Diamonds are a Queen’s best friend. Several jewels of historic significance, encrusted in over 10,000 diamonds, are currently on display at London’s Buckingham Palace. The exhibition coincides with the Diamond Jubilee which celebrates Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne.
Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration showcases an unprecedented display of Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewels, including those inherited by six different monarchs over three centuries. With diamonds long being associated with endurance and longevity, the aim exhibition is to explore how these dazzling objects have been deployed by various rulers as symbols of beauty, power and diplomacy.
Queen Elizabeth was consulted on what pieces would be used in the collection of crowns, tiaras, rings, earrings, scepters and swords dating back many generations. “The items for the exhibition were chosen for their artistic significance and their historic importance, and for the supreme skill in diamond cutting and mounting they embody”, said curator Caroline de Guitaut. View some of the exhibition highlights below and listen to the rich history surrounding each of these magnificent pieces provided by The Royal Collection:
QUEEN VICTORIA’S MINIATURE CROWN
This miniature crown is perhaps the most recognizable jewel worn by Queen Victoria, the only other monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee. The design consists of a silver openwork frame, laminated with gold and is adorned with 1,187 brilliant, rose and mixed-cut diamonds as well as some diamond chips. Victoria was regularly depicted wearing it in paintings, sculptures, coins and photographs of her during her middle and older years. Most notably, she wore it in her official portrait in 1893 to be released marking her Diamond Jubilee on June, 1897.
THE CORONATION NECKLACE
Initially commissioned by Queen Victoria, this piece has undergone various changes throughout the years. It currently features 25 graduated cushion-cut brilliant diamonds ranging in sizes of up to 11.25 carats, set in silver and gold links. The 26th diamond, known as the Lahore Diamond, weighs 22.48 carats and hangs as a pendant. This marvelous necklace was also worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Queen Elizabeth II at their coronations.
THE DIAMOND DIADEM
Also known as the George IV State Diadem, this piece was made in 1820 for the famed extravagant coronation of King George IV. This piece contains 1,333 brilliant cut diamonds weighing approximately 325 carats total and 169 pearls along the base. Its design features roses, thistles and shamrock motifs, respective symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland. The diadem was also worn during the coronation procession of Queen Victoria. It is perhaps Queen Elizabeth II’s most widely recognized piece, being worn at the annual opening of the Parliament as well as appearing on British and Commonwealth stamps, bank notes and coinage.
THE CULLINAN DIAMOND
Still holding its title as the largest rough diamond ever found, The Cullinan Diamond weighed an astonishing 3,106 carats in its rough state. In addition to its size, the diamond is celebrated for its extraordinary blue-white color and remarkable clarity. This exceptional rock was discovered at the Premier Mine in South Africa and got its name from the owner of the diamond mine. Rumor has it, the gem was initially tossed out the window as it was much too large to have thought to be a diamond. The stone was gifted to King Edward VII in 1907 as a token of loyalty. It took eight months and 14 hour brutal work days for a group of three polishers to create nine major stones, 96 smaller stones and nine carats of unpolished fragments from the stone. Two principal cuts of the diamond were used in the Crown Jewels and the rest were used to make brooches, necklaces and earrings to be worn by royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II.
For the very first time, seven of the nine principal stones cut from The Cullinan Diamond are currently on public display. The jewelry pieces they’ve been set in include:
Cullinan I – The Sovereign’s Sceptre – Crafted in gold, this piece is set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, spinels, amethyst and enamel. It contains the Cullinan I, also known as the Star of Africa, which is the largest D color faceted diamond in the world. The pear shaped diamond weighs an astonishing 530.20 carats.
Cullinan II – The Imperial State Crown – Crafted in platinum, gold and silver, this crown is adorned with rubies, emeralds, sapphires, spinel, pearls, velvet and ermine. The cushion cut diamond, also known as the Second Star of Africa, weighs a remarkable 317.40 carats.
Cullinan III and IV Brooch – Crafted in platinum, this brooch is composed of the third and fourth largest of the diamonds, the Cullinan III, a pear-shaped stone weighing 94.4 carats and the Cullinan IV, a cushion cut diamond weighing 63.6 carats.
Cullinan V Brooch – Crafted in platinum, this brooch contains the Cullinan V, a heart shaped diamond weighing 18.8 carats. This piece features a pavé-set border of brilliant cut diamonds, fine milgrain detail and a web-like design. This brooch was created with adaptability in mind.
Cullinan VI and VIII Brooch – Crafted in platinum, the brooch contains the Cullinan VI, an 11.5 carat diamond that has been used in a number of pieces and the Cullinan VIII , an emerald cut diamond weighing 6.8 carats. The design of the brooch is similar to that of the Cullinan V and it too was created with versatility in mind.
The Dehli Durbar Necklace and Cullinan VII Pendant – Crafted in platinum and gold, this necklace contains the Cullinan VII, a detachable marquise shaped diamond weighing 8.8 carats. It also includes nine of the celebrated Cambridge emeralds. The cabochon cut emeralds are each surrounded by diamonds and sit alternating in between six large diamonds.
Cullinan IX Ring – Crafted in platinum, this ring contains the Cullinan IX, the smallest of the nine stones. The pear shaped diamond weighs 4.4 carats and is set in an openwork 12-claw setting.
QUEEN VICTORIA’S FRINGE BROOCH
On its first ever public display, this diamond brooch, created for Queen Victoria in 1856, contains one a large emerald cut stone surrounded by smaller brilliant cut diamonds – a detachable brooch within itself. 12 large brilliant cut stones surround the outer row and 9 suspended pavé-set chains create the fringe effect. The larger stones of this diamond brooch are said to have come from one of two jewels presented to Queen Victoria by the Sultan of Turkey. The Queen’s journal of May 8th, 1856 indicates that Victoria appears to either not have appreciated the Sultan’s taste or could not wear the piece and thus the diamonds were reset. Victoria left the brooch to King Edward VII and it was subsequently worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth who all wore it regularly. In 2002 it was passed on to Queen Elizabeth II who wore it at the State Banquet for the President of Turkey in 2011.
JAIPUR SWORD AND SCABBARD
This exceptionally crafted jeweled weapon was presented to King Edward VII by as a ceremonial gift by the Maharajah of Jaipur Sawai Sir Madho Singh Bahadur, marking the occasion of his coronation in 1902. The sword hilt and scabbard are crafted in gold, colored enamel and set with 719 rose-cut, brilliant cut and ‘lasque’ stones(flat, un-faceted diamonds more commonly used in Indian jewelry) which vary in colors from white to yellow. The combined weight of all the diamonds is estimated at over 2,000 carats total, with the largest of the diamonds thought to be the pale yellow diamonds, one of which is estimated at 36 carats.
THE WILLIAMSON DIAMOND BROOCH
Given to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding gift in 1947, the flawless 23.6 carat Williamson Diamond is considered to be the finest pink diamond in existence. The 54.5 carats rough diamond was discovered in the Mwadui mine in Tanganyika, owned by the Canadian geologist Dr John Thorburn Williamson. It was speculated the stone might be mounted for use at Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952. However, Elizabeth opted to set the pink diamond within this platinum brooch featuring 170 brilliant cut diamonds, 12 baguette cut diamonds and 21 marquise cut diamonds forming the shape of a jonquil flower.
THE SOUTH AFRICA NECKLACE AND BRACELET
For her 21st birthday on April 21st, 1947, Princess Elizabeth was gifted a magnificent necklace by South African Prime Minister, Field-Marshal Jan Smuts on behalf of the Government of the Union of South Africa. In its original form, the piece consisted of one long chain featuring 21 graduated round brilliant-cut diamonds, each diamond being linked by a baguette and two small round brilliants. The largest diamonds weigh up to 10 carats. The necklace has been altered twice, once in 1947 where the detachable snap-piece was added using a 6 carat stone, and again in 1952, where the necklace was shortened to 15 large stones and a bracelet was crafted with the six diamonds that remained.
The exhibition is currently open until July 8th and then resumes July 31st to October 7th.