Jewelry in the royal family is not a simple matter. Some pieces are the property of the Crown, which means that while family members may wear or use them – even keeping them in their own personal jewelry boxes – the ownership remains with the royal line, rather than with any one person. Other pieces are known as the Crown Jewels, and they are invested with pomp, circumstance and are very strictly the property of the nation, only to be used on appropriate occasions.
Other pieces – a vast array of them! – are the private property of the royals individually, and of these, the queen herself probably owns the largest collection of stunning pieces, many of which she is happy to loan on a semi-permanent basis to members of the family, especially senior royals who must be impeccably turned out for public events. Let us take a look at just five, randomly chosen, pieces of royal jewelry!
Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara
A personal piece that belongs to the queen, and reputed to be her favorite tiara, the Girls and Great Britain and Ireland tiara is certainly the one she has been seen in most often – it even features on the monarch’s portrait on British currency!
The tiara, as its name implies, was bought for Queen Mary of Teck (the current queen’s grandmother) by the girls of Great Britain and Ireland at the time of her marriage to the crown prince. In fact, the ladies’ find-raising efforts were so successful that they raised more than the amount needed for the tiara, and were able to donate a good sum to the widows and orphans of a recent maritime disaster. The tiara’s design meant that it could be transferred to a second frame to become a coronet, or worn without either frame as a necklace – versatile jewelry indeed! The tiara is made from diamonds set in silver and gold, and can be dressed up with extra large gemstones, or dressed down and worn more plainly.
Diana’s Sapphire and Diamond Engagement Ring
Princess Diana’s engagement ring made world headlines in the 1980s, and then again in 2011 when William gave it to Kate Middleton, his fiancée, now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. The ring is indeed stunningly beautiful, being a 12-carat sapphire surrounded by 14 diamond gems, set in 18-carat white gold. However, at the time it was chosen, royal protocol was upset when Charles ordered the ring from a catalogue after Diana picked it herself. It was far more customary to have a bespoke ring made. However, it is not as tacky as it sounds – with a price tag at the time of $60k, it is very far from being cheap tat! (For comparison, the ring is valued today at around $400k!)
St Edward’s Crown
Moving now onto the Crown Jewels, we get to the centerpiece of the collection, the fabulous gold, purple velvet and ermine wonder that is St Edward’s Crown. It is worn by the monarch on the occasion of their coronation, and hardly ever at any other time. Wearing the crown is indeed a weighty matter, both in terms of solemnity and in physical weight! It weighs nearly 5 pounds and is very heavy to wear for any length of time! It is made from 22-carat gold, and is set with 444 precious and semi-precious stones, which include not even one diamond! In today’s money, it is worth around $39 million. Not bad for a starting value of some £248! (Admittedly in the 1600s!)
Ancient Coronation Spoon
This is hardly a piece of jewelry, and yet it is the sole survivor of the original Crown Jewels, and as such is deserving of mention here.
When Cromwell dissolved the monarchy, he was determined to leave no romantic points around which a future royal leader could rally the country, and he set out to destroy the current Crown Jewels, which included venerable crowns, magnificent swords and much else. Despite the determined resistance of the very royalist keepers of the treasure, he sadly had his way, wrenching precious stones from crowns and other pieces, and sending the metal off to be melted down into coins stamped ‘Commonwealth of England’. The spoon survived, perhaps because it was a mere spoon, despite its usage in anointing the new monarch with holy oil.
It is made from silver gilt and has four pearls on it, but is very probably more valuable because of its age and usage than for the sum of its parts.
Various Stunning Diamonds!
The royal family is the proud owner of a number of gorgeous diamond pieces, including all nine pieces of the Cullinan (known as Cullinan one, two, etc.). The largest piece, a 530.2 carat pear cut diamond is set into the queen’s Scepter with the Cross, while Cullinan three and four are set together as a brooch with a drop, a favorite of the queen and known, apparently, as ‘Granny’s Chips’ by younger royals!