Following on from Buckingham Palace Part One: The State Rooms, this blog post focuses on the mini-exhibition of diamond’s owned by The Queen and pieces from the Royal Collection, held in trust by the monarch for the Nation.
The exhibition that showcases seventeen pieces of diamond encrusted jewels has been held in the Ball Supper Room at Buckingham Palace during the annual summer opening, as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Rather than writing about all seventeen exhibits, I will instead focus on a few of the more famous or interesting jewels.
Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown
The first item on the diamond tour is Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown, created in 1870 to fulfil Victoria’s need for a formal headpiece with colourless diamonds that could be worn with her mourning attire. Following the death of her husband Prince Albert, Queen Victoria spent many years in seclusion and even longer in mourning, wearing black often accompanied with black or white lace. Under the pressure of Parliament, Victoria returned to public life in 1870, nine years after Albert’s death and choosing not to wear the Imperial State Crown at the State Opening of Parliament, the Small Diamond Crown was created as a replacement.
Designed to be reminiscent of a traditional English crown, the Small Diamond Crown includes a detachable circlet and four arches topped with a monde (a ball-like object) and a cross, all encrusted with clear diamonds of various shapes and sizes.
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, the crown was placed on the Queen’s coffin before her body was moved to London from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, for the state funeral. The crown then passed down to Queen Alexandra; wife of King Edward VII and then Queen Mary; wife of King George V. The crown was later placed in the Tower of London in 1937 by George VI where it lives to this day, the diamond’s exhibit at the palace being an exception.
The Coronation Necklace & Earrings
Another of Queen Victoria’s jewel’s, the Coronation Necklace was created in 1858 but gets it’s name after having been worn for the coronation of subsequent queens; Alexandra, Mary, Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Elizabeth II. It was created to replace pieces of jewellery that were returned to the King of Hanover who had won ownership of many of Queen Charlotte’s jewels.
The necklace was altered twice since its creation, firstly for Queen Mary, who had two stones removed to make a pair of earrings. Queen Elizabeth II next had the necklace altered, shortened it before her coronation in 1953.
Also made for Queen Victoria in 1858, the Coronation Earrings, like the Coronation Necklace, has been worn by queen’s Mary, Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Elizabeth II at their respective coronations. Both the necklace and the earrings consist of cushion-cut diamonds accompanied with drop-set pendants.
Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara
The Girls of Britain and Ireland Tiara was gifted to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck on her marriage to the Duke of Kent in 1893 who, following the death of Edward VIII, became King George V and Queen Mary. Mary is a particularly interesting royal as she was a member of the Royal Family during the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II, before dying ten weeks before her granddaughter Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, at the age of 85.
Mary gifted the tiara to the then Princess Elizabeth in 1947 for her wedding to Prince Phillip, and it is one of the most recognised of The Queen’s tiaras due to it’s depiction on British currency.
The tiara was originally topped with 14 pearls that were replaced with diamonds in 1914 by Queen Mary. The tiara could also be modified for certain occasions; it could be dismantled and worn as a necklace or it could be worn as a coronet if attached to a smaller frame.
The Cullinan Diamond
The Cullinan diamond was the largest rough diamond ever found, discovered in Pretoria, South Africa in January 1905. The diamond was sent to England as a gift for King Edward VII, after which it was sent to Amsterdam for cutting by expert diamond cutters. Rather than remaining one large diamond, which would have been a mammoth task for even the best diamond cutter/cleaver, the diamond was instead split into nine pieces of different sizes, along with 96 small diamonds and nine carats of fragments.
The nine key stones were returned to London over the years, beginning with the two largest; the Cullinan I and II which were presented to Edward VII in 1909.
The Cullinan I and II were initially worn as a brooch by Queen Alexandra, though after George V ascended to the English Throne, the Cullinan I diamond was set into the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre. The Sceptre, which is part of the Crown Jewel’s and therefore housed in the Tower of London, plays a key role at the coronation of a king of queen.
Whilst the Cullinan I diamond resides within the sceptre, during the reign of George V it was occasionally worn as a brooch by Queen Mary much like Queen Alexandra, due to the stone’s detachability.
The Cullinan I diamond is also known by some as the First/Great Stone of Africa with the Cullinan II named the Second/Lesser Stone of Africa.
Much like the Cullinan I diamond, the Cullinan II was also set into one of the Crown Jewels; the Imperial State Crown, which is worn by the sovereign at his or her coronation and for the State Opening of Parliament each year.
Over the centuries, there have been many different versions of the Imperial State Crown, the current version was created in 1937 for George VI as a replica of the Queen Victoria’s albeit manufactured to be more lightweight than it’s predecessor. The crown was remodelled for Elizabeth II to give it a more feminine look and reduced in height to fit the stature of The Queen. Though there have been a number of different versions of the crown, many of the jewels have been reused, including a sapphire belonging to Edward The Confessor – the predecessor to King Harold II who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Black Prince’s ruby which dates back to the fourteenth century and a number of pearls belonging to Queen Elizabeth I. It is really quite awe-inspiring how much history can be found in just one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
Cullinan III and IV
Whilst the Cullinan I and II were returned to King Edward VII, the remaining stones and chippings were given to the Asscher’s firm as payment for the cutting and polishing of the Cullinan diamond. The Cullinan VI diamond was purchased by Edward VII for his queen Alexandra and the remaining were purchased by South African government of General Botha. The diamonds were presented to Queen Mary in June 1910 following the death of Edward VII and the ascension of George V.
The Cullinan III and IV, since 1910, have always been paired together. For Queen Mary’s coronation, the Cullinan III and IV were set into her coronation crown though they have been most commonly worn as a brooch or pendant attached to the coronation necklace.
The Cullinan III and VI Brooch was bequeathed to Elizabeth II in 1953 following the death of her grandmother Queen Mary.
Also made for Queen Mary in 1911, the Cullinan V diamond was set into a heart shaped brooch. At the time, this was the centrepiece of a larger diamond and emerald stomacher, though The Queen has only ever worn it was a brooch since inheriting the jewel on the death of Queen Mary.
Cullinan VI and VIII
The Cullinan VI was bought by Edward VII for Queen Alexandra and set into a circlet (a crown without arches or cap).
The Cullinan VIII was set in a mount similar to the Cullinan V for Queen Mary in 1911. After Queen Alexandra’s death in 1925, it was bequeathed to Queen Mary and was added as a pendant to the Cullinan VIII brooch. Also like the Cullinan V, the Cullinan VI and VIII could be attached to the stomacher worn by Queen Mary.
The Cullinan VII is set into a gold and platinum necklace of diamonds and emeralds. It was created for Queen Mary as part of a parure (a set of matching jewellery) for her 44th Birthday. The parure included a tiara (The Delhi Durbar Tiara), a stomacher consisting of the Cullinan V and VIII brooches surrounded with emeralds, an emerald brooch, earrings and the Delhi Durbar Necklace incorporating the Cullinan VII.
The Delhi Durbar was a celebration held at Coronation Park in Delhi to mark the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, and to crown them Emperor and Empress Consort of India.
The Cullinan IX is the last and smallest of the key Cullinan diamonds and was set into a platinum ring in 1911 for Queen Mary. Along with the Cullinan III-VIII diamonds, the Cullinan IX was bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 on the death of Queen Mary.
The Williamson Diamond Brooch
Because Kate took a liking to the Williamson Diamond Brooch, I have included it in my list of the more interesting exhibits. Shaped like a flower, the Williamson Diamond Brooch consists of leaves, petals and stem made of clear diamonds, with a round pink diamond in the centre of the flower.
The pink diamond was discovered in 1947 in a Tanzanian mine owned by Canadian geologist Dr John Thorburn Williamson. Williamson, a royalist, decided to give the pink diamond to Princess Elizabeth on her wedding to Prince Phillip. In 1953, the brooch was designed by an employee of Cartier set with diamonds that make up the petals, leaves and stem, also given to The Queen by Williamson.
The gift shop at Buckingham Palace sells a brooch inspired by the Williamson Diamond Brooch made from crystals and white gold plated metal costing £75, as well as the Pink Flower Brooch the gift shop sells a number of “replica” jewels.
The Diamond Diadem
Buckingham Palace Part One – The State Rooms, mentioned the extravagance of King George IV during his reign as King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and his time as Prince Regent and Prince of Wales. For his coronation, George IV commissioned a crown to be worn over the Cap of State during his procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey; the Diamond Diadem
The diadem features a circlet decorated with two rows of pearls either side of a row of clear diamonds, it also features four cross paty’s along with four emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland; a rose, thistle and two shamrocks.
Since George IV’s coronation in 1821 the diadem has been worn by British Queens beginning with Queen Adelaide; the wife of William IV. It then passed from Queen Victoria to Alexandra, Mary, Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Elizabeth II, who wore the Diamond Diadem on her journey to Westminster Abbey on the day of her coronation and since then, it has been worn every year on the journey to and from the State Opening of Parliament.
Being one of the most high profile of the pieces on show, the Diamond Diadem was the last jewel on the diamond tour, after which the tour of the State Rooms continued into the Ballroom. After seeing the Diamond’s: A Jubilee Celebration exhibit, I would just love to see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, perhaps that will be my reason to next visit London.
- http://www.royalcollection.org.uk – Royal Collection Website
- http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/exhibitions/summer-opening-of-buckingham-palace-diamonds-a-jubilee-celebration – Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration Website