will influence the wearer like some kind of psychic residue. You will often hear of the owners of famous pieces having similar life events (like the “curse” of the Hope Diamond). This particular necklace must like heiresses and attractive men because Barbara Hutton also married a hunky man in any era, Carey Grant. I add this picture simply because, well, it’s Carey Grant.
It is unclear if Barbara Hutton changed the necklace or if Edith Rockefeller McCormick changed it before her. Here’s a picture of Barbara Hutton at a masked ball in Paris wearing the necklace, but it seems like the necklace at this point lacks the pendant drops that it had in the 1800’s.