SA's Only Antiques, Collectables And Decorative Arts Magazine

Majestic Diamonds

queenelizabethThe Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year has put the spotlight firmly on the pomp and ceremony of the Royal family and in keeping with the ‘diamond’ theme of the Jubilee, we look at the ‘diamonds’ that form part of the Royal Collection. The diamond and jewellery collection of Queen Elizabeth II is by far one of the greatest collections in the world. Many people have witnessed two Diamond Jubilees but for many of us this is our first. The Collector magazine looks at the magnificent Royal diamond collection and in particular looks at the South African connection to the present collection both in terms of not only the largest diamonds but also the most flawless in the collection.

The Queen’s collection does not go back many generations, as most of us would assume and, over the decades and with changes to the monarchy, many of the diamonds have been lost and new collections have had to be started to set the monarchy back on track as befits the status of Royalty. The best diamonds in Elizabeth I’s reign were lost to Cardinal Mazarin of France as a result of having been pledged as security for a loan. Sadly the magnificent Golcoconda diamonds, the Mirror of Portugal and the Sancy of James I had to be relinquished.

George III was able to give back the sparkle to the British Royal family with new acquisitions - however upon the death of Queen Charlotte in 1818 the collection was once again lost to the Royal family – and this included losing both the Arcot and Hastings diamonds. The monarchy seemed to battle to hold onto its diamond collection and once again after the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, the King of Hanover contested her inheritance and after a lengthy battle he won the case and so once again the Royal collection was lost and Queen Victoria had to start her own Royal Collection.

During Queen Victoria’s reign she was given many generous gifts including the 186 carat diamond the Mountain Of Light which was set into the Coronation Crown of Queen Elizabeth in 1937 and is now on show at the Tower of London. The Imperial State Crown was originally made for the Coronation of George VI in 1937 and was reduced in height for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. When Cullinan II was added to the front, the Stuart Sapphire was moved to the back of the crown. The Sovereign’s Sceptre was set with Cullinan I in 1911 and represents temporal royal authority in the service of God. The Imperial Crown and Sceptre are set with the largest and most flawless diamonds in the Royal Collection - both taken from the Star of Africa given to Edward VII by the Union of South Africa in 1907.

The Queen has a vast collection of tiaras - one of which was adapted from a necklace made for Queen Adelaide and the other was bequeathed to her by Queen Alexander. The Queen’s Coronation necklace comprises 25 cushion–cut diamonds with the Lahore Diamond pendant in the centre which was once attached to the Timur Ruby necklace. The Coronation earrings consist of two diamonds that were removed in 1858 from the Kôh-i-nûr and attached to two circular cut diamonds. One of the Queen’s favourite tiaras is the Queen Mary Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, which can be seen on coinage and bank notes. tiaraThis was given to Queen Elizabeth by her mother on her marriage.

Right: The Queen’s favourite tiara- ”Girls of Great Britain & Ireland tiara” made in 1893. Diamond festoon-and-scroll design surmounted by 9 large oriental pearls on diamond spikes designed by Garrard.


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