Among the jewels was lot 300, a pendant in the shape of a cross with an onyx heart shaped centre with the name Alice beneath a coronet in diamonds.
Sotheby's notes that this pendant was possibly commissioned by Queen Victoria from Robert Phillips, a London jeweller.
I would like to suggest another possible scenario: that the person who commissioned the jewel was Edward VII, then Prince of Wales.
In her diary entry for her birthday on 24 May 1879, Queen Victoria, still in mourning for her daughter, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, recorded that "Bertie & Alix" had given her a locket. HM described it as "a beautiful locket, a cross & anchor in diamonds with an onyx heart in the centre with Alice in diamonds in it..."
Normally when Queen Victoria presented an item, even within her own family, she had the item engraved with either a VR or VRI.
For example two other items in the Mountbatten auction are engraved this way.
A mourning button is engraved "from Mama VRI"
See Sothey's lot 302 https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/the-family-collection-of-the-late-countess-mountbatten-of-burma/onyx-and-seed-pearl-button-1879
Lot 301 in the same auction is a pendant signed "From Grandmama VRI"
The back of the elaborate locket with Alice in diamonds does not have any identification about the giver or VRI.
For sometime the word "anchor" in Queen Victoria's description perplexed me, until I realised that, at the time, it could also refer to a fastening or a hook, not only a nautical anchor.
When Queen Victoria described the brooch George V and Queen Mary gave her in 1893 when they married, she (Queen Victoria) noted there were two anchors, in that case meaning pins. In the case of a locket, anchor could refer to the loop behind the jewel which allowed it to be worn on a chain.
Nevertheless, there are other aspects which suggests that this may not be the one given to Queen Victoria.
HM described the gift as "a cross & anchor in diamonds...". While the cross pendant which was auctioned does have diamonds on the cross section, it is not entirely made of diamonds.
The number 5 engraved on the back of this cross pendant suggests that the one auctioned may not have been a unique item. If that is the case, then this is unlikely to have been the one presented to Queen Victoria by Edward and Alexandra.
The available evidence is perplexing.
One thing I am reasonably confident about is that this jewel was not commissioned by Queen Victoria. If it had been, and was given by Victoria to one of her children or grandchildren, it would have had a VRI.
On balance, I am inclined to think this was the locket presented to Queen Victoria by Edward and Alexandra and possibly given subsequently to Alice's daughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse, Marchioness of Milford Haven, grandmother of Patricia Mountbatten. If so, that would explain why Sotheby's did not have a provenance chain back to the male line of the Grand Dukes of Hesse which they provided for the other mourning jewels associated with Princess Alice.
The other reason why I think this may have been commissioned by Edward VII is the wording "Dear Alice" engraved on the back. Only a close family member would have used such a familiar tone and, given the mores of the times, such wording would have been used only on a gift to a close family member who had the right to use the Princess' first name. Additionally, only a close family member would have been given some of the Princess' hair to use in the jewel.