On November 16, 2010, Clarence House officially announced that Prince William and his girlfriend Catherine Middleton were engaged. Many royal fans rushed home to switch on BBC News to get every detail of the story.
For jewellery fans, there was an added fascination: Kate Middleton had received a very special engagement ring from Prince William.
Here are 10 fascinating facts about the world’s most famous blue sapphire.
1. Poignant meaning
The sapphire ring has deep personal meaning both for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. It had previously been Prince William’s mother’s, Princess Diana’s, engagement ring. She died an untimely death in August 1997, and Prince William said that giving the ring to Catherine was his way of making sure his mother didn’t miss out on his wedding day.
2. Carats, Carats, Carats
The ring consists of a 12-carat oval blue sapphire, cut into facets, and surrounded by fourteen solitaire diamonds. The ring’s setting is made from 18K white gold.
3. Resized for Catherine
When Catherine Middleton received the ring, it was slightly too big for her. It kept sliding and turning around on her finger, so the Crown Jeweller, G. Collins and Sons, were asked to resize it from size I to H. They did this by placing small platinum beads inside the ring’s band.
4. Royal blue engagement outfit
When Kate and William were interviewed on television a few hours after the engagement had been announced, Kate wore a sapphire-blue silk jersey dress, cleverly matched with her engagement ring’s colour. The dress was by Issa, a London designer who the Duchess of Cambridge loves.
5. From Diana to Charles, Harry to William
After Prince William’s and Prince Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, divorced, Diana returned her engagement ring to her ex-husband. It was stored in Kensington palace. After Diana’s death, Prince Charles allowed his two sons, William and Harry, to select mementos from her possessions. Harry, the younger brother, picked the engagement ring, while William chose a gold Cartier watch. But when William took the decision to propose to Kate, the brothers exchanged their mementos. It’s said that Harry thinks of Kate fondly as a sister and that both princes wanted her to have their mother’s ring.
6. “Commoner’s sapphire”
William’s mother, Lady Diana Spencer, originally chose the ring herself. Prince Charles did not propose with it in hand, but instead had a selection of rings shown to her. At the time, Diana’s choice caused a scandal. Some people criticised her for picking a pret-a-porter ring, instead of having one custom-made.
7. Now most coveted sapphire ring
Despite the initial criticism for her choice of ring, Princess Di quickly became known as a style icon. Consequently the “commoner’s sapphire” became the world’s most sough after engagement ring style. After William and Catherine announced their engagement in 2010, sales of sapphire engagement rings went through the roof once more, with jewellers all over the world frantically buying hoards of the blue gems to satisfy the public’s demand.
8. Ten-fold increase in price
The ring was originally created by Garrard & Co., the former Crown Jeweller. At the time, in 1981, it cost £28,000. It’s now valued at around £300,000.
9. In a rucksack to Africa
William had decided to propose to Catherine during the couple’s trip to Kenya during the autumn of 2010. William had the ring taken out of the royal safe. He then carried it around with him in his rucksack for three whole weeks in Africa until he finally popped the question!
10. Matching earrings and pendant
The Duchess of Cambridge was later seen wearing jewellery that matches her engagement ring. It was at the time when she was expecting the couple’s second child, while attending a ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral to commemorate the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan. The set includes a pear shaped sapphire and diamond cluster pendant, and matching earrings.