Updated: Oct 11
The french collier de chien necklace, or "dog collar" necklace, is one that came into my world with Diana, Princess of Wales. The necklace I remember being fascinated by was a beautiful sapphire stone surrounded by diamonds that hung around the neck with seven strands of pearls. Diana wore this necklace many times throughout her life. The first time I remember seeing it was when she danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985, when my son Gannon was a year old; and the last time I remember seeing it was when Diana wore her lovely off-the-shoulder Christina Strombolian dress to London's Serpentine Gallery in June 1994. That night, it's been endlessly pointed out, was the night Prince Charles confessed on national television of his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. What hasn't been pointed out about his TV appearance, I hasten to add, is how he couched that confession in a gigantic lie, saying he only started seeing CPB when his marriage had become "irretrievably broken." Not true, according to every book I have read about Diana's life, which is virtually all of them, including Ken Wharf's Diana: A Closely Guarded Secret, a book that I consider to be the fairest telling of those events. But I guess that's a topic for another blog.
Diana was a style icon in many, many ways for many, many people. The ways she has inspired me are numerous, and this necklace has always been a big part of her style inspiration for me.
History of the collier de chien
The royal history of the collier de chien is well established, at least according to Lareef A. Samad of Internet Stones.com. Here the first collier de chien necklace is said to have belonged to Queen Alexandra, queen consort to Britain's King Edward VII, who ruled from 1901 to 1910, which was known in England as the Edwardian period (up to the onset of WWI in 1914) and in France as the Belle Epoque (beautiful time) period. Queen Alexandra is said to have popularized the collier de chien, which was designed by the House of Chaumet in 1905.
Queen Alexandra's original necklace was made of pearls and diamonds on two interlacing bands of platinum. From this original design developed the tight-fitting, multi-strand design we now see in images of Diana, and currently on other members of the British Royal Family. In all of the images of the royals, the necklace is worn as an accompaniment to formal wear.
Recapturing the style
Because I remember Diana and her necklace so fondly, I wanted to recreate her sapphire, diamond and pearl collier with fiber and gemstones. It was obviously going to be different, with different materials, but it could be similar with a central cabochon and multiple strands of beads. One things would be certain: a fiber and gemstone collier would be less formal, and could be appropriate for casual, even every day dressing. That's why I like to show the finished product with a casual white blouse.
For my task, I decided the semi-precious stones could be the standard 40 x 30 oval shape (like Diana's sapphire) or a 20 x 40 teardrop. For the teardrop center, the beaded necklace required three strands of 6mm beads, while the 40 x 30 oval shape required four strands of 6mm beads.
This chrysocolla 40 x 30 cabochon center uses Amazonite beads for the strands and small milky crystals in a chrysocolla color for the beads that surround the oval cabochon. The fiber is dark navy. In between the beads on the strands I used metallic seed beads.
This chrysoprase 40 x 30 center has chrysoprase beads for the strands and small reflective crystals in a chrysoprase color for the beads that surround the oval cabochon. The fiber used is black. In between the beads on the strands I used pearl-colored seed beads.
Various Internet sources state that Diana's Sapphire cabochon was originally a brooch -- a gift from the Queen Mother on her marriage to Charles; and that Diana, not a fan of brooches, had it redone into the collier necklace. In doing so, other sources mention the central sapphire cabochon served as the necklace clasp. I didn't see how that could work for my fiber and gemstone version, so the central cabochon in my necklaces slides along the multi-strand necklace and the necklace fastens in the back; and if adjustments are needed, I used an extender chain.
I love it that Diana changed the brooch into a necklace (especially since the Queen Mother was reportedly an imposing figure.) When it came to jewelry, it looks like Diana knew what she liked and wasn't afraid to act on it. I imagine queen consort Alexandra was much the same in 1905. Eighty years later, in a different beautiful time, Diana unveiled her own take on the collier de chien in the United States' White House, dancing with our American culture's disco king from the decade before. She was the picture of loveliness in a time that seems so simple and pure now. It is something worth recapturing, if only with a piece of jewelry.