What could be more breathtaking than a gorgeous diamond tiara? Perhaps a bracelet studded with rubies, or a necklace that wreathes your collarbone in emeralds?
I bring you the Royal Jewels, steeped in history and adding sparkle to the women of the royal family. These pieces are the basics that every new royal watcher should be able to recognize instantly.
Most of the jewels were acquired by or customized by Queen Mary, grandmother of the present queen. Mary had a vast supply of jewels she received as wedding or anniversary gifts and passed them down to her daughters-in-law and granddaughters. Some say the queen also had a certain knack for obtaining jewels and other precious antiques via carefully dropped “hints”, but that’s a story for another day!
The Cartier Halo Scroll
The Halo Scroll tiara was created by Cartier in 1936. Prince Albert, The Duke of York, purchased it for his wife Elizabeth. Later, she passed it to their daughter Princess later Queen Elizabeth as an 18th-birthday present. The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, also wore this tiara frequently for royal events. It was lent to Kate Middleton, the new Duchess of Cambridge, for her wedding to Prince William, the Queen’s grandson.
Girls of Great Britain and Ireland
Lady Eve Greville’s committee raised the money from “the girls of Great Britain and Ireland” for the tiara, which garnered more than £5000, as a wedding gift for Princess May of Teck. May, a German princess, was engaged to Prince George, son of King Edward VII. She would be known later in life as the formidable Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth II’s mentor in all things royal. Here, Queen Mary (left) can be seen wearing the tiara with a diamond lozenge base:
Queen Mary’s “Lover’s Knot”
Queen Mary instructed Garrard’s to create this tiara in 1914, copying the design of a tiara worn by her grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel Princess Augusta married her second cousin, Prince Adolphus, the Duke of Cambridge. Her tiara is the Cambridge Lover’s Knot. The one we see in the British royal family is Queen Mary’s creation.
Augusta’s tiara featured a pearl base complementing the hanging drop pearls, which were suspended from diamond lover’s knots. Queen Mary’s redesign did not have a base of pearls, but diamonds instead. Mary’s tiara was frequently worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, a gift from Queen Elizabeth II. After Diana’s death, the tiara reverted to the possession of the Queen. It is now worn by Catherine, the Princess of Wales.
This “Russian Fringe” tiara, made by E. Wolff & Co. for Garrard, was created in 1919 for the future Queen Mary. It was made with diamonds taken from a necklace/tiara purchased by Queen Victoria. In August 1936, Queen Mary gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth, who lent it to her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, for her wedding in 1947. This style of tiara is seen on several royal women, such as Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Marie-Chantal of Greece.
The Poltimore Tiara
Created by the famed jewelers Garrards in 1870 for Lady Poltimore, this grand tiara was made famous by its last owner, the late Princess Margaret. Margaret wore it for her wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the 1st Lord Snowdon. Like many of the tiaras, the Poltimore tiara was seen in several alternative forms such as a diamond fringe necklace and separately as brooches. The children of the princess, Lord Snowdon and Lady Sarah Chatto, sold this and other items of the late princess at an auction at Christie’s in 2006.
Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara
Britain’s Queen Alexandra, the mother of George V, had commissioned the esteemed Garrard & Co. to create this tiara in the style of a Russian peasant girl’s headdress, known as a kokoshnik. Her sister, Russia’s Tsarina Marie Feodorovna, had a similar tiara (the sisters enjoyed dressing alike and it extended into jewels).
It is composed of sixty-one platinum bars and filled with 488 diamonds. It is often worn by HM The Queen today.
Grand Duchess Vladimir’s Tiara
This tiara is a genuine Russian article, made by a Russian jeweler for the Grand Duchess Vladimir. During the Russian Revolution, the Duchess moved with her family to safety while her jewels were hidden in a vault in the Vladimir Palace. The looters never found the treasure, and a member of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service friendly with Grand Duchess Vladimir’s family managed to recover the jewels and send them back to her.
The Duchess commissioned the tiara to have Oriental pearl drops – the original design. When Queen Mary bought the tiara from Princess Nicolas of Greece, Duchess Vladimir’s daughter, she had the last of her Cambridge emeralds made into drops and set in the tiara. These emeralds are interchangeable with the pearls, and both styles are worn by Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty has also worn it without any gems at all.
King George IV Diadem
This particular piece worn by Her Majesty on state occasions was created in 1820 by the Royal Goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge and Rundell for the coronation of King George IV.
The diadem has undergone many extensive repairs throughout its lifetime. Garrard’s carried out a complete refurbishment in the early 1990s, restoring it to full glory. There are countless diamonds forming Maltese Crosses and small bouquets of the kingdom’s national flowers – the thistle for Scotland, the rose for England, and the shamrock for Ireland. Around the base are pearls, and if you look closely, the Cross that sits front and center contains a four-carat pale yellow brilliant diamond. The diadem has been worn by The Queen on her journey to and from the State Opening of Parliament since the very beginning of her reign and is seen on the stamps which bear Her Majesty’s image.
In 2012, the tiara was on display at Buckingham Palace in an exhibition which celebrated the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.
Queen Victoria left the diadem to the Crown, so this piece is also considered to be a part of the Crown Jewels.