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(Left: Maharaja Khanderao. Right: Maharaja Malhar Rao; images courtesy of Wikipedia)
What was once a ceremonial collar necklace, with the passage of time and change of ownership, turned into anklets and eventually ended up coming full circle as a choker necklace. The ceremonial necklace was initially intended for use by the Maharajas of Baroda. Maharaja Khanderao (the 8th Gaekwad of Baroda) and Maharaja Malhar Rao (the 9th Gaekwad of Baroda) have both been pictured wearing the ceremonial necklace. The Baroda Diamond Necklace was a collar necklace that was studded with rose-cut diamonds and cabochon (stones that are cut with highly polished, rounded or convex tops with no faceting and flat or slightly domed bases) emeralds.
(Maharani Sita Devi, India’s Wallis Simpson; image courtesy of Pinterest)
Rumour has it; this ceremonial necklace was taken apart in the 1940s to restructure new pieces of jewellery for Maharani Sita Devi, the second wife of Maharaja Pratapsinh Gaekwad. The Maharani was known as India’s Wallis Simpson because she too, left her husband for the Maharaja. Wallis Simpson was an American socialite (also a two time divorcée) that fell in mutual love with King Edward VIII, who abdicated his throne to marry her. Apparently the new Maharani had anklets made out of those gems (from the Baroda Diamond Necklace).
(The diamond and emerald choker for the Duchess of Windsor restructured from Sita Devi’s anklets by Harry Winston; image courtesy of History of Vadodara)
When the 50s rolled in, the Maharani sold the aforementioned pair of emerald and diamond anklets to Harry Winston; a jeweller from New York. Mr. Winston had the gems fitted into a necklace featuring 52 pear-shaped cabochon emeralds weighing 670 carats. This necklace made from reconstituted diamonds and emeralds found their way into the possession of Wallis Simpson, the then Duchess of Windsor. The Duchess wore the said jewellery to a Paris ball, where Sita Devi was also a guest. It is said that the Maharani casually remarked on the beauty of the necklace, while snidely adding something to the effect of, ‘those emeralds used to be my anklets’. The Duchess of Windsor was said to have taken offence at the remark; she returned the diamond choker to her jeweller.
(Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor; image courtesy of Marie Claire)
That was the last that was known of the Baroda Diamond Necklace; rather, the restructured jewels.