The most memorable appearance was at the screening of the Charlie Sheen film Hot Shots! in 1991, when she paired it with a red chiffon dance dress by Bruce Oldfield. While the pearls bounced light off her face and made her look radiant, the rubies mirrored her confident pout.
This, at long last, was a woman who had reached her fashion peak — and she knew exactly how to hold the attention of everyone in the room.
A wedding gift that she adored
Among the 12,000 presents she and Charles received for their wedding were these dazzling diamond and pearl earrings.
The jewels were a gift from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, who was known for his ostentatious shows of affection.
Dazzling: These diamond and pearl earrings were a wedding gift from the Emir of Qatar and Diana wore them frequently, latterly at a charity event in June 1997, shortly before her death
They were the most delicate of Diana’s pearl earrings, each featuring a diamond floral motif with a pear-shaped pearl suspended from a chain of diamonds.
She wore the items repeatedly over a 15-year period — when pregnant with William in 1982, and latterly to a charity event in June 1997, just before her death.
The £52 pearls from a museum gift shop
These lustrous white pearls may look like the real deal, but the earrings Diana wore to the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday celebrations in 1990 were, in fact, fakes.
She’s believed to have bought the earrings from the shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, during her trip to the Big Apple in February 1989.
Diana chose these ‘Venus’ earrings for the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday celebration in 1992. It is understood she bought them from the shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where they can still be purchased today
Called the ‘Venus’ earrings, they’re inspired by a pair worn by the Roman goddess of love in a work by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. In the painting, Venus wears nothing but a bracelet and pearl teardrop earrings — one white and the other, reflected in a mirror, black.
The earrings cost just £52 and are still available for sale today. The fact the earrings were bought from a museum shop, where anyone could pick up an identical pair, appealed to Diana’s very down-to-earth nature.
She could have had her pick of the Crown Jewels, but instead opted for something any ordinary woman could wear.
But it was Diana who made them fashionable among the younger generation, sending pearl sales rocketing — both on the High Street and at high-end jewellers.
Diana liked pearls because they were so versatile and she owned every size, shape and colour under the sun — from huge cultured pearls the size of grapes to long strands made up of hundreds of tiny gems. She is pictured in pearl earrings during the 1988 tour of Australia
By wearing them with casual clothes as well as ballgowns, Diana made pearls an essential accessory for the well-dressed woman of the Eighties.
She liked them because they were so versatile and she owned every size, shape and colour under the sun — from huge cultured pearls the size of grapes to long strands made up of hundreds of tiny gems.
Poignantly, one of the last pieces of jewellery Diana ever wore to a public engagement, two months before her death, was a dazzling pearl and diamond necklace. Earlier this year, it was put up for sale at a New York auction house
The first pearls she ever bought
Shortly before her engagement, Diana bought herself a single string of large, graduated pearls that fitted snugly round her neck. It was simple and subtle; the polar opposite of the ostentatious jewels she would later go on to wear as Princess.
Simple and subtle: Diana bought her first pearl necklace at the age of 19 and wore them frequently in the run up to her wedding and after. Here, on a gondola trip in Venice in 1985, she paired them with a turquoise tartan coat by the Emanuels
The 19-year-old saw the pearls as ‘grown up’, so wore them frequently in the lead-up to her wedding in 1981. Here, she paired them with a turquoise tartan coat by the Emanuels, on a gondola trip in Venice in 1985.
Although the modest necklace was superseded by priceless jewels from the royal vaults, Diana continued to wear it as late as 1987, perhaps because it reminded her of times gone by.
Childhood friend who became her (and Kate’s) jeweller
Designer Kiki McDonough knew Diana from the age of 16 and was a friend of her sisters. So it was understandable the young Princess, increasingly in need of everyday jewels, turned to her for help.
Designer Kiki McDonough made three pairs of earrings for Diana, including this pearl and amethyst set. Kate also owns a £600 pair, which she wore following Charlotte’s birth in 2015
Diana owned three pairs of earrings by Kiki, including this pearl and amethyst set, which she wore the day her separation from Charles was announced in 1992.
Kate also owns a £600 pair of gold hoops by Kiki, worn following Charlotte’s birth in 2015, and last year at a Battle of the Somme anniversary.
A generous loan from the Queen
The Queen lent this pearl choker with a diamond clasp to Diana before she’d even worn it herself — Diana wore it at a banquet in 1982, and the Queen is pictured in the pearls in Bangladesh in 1983.
The 11-strand showstopper
While Diana’s sapphire brooch-turned-pearl-choker, which we featured yesterday, was undoubtedly mesmerising, her 11-strand pearl, ruby and diamond necklace was completely out of this world.
Made from 11 interlocking strands of miniature pearls, the showstopper was held together with five oblongs set with alternating diamonds and rubies. Believed to have been a gift from a foreign dignitary, she wore the piece to film premieres.
Out of this world: Made from 11 interlocking strands of miniature pearls, this showstopper was held together with five oblongs set with alternating diamonds and rubies. It gained its most memorable appearance at the screening of the Charlie Sheen film Hot Shots! in 1991
Her knockout South Sea gems
Look closely and you’ll see that the pearls suspended from these diamond C-shaped earrings are a rather different colour to most of Diana’s other pearls.
This is because they are South Sea cultured pearls — gems of exceptional quality with a white-ish, almost silver, hue. They are incredibly rare and come from the waters around Australia and Indonesia.
Much larger, smoother and rounder than average pearls, South Sea varieties come from the white-lipped pinctada maxima oyster, which is bigger than more common types — akoya or freshwater, for example.
South Sea pearls are incredibly rare gems of exceptional quality with a white-ish, almost silver, hue. Here Diana wears them with a halter-neck Catherine Walker gown to a charity dinner at the Palace of Versailles in 1994
Here she wears them with a halter-neck Catherine Walker gown to a charity dinner at the Palace of Versailles in 1994.
Three years later, she chose them to pair with her breathtaking white sequined Victor Edelstein gown and matching bolero, when she modelled for a portrait by Lord Snowdon ahead of the charity auction of her wardrobe in 1997.
The pearl drop could be removed, turning them into unique diamond studs. Diana wore them in this form to the English National Ballet production of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in 1997.
The Spencer girls’ pearls
Diana’s favourite style was the pearl choker, the first of which she received as an 18th birthday gift from her family — a pretty triple-strand design with a flower cluster clasp.
Originally, the clasp had turquoise stones in it as well as pearls, and she would wear it to the front only when it matched her outfit — and to the back when it did not.
In photographs taken aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia while she and Charles were on honeymoon in 1981, the stones can be seen shimmering at the front of the necklace, coordinating with her floral Donald Campbell dress.
The pearl choker was Diana’s favourite and she received her first one for her 18th birthday, left. She teamed it with a straw boater and peach crepe suit at Ascot in June 1981 before later modifying the piece around 1984. Her two older sisters, Jane (above right) and Sarah, both received the same necklace to mark their 18th birthdays
Around 1984, Diana opted to have the turquoise stones replaced with pearls, meaning she never had to hide the clasp at the back.
Here, in a straw boater at Ascot in June 1981, she paired it with a Benny Ong peach crepe suit and a cream blouse with a trademark ruffle neck, also by Ong. The revamped necklace was spotted offsetting a pink suit and hat during a walkabout in Tetbury in May 1985, and again with a pair of pearl pendant earrings at an evening function in America that November.
Her two older sisters, Jane (above right) and Sarah, both received the same necklace to mark their 18th birthdays. The piece was most likely made by Collingwood of Conduit Street, Mayfair, the Spencer family jeweller. The siblings continued to wear the necklace for several years.
At Diana’s funeral in 1997, all the Spencer ladies — including her mother, Frances Shand Kydd — wore strings of pearls in her honour.
How her sister gave up her own choker on Diana’s wedding day
Setting off in a horse-drawn royal carriage after her wedding reception, wearing a cantaloupecoloured Bellville Sassoon suit, a John Boyd tricorne hat, and a pair of Manolo Blahniks on her feet, newlywed Diana needed something special in the way of jewellery to complete her going-away look.
Diana’s elder sister Lady Sarah gave her this five-strand pearl choker that she herself was wearing on her wedding day to complete her going away look as she left the reception. It was the only time she ever wore it
Her eldest sister Lady Sarah was wearing this five-strand pearl choker on the day, and gave it to Diana after the service.
Diana never wore it again, deeming the heavy pearls and diamond adornment excessive, though Lady Sarah continued to favour the piece. Poignantly, she wore it, minus the pearl drop, at Diana’s funeral — and more recently on a happier occasion, to her daughter Emily’swedding in 2012.
Princess’s £10m necklace
It was pearls that Princess Diana chose for one of her last official engagements, two months before her death — though no one could know their significance at the time.
The ‘Swan Lake Suite’, so named because the Princess wore it to a performance by the English National Ballet in June 1997, was a dazzling necklace made from 178 diamonds and a fringe of five South Sea cultured pearls.
The ‘Swan Lake Suite’, so named because the Princess wore it to a performance by the English National Ballet in June 1997, was a dazzling necklace made from 178 diamonds and a fringe of five South Sea cultured pearls. It was sold in 2010 for £500,000 but when put on sale in 2016 the price tag was £9.6m
A spokesman for the jeweller Garrard says the necklace was made using stones Diana owned herself. ‘She designed it alongside the Crown Jeweller at the time, David Thomas.’ A pair of matching earrings completed the set.
In 2010, the Swan Lake Suite was sold to a Ukrainian collector for £500,000, and then, in February this year, the necklace appeared for sale in New York.
The asking price, £9.6 million, shows just how coveted the Princess’s jewels truly are.