With her sparkling style and rebellious streak, Princess Margaret was a designer’s dream. Her jewellery collection was revolutionary in changing the royal dress code, according to a newly published book. By Claudia Joseph

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones on their wedding day, 1960. Margaret wore the Poltimore Tiara (opposite), which she had bought herself at auction

On their marriage day in 1960, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong Jones. Margaret wore the Poltimore Tiara (opposite), that she bought at auction.

The royal rebel Princess Margaret, the sister who did things differently was forever known.

Jewellery was an area where she was the most modern in her approach. Even on her wedding day, she broke protocol by eschewing a family heirloom for the Poltimore tiara, a piece she had bought at auction for less than £6,000 before her engagement. She wore it on numerous occasions before and after her marriage – most famously when she was photographed wearing it in a bathtub by her husband.

Princess Margaret was always in fashion at all times and her support was a bountiful and highly sought-after. Mary Ann Wingfield’s new book about jewellery design explains how Prince Margaret and Lord Snowdon (born Antony Armstrong Jones) supported young British jewelers in the Swinging Sixties. Britain was at the forefront of modernity. While the Queen represents the older guard, Princess Margaret is viewed as a glamour party girl and married to a fashion photographer who was also a keen design fan.

In the book’s foreword, Margaret’s son David Armstrong-Jones writes: ‘I inherited my love of design from my father, the 1st Earl of Snowdon, who was always fascinated by pushing the boundaries of an object to see where the design potential might end up.

It was he who encouraged my mother, Princess Margaret, to support the creative talent of the independent jewellery designers who were testing the boundaries of new possibilities in the early 1960s.’

Four years after Margaret’s death in 2002, her jewellery was put on display for the world to see in the most anticipated auction this century: more than 1,000 buyers packed into Christie’s Auction House in London’s St James’s on 13 June 2006 to bid on her iconic pieces. While models walked the room carrying the jewels and Fabergé gems on plumped cushions to display to interested buyers, men in suits whispered into mobile phones to billionaire clients.

Margaret’s dedication to her collection was clearly evident, remembers Wingfield. ‘Princess Margaret is a good example of a great collector – she was meticulous about keeping her jewellery in its individual boxes. Every piece had been carefully recorded and had a story to tell.’

Overleaf, we profile the five designers who owe their success – at least in part – to the patronage of the princess of jewels…


Michael Gosschalk, the diamond artist 

These coral and diamond ear clips – made by Gosschalk in 1960 and seen here on Margaret in 1990 – were a perennial favourite

  ‘In the 60s and 70s, British jewellery underwent a revolution,’ writes Mary Ann Wingfield in her book Modern British Jewellery Designers. ‘A new school of designers emerged, experimenting with gold, uncut stones and fused metals to create textured surfaces.’

One such designer was former stone dealer Michael Gosschalk. His shop in London’s Belgravia – with its Rococo décor, silk drapes and intimate ambiance – was far removed from the Bond Street jeweller of the day. Described by Tatler as an ‘artist in diamonds’, Gosschalk, then 34, and his society milliner wife Jenny Fischer soon attracted a glittering clientele. Modern design was his favorite, as well as semiprecious gemstones. It was an encounter of minds that brought him to Margaret and Antony.

Gosschalk gave Margaret coral and diamond earrings clips the year before her wedding. His wife made hats to many guests. Forty-six years later, the ear clips – in their original box – sold at Christie’s for £10,800. Sadly the Gosschalks’ fame attracted less salubrious attention and after they lost £50,000 of jewellery in a terrifying robbery in 1965, they moved to Monte Carlo.


Margaret in Andrew Grima jewelry, which includes the famous lichen bracelet

The man who would come to be known as the father of modern jewellery, Andrew Grima was 43 when he first met Lord Snowdon in 1964 after inviting him to tour his workshop – and a lifelong friendship ensued.

By 1966, when Grima won the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for Elegant Design – the only jeweller ever to do so – he had become the designer of choice for the fashionable crowd, who coveted his daring abstract creations, colourful gems and exotic minerals. That year he also opened his first shop, in London’s Jermyn Street. The event was glittering and Lord Snowdon attended as guest of honor.

The lichen brooch

The lichen brooch 

The Queen, Queen Mother, Princess Anne and Princess Diana all became customers – but it was Princess Margaret who was the most avant-garde. She had been presented with a Grima brooch, made of textured gold wires contrasting with brilliant-cut diamond flames, on her admission to the Freedom of the Haberdashers Company that year – it later sold for £24,000 at Christie’s.

She wanted something more special and so asked Grima to cast in gold the lichen piece she found on Balmoral’s walk. Grima duly obliged, charging her a token fee of £1, in 1967. Grima’s generosity proved a bonus to the princess’s offspring: that £1 brooch sold at Christie’s for £12,000 and the matching earrings made £9,600. 


Margaret’s favourite John Donald pieces included this emerald, crystal and diamond brooch; this ruby and sapphire brooch and ear clips

 Another jeweller patronised by the princess during the 1960s was John Donald, a Royal College of Art graduate who set up his workshop in London’s Bayswater in 1960 and won a De Beers award for jewellery in 1963. His wife, Lady Snowdon, and his mother-in-law, The Queen Mother were introduced to the goldsmith the following year.

Donald and Margaret had a long-lasting relationship. In 1982, when she was 52, he created a brooch for her (pictured below) – a series of openwork textured gold cells with hammered edges containing carved ruby and sapphire drops and decorated with brilliant-cut diamonds – and the following year he made her matching ear clips. Her collection included 16 items, which was more than any other designer.


Margaret loved these pearl  and diamond ear clips 



In 1977, Princess Margaret commissioned Australian jeweller Stuart Devlin to create a gold macle diamond crystal ring (below; ‘macle’ refers to the twinned crystals). It later sold for £30,000 – ten times its list value – at Christie’s, proving her ability to spot talent.

Devlin arrived in London at 29 years old to study at Royal College of Art. He went on to be the winner of the competition for the design of the first Australian decimal coins.

In 1980, the Queen appointed him a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George ‘for service to the art of design’. His Majesty was awarded the Royal Warrant of Approbation as Goldsmith and Silversmith in 1982. Prince Philip described him as ‘probably the most original and creative goldsmith and silversmith of his time’.


  In 1990, when she was 60, Margaret discovered Theo Fennell who, at 38, was making his name designing quirky pieces for celebrities such as Sir Elton John. He created a three-coloured palm-tree brooch for her (below), which sold 16 years later for £11,400. Coco, the Oscar-winning fashion designer Coco and Oscar-winning filmmaker Emerald are both from Old Etonian Fennell.

 To order a copy of Mary Ann Wingfield’s book Modern British Jewellery Designers 1960-1980: A Collector’s Guide (ACC Art Books, £25) for £21.25 with free UK p&p until 26 December, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937

 CAMERA PRESS/ED/KG, Bettmann, getty images, Tim Graham Photo Library, Christie’s Images, Anwar Hussein, Grima Archive, George Elam/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock, Bridgeman Images, Georges De Keerle, PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo