This article pays homage to the life of Queen Elizabeth II through her jewels. From her engagement to Prince Philip, through her coronation, to some of her most cherished jewellery pieces.
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Her Majesty The Queen on 8th September 2022. As the longest-reigning British monarch of all time, she set a great example of faithful service and we will miss her dearly. We lost a great sovereign; she represented Britain magnificently.
As we take a walk down memory lane, we admire her most regal moments and the diamond pieces that symbolise them, and reveal some fascinating Royal stories and British history behind each jewel.
1. The Engagement Ring
Prince Philip Mountbatten, Prince of Greece and Denmark, proposed to Elizabeth II in 1947. According to Royal records, he took an active part in designing the Queen’s engagement ring. The 3-carat centre diamond, and the smaller diamonds around it, were very meaningful because they came from his mother’s tiara.
Prince Philip and the Queen’s marriage lasted 73 years, until he sadly passed away in April 2021. Out of all the Queen’s magnificent diamond jewellery, this piece may the smallest. But we are sure it is the one she held the dearest.
2. The Wedding Tiara
Among the most dazzling and important diamond tiaras that the Queen owned is the Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara, which originally belonged to her grandmother. This tiara is the one that Elizabeth II chose to wear for her wedding. But have you heard the anecdote behind it?
You might be amazed to know that she broke the tiara on her wedding day! Just moments before the ceremony, as Elizabeth was handling it, the frame snapped. Garrard & Co., the Royal jewellers, had to be called in to hastily repair it on the spot. Luckily, the tiara was fixed for the ceremony. But some claim that you can see a tiny gap between the tiara’s shards in the Royal couple’s wedding photos.
3. The Wedding Bracelet
As we’re remembering the Queen’s wedding, we should mention this beautiful bracelet that her husband, Prince Philip, gave her as a wedding gift. We mentioned above at number 1, that Prince Philip used diamonds from his mother’s dismantled tiara to design an engagement ring for his wife-to-be. With some gems left over, he also had this diamond bracelet made for her. Queen Elizabeth II must have loved the bracelet because she was often photographed wearing it.
4. The Crown
The Queen’s coronation took place on 2 June 1953 in Westminster Abbey. The crown that was used was The Imperial State Crown. It had to be specially remodelled for Queen Elizabeth II for her coronation in 1953. Its arches were lowered by 1 inch to make it look more “feminine”, compared to when her father wore it for his coronation in 1937.
The Imperial State Crown is the most important Crown Jewel because it symbolises the sovereignty of the monarch. It is almost 600 years old and is extravagantly adorned with 2,901 precious stones. The one diamond that really stands out in the crown is the enormous Cullinan II diamond. You can admire it in the below video that was filmed with the Queen. The Cullinan Diamond II can be clearly seen at 0:59 seconds.
5. The Coronation Necklace
Queen Elizabeth II owned many breathtaking diamond necklaces, but the most regal one is the Coronation Necklace inherited all the way from Queen Victoria.
This necklace has an interesting history. In 1858, Queen Victoria had to hand over her favourite necklace, The Queen Charlotte Necklace, to the King of Hanover. This was because he had successfully claimed it as his, in a long Royal inheritance dispute. Victoria was not happy about losing her best necklace. However, it led her to commission a magnificent replacement necklace with 26 large diamonds which you can see in the picture above.
Did you know? It is called The Coronation Necklace because 4 generations of female monarchs since Queen Victoria have now worn it for their coronations, including Queen Elizabeth II.
6. The Diamond Diadem
The Diamond Diadem originally belonged to Mary of Modena, the Royal consort of King James II, who wore it for her husband’s 1685 coronation. Queen Elizabeth II famously wore the diadem during her 1953 coronation procession. Every year, she also wore it on her way to and from the State Opening of Parliament. It showcases 1,333 diamonds that weigh a total of 320 carats and its value is more than £20 million.
7. Her Favourite Brooch
The Queen was known to be fond of brooches, owning 98 of them. This one is special because it was her favourite, worn by her for both daytime and evening events. The Queen wore it both pinned to her bodice, as well as on her shoulder.
Called the Queen Victoria’s Fringe Brooch, it is famous because, in the centre, it features an enormous emerald cut diamond gifted to Queen Victoria by the Sultan of Turkey in 1856. Surrounding the centre stone are 12 solitaire diamonds. Additionally, 9 strings of princess cut diamonds hang below it.
This brooch has been worn by 5 British queens: Victoria, Alexandra, Mary, Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and finally, the late Queen Elizabeth II.
8. The Sovereign’s Scepter
The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross was made in 1661. It is an important part of the coronation ritual for England’s monarchs. It represents the power of the sovereign.
You may have noticed that among other traditional items, the Sovereign’s Sceptre was placed on Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin during her funeral. Prior to this solemn occasion, the last time we saw it was in 1953, when the Queen had her coronation.
At this point, we must also talk about the Cullinan Diamond which features on the Scepter. Weighing a staggering 3,106 carats, it is the largest rough diamond ever found. It was mined in Cullinan, South Africa in 1905. Two years later, it was presented as a gift to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. He had it cut into 9 large gems, numbered with Roman numerals from I to IX:
The largest one is the Cullinan I, or the Great Star of Africa. You can see it on the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre in the picture above.
The second-largest one is the Cullinan II, called the Second Star of Africa, set in the Imperial State Crown, which we saw at number 1.
The remaining gems are privately owned by the Queen. Some are set into her jewellery (like the “Granny’s Chips” Brooch below) and some remain as loose diamonds.
9. The Tiara She Hardly Wore
The Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara is encrusted with lavish, dazzling diamonds and 19 hanging pearls. It is yet another heirloom the Queen inherited from her grandmother, Queen Mary. We mention this tiara as a point of interest, as it is one that the Queen didn’t wear often, preferring instead to loan it to other Royals in the family.
In 1981, she gave it on loan to Princess Diana. It became her daughter-in-law’s favourite tiara. Following Diana’s tragic death in 1997, the tiara did not appear in public again until 2015, when the Queen loaned it to Kate Middleton who wore it at a reception at Buckingham Palace.
10. “Granny’s Chips”
This final piece highlights a little bit of humour, and the famous “twinkle” in the queen’s eye, which many people who knew her often talked about.
Here, the grand Cullinan Diamond makes a reappearance once more. This time, in the photograph above, you’ll see a brooch with two enormous diamonds. These two gems are none other than Cullinan III and Cullinan IV, cut out of the giant rough Cullinan Diamond which we talked about above.
With the wit she was known for, the Queen revealed during a 1958 state visit to Holland, that her family playfully called the two large diamonds in the brooch “Granny’s Chips”.
The Queen’s life in jewels
We hope that you enjoyed this homage to Queen Elizabeth and her life through a look at her most dazzling and meaningful jewels. She will be dearly missed and remain in our hearts forever. ❤️