The grand 1950s romance between Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco has appropriately dramatic meaning.
But the story of her jewelry too – and how, in particular, she came to wear that A sparkling 10-carat diamond on her fourth finger, a ring copied by stars over the decades.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Hollywood played a big part in introducing Grace to the Prince of Monaco. After all, she was one of the most glamorous women of her time – perhaps of any time.
Grace Kelly already had an association with the French Riviera through her starring role in Hitchcock’s 1954 To Catch a Thief, a film set on the French Riviera.
Grace Kelly in High Society, her last film before becoming Princess Grace. The huge engagement ring is real – and hers!
Prince Rainie and Grace, pictured at their parents’ home in Philadelphia after the engagement announcement in January 1956
Grace pictured at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, where she first met Rainier. Here she is talking to a peddler on the seafront
The following year, she won an Oscar for her role in Country Girl. Then, in the spring of 1955, she found herself invited back to the Côte d’Azur for the Cannes Film Festival.
It was while traveling there on the luxury sleeper “Le Train Bleu” that Grace met Olivia de Havilland – Mélanie from Gone with the Wind and a movie beauty from a previous generation – and her husband, Pierre Gallant.
And it was there, on Le Train Bleu, that Galante, editor of Paris Match magazine, had a brilliant idea: he proposed an article and a photo shoot with Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco, another figure of great glamor , but in a different way.
Grace Kelly agreed, perhaps because she was fascinated by the gardens of the Palace of Monaco which she had spotted from the port of the principality the previous year. This is at least the story delivered to Paris Match by his son Prince Albert in 2022.
Rainer also agreed. But on the afternoon of May 6, at the agreed time, the Monegasque prince made the Hollywood princess wait for over an hour and so when they first met she was more than slightly frosty.
She was supposed to be back in Cannes for a festival cocktail.
Once outside, in the beautiful gardens she had admired so much before, both sides relaxed.
She wrote him a thank you card after the visit and they continued to correspond by transatlantic phone calls and by mail.
So it was that seven months later, during the Christmas holidays of 1955, Prince Rainier crossed the Atlantic to meet Mr and Mrs Kelly and propose to their daughter.
Yet the ring he chose to take with him was not one you might recognize – huge and repeatedly reproduced (by Amal Clooney and Beyonce for example) an emerald cut diamond ring over 10 carats that we have seen in countless photographs.
Photographs from the January 5, 1956 engagement announcement show her wearing something quite different: a Cartier eternity ring set with alternating diamonds and rubies, purposely representing the colors of the principality’s proud flag.
And that’s when, if you’ll excuse the pun, Hollywood lent another hand.
Grace Kelly on the set of To Catch a Thief, the 1954 Hitchcock film that first brought her to the French Riviera
The poster of the movie To Catch a Thief, a Riviera caber with Grace Kelly opposite Cary Grant
Grace wears a white strapless dress in a publicity photo for To Catch a Thief
It wasn’t until weeks later that Grace began filming her final pre-wedding film, High Society, the story of Tracy Lord, a wealthy socialite who is engaged but feuding with two other suitors – a photographer and an ex. (Bring Crosby).
On the third day of filming, the costume department provided the world’s most famous fiancée with a huge “diamond” ring. Grace glanced at the dough and asked if maybe she could wear her own!
“Well,” director Charles Walters said, “I’ll have to see it first to make sure it’s good enough.” His tongue was firmly pressed into her cheek.
He would have seen photos of Grace’s ring a few weeks before and would have known that, while very pretty, it was neither accurate nor appropriate for a spoiled girl from Philadelphia’s “high society”.
Prince Rainier had a more decisive answer.
Having learned of the “fake” and Grace’s request, he bought her another ring, this time more ostentatious, set with a 10.48-carat emerald-cut diamond, flanked by two baguette-cuts.
“Who, especially a future princess, would dream of wearing paste, when a natural diamond will always outshine any impostor? » » agrees with Sam Broekema of the Natural Diamond Council.
Always synonymous with glamour, Princess Grace arrives to attend a charity concert in 1970 at the Royal Festival Hall
Princess Grace’s giant diamond ring has had many admirers – and many have followed the style, including Amal Clooney pictured here with her fiancé George in 2014.
According to Robert Lacey in his biography Grace: Her Lives, Her Loves, Celeste Holm, who played Liz Imbrie, the journalist in the film, said, “She came in with this diamond the size of a skating rink. It was magnificent, simply magnificent! So full of life and sparkle.
Other cast and crew members exclaimed with oohs and ahhs at the huge diamond ring. (Like her first ring, it was created by Cartier.)
Grace’s response was to blush a little and reply, “Yeah, that’s sweet, isn’t it?”
‘We never let her forget, we teased her about it until the last day of filming: Grace’s ‘sweet’ diamond’ ring.’ Holm remembered that.
I doubt she cares.
- Josie Goodbody, is a jewelry historian and mystery writer