The picture of Queen Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama with their arms around each other during the Obamas’ palace visit in April told the world that the most unusual of friendships had been born. So it was no surprise that Michelle and her girls popped by the palace for a visit in June. There are 38 years and a cultural chasm separating the two, yet they have much in common: the devotion of a widowed mother, fabulous gardens, the sudden catapult to power. And then there’s the jewellery. Both can wear bold necklaces that would overwhelm most women. Both love pearls. And both wear brooches. Lots and lots of brooches. The Queen’s are steeped in history. There’s the Cullinan heart brooch with the 18.8-carat diamond she wore for her last Christmas address, and the three graduated bow brooches made for Queen Victoria. There are the presents from governments, family and even subjects. In 1947, a Canadian miner, John Williamson, gave her a 54.5-carat pink diamond as a wedding gift. Now it’s the centrepiece of the Cartier flower pin the Queen wore when the Obamas first visited London. Michelle Obama, on the other hand, favours colourful costume brooches, often scattering several on an outfit. One of her favourites is a grey Moschino pearl cluster brooch. For the inauguration she ventured into diamond territory with a Victorian paste sash pin bought from Canadian jeweller Carole Tanenbaum. It may not have had real diamonds like the Queen’s, but because Michelle wore it, it’s now priceless.
As the first ladies of lapel jewellery, Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama have raised the old-fashioned brooch to new heights