The Jewels Of The British Monarchs - Victorian Era

by Ms Nandita Ray

The fantastic collection of the British Crown started when the Royal family slowly imbibed the importance of exhibiting a regal look. Apart from the royal regalia the need for further accessorizing was learnt. Thus began the trend for jewelry wearing and making by the British Royals. Elegant, innovative and fantastic are few of the adjectives appropriate for the huge collection of precious jewelry worn and possessed by the Royals.

Victorian Era--The Love Affair Begins

The fantastic collection of the British Crown started when the Royal family slowly imbibed the importance of exhibiting a regal look. Apart from the royal regalia the need for further accessorizing was learnt. Thus began the trend for jewelry wearing and making by the British Royals. Elegant, innovative and fantastic are few of the adjectives appropriate for the huge collection of precious jewelry worn and possessed by the Royals.

Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert started a long affair with jewelry, designing and setting a dress code for the court. Day time jewelry, evening gowns and the do's and don't of fashion and jewelry. Diamonds were supposed to be worn only by married women since diamonds were considered a wedding gift. Any unmarried lady wearing diamonds meant it was either inherited or gifted by a lover. With the death of her husband Albert she went into deep mourning and insisted on wearing mourning jewelry all made with black gems and started the trend for mourning jewelry.

Queen Victoria

When King William died Princess Victoria ascended the throne. Young and virginal she was greatly influenced by the inherited wealth and became the longest reigning monarch in British History, from 1837 to 1901. Her influence on the growing monarchy was intense. Dignified and sober she was gifted at painting and drawing. Marriage brought along Prince Albert her husband, who was a huge influence on her. Prince Albert was fond of designing jewelry and often designed jewelry for her. She acknowledges it in her diary, 'My beloved one gave me such an unexpected present, a wreath- made to match the brooch and the earrings. It is entirely his own design and beautifully carried out. The leaves are frosted gold, the orange blossom of which porcelain and four little green enamel oranges, meant to represent our four children'. The orange blossom brooch and matching box was given to her in 1839 before they were married. First of the two brooches was sent from Wiesbaden, Albert's hometown. The second brooch and matching earrings were given at Christmas in 1845 while a matching wreath on her tenth wedding anniversary.

kohinoor diamondQueen Victoria is known for getting the Kohinoor Diamond weighing 186 carats from India. When she was declared the Empress of India, Ranjit Singh of Punjab who had it in his possession was made to sign over this diamond to the new empress. Believed to have been mined from the Golconda mines it was probably mined 5000 years ago and belonged to Hindu Kings and then the Mughals, It is a rare find with brilliant clear white color and clarity. In 1852 Prince Albert got it cut to its present size reducing the weight by 42%, it now weighs 105.602 carats. This was done in order to enhance it brilliance further. He spent 800 pounds. The stone was first mounted in a tiara for Queen Victoria later worn by Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra as it was gifted by Victoria to the country. 1936 saw it being set in a crown for the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth.

The Prince Albert eagle Brooch is also well known. Designed by Albert it shows an open winged Eagle all in silver and gold studded with turquoise with ruby eyes and two magnificent pearls held within its claws. It was made in 1840.

Her diamond brooch with two rows of 14 cushion cut brilliant diamonds made by Rundell/Bridge & Rundell was often worn by her. She gifted it to the country. She had an emerald belt presented to her by Maharaja Sher Singh.

Queen Victoria diamond necklaceQueen Victoria's famous diamond necklace and tear dropped earrings have an interesting history. Victoria had to hand over to the Duke of Cumberland, king of Hanover in 1857 a chunk of her inherited jewelry. This angered and upset her immensely. She ordered the royal jewelers to make carbon copies of the lost jewelry. This exercise was carried out by using precious stones from "swords and useless things", as put by her. This necklace needed 28 stones which were got from 2 Garter badges and a sword hilt. This necklace has 25 cushion shaped brilliant cut diamonds set in silver and gold. The central drop shaped pendant is set in platinum. The largest stone weighs 11.25 carats. The earrings are made of 2 large cushion cut stones and smaller diamonds. The hanging tear drop shaped pendants are of different sizes. One is 7 carats while the larger one is 12 carats.

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Oriental Circlet of Queen VictoriaThe Oriental circlet was also designed by Albert and set with opals which were Prince Albert's favorite stone. It was later altered by Queen Alexandra and reset with rubies that were presented to Victoria in 1876.

Victoria had a small diamond crown in the sunray form which was her favorite as it was light and not heavy .It has 1,300 diamonds and was made in 1870 as a replacement for the Imperial crown which she did not wish to wear after Albert's death Instead she had this small crown made which soon became a part of her dress. It was 10 cms high and matched well with her widow's veil. It was made from a necklace that she owned by Garrard. It weighed 5.11 ounces.

Queen had a Bow Brooch made to order by Garrard with 508 diamonds. It is a set of 3 bows all bound together. Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary wore it for their coronation. Queen Elizabeth II who inherited it wears it very often.

The Queen also possessed a wreath of flowers and ears of corn in an impressive parure of pearls with a jeweled clasp as recorded by Lady Sarah Lyltelton, which she was wearing as she went down the stairs after being declared the queen, to see the treasures kept in the vault underground.

A pearl and diamond tassel was also quite a popular piece which she would often wear hanging from a pearl necklace.

Prince Albert gave her the Albert Brooch which was a huge sapphire the day before their wedding. The Queen had a necklace in graduated row of sapphires and diamonds hanging in clusters supporting a huge sapphire pendant. This brooch became a part of this set.

A matching set of emerald and diamonds diadem and earrings and brooch designed by Albert and executed by Joseph Kitching at the cost of 1150 pounds for Queen Victoria. This was made in 1845.
Also designed by Albert for Victoria is a sapphire and diamond tiara set in kite and cushion shaped sapphires and diamonds. The body of the crown is made in silver and gold. It cost him 415 pounds.
Victoria evidently owned a lot of tiaras. In a painting by T.J. Parker she is shown wearing a Gothic style diadem set in opals and gold. However there is no account of it. The painting is titled "The Secret of England's Greatness".

When her doting husband died she lost all interest in colored stones and notes in her diary," I shall never wear those colored stones which dearest Albert had arranged for me...". This begins her journey into distributing her precious jewelry to her children. She presented her third child Princess Alice with a diamond tiara in 1862. This is constructed in a neo classic style. It is styled with a fringe of leaves and flowers supported by a delicate lattice work. She gifted Princess Beatrice of Batten burg her favorite strawberry leaves set with rubies with matching necklace, earrings and brooch.

Royal jewelers Garrard in 1896 lists only 5 tiaras

Queen Mary 1916-1922

Descendent of George the III and consort of George V not only relished the jewelry she inherited but also was a keen collector of modern jewelry. Their regime was the beginning of the huge body of the sensational Jewels that is rich, opulent and simply breath taking. It is interesting to note that during her time 1,016 tiaras were made. This fact is noted in the record books of E.Wolff & Co. who were the main suppliers of the famous Garrard Jewelers, appointed by the Queen to design and make her jewels. Amongst all the tiaras made is the circlet made famous by King George V when he referred to it as "Mary's best tiara". Designed by Garrard with a layered structure, it has 'lyres and forget me not flowers' symbolizing harmony and peace. Made in 1911 the coronation crown was constructed in a way that the 81/2 arches could be detached and the remaining part worn as a circlet. Cushion shaped diamond weighing 62 carats was secured by wire at the top from which hung a drop shaped diamond weighing 92 carats. This Tiara had the Cullinan cleaving numbered III and IV and the Cambridge Emeralds. It contained 2.200 diamonds. Since her death it has never been worn.

Queen Mary's love for jewelry was deeply influenced by her mother Princess Mary of Adelaide. She is the only English royal who has meticulously collected and recorded old items to be left to posterity. The most notable item is the enameled 'Faberge' cigarette case which was given to Edward II by Mrs. Keppel.

Another well known item is the gold snuff box which is covered with fabulous diamonds. This was made for Fredrick the Great of Russia. Queen Mary bought this from Christie's in 1927 when this was a part of the Russian Crown Jewels that were sold.

She was an avid collector and added to the list of tiaras when she bought the Grand Duchess Vladimir's tiara set with lustrous diamonds and swinging tear drop pearls in 1921 when the Grand duchess died. These freely hanging pearls could be interchanged with emeralds strands.

Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara, made for Queen marryShe had the well known as the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara made by E. Wolff and Co. for Garrard. It was made in 1913 as a token of respect to her grand mother The Duchess of Cambridge It is set with brilliant rose cut diamonds and pearls. It was made in 1913. It had 38 pearls which were a wedding gift to Queen Mary. It was her unique way to replicate family history.

She was given a pearl and diamond Tiara surrounded by graduated drop pearls on her wedding on 6th July 1893. It seems that she was fond of white colored stones and rarely wore colored gems.

Grace, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston remarked "I remember that Queen Mary usually wore diamonds and pearls-I seldom saw her wearing colored stones. The tiara that I liked best was a magnificent one with large pear shaped pearls that seemed to hand inside the wide band of diamonds and slightly shook as she moved'.

Queen Mary had a diamond tiara made by Boucheron. This took three months to finish. It is in form of oval loops with flowers and leaves design. The diamonds used in it weigh 102 1/2 carats and the total number of diamonds are 675. It was delivered on 26th April 1902. It was gift to commemorate the recent elevation of the prince and princess to King and Queen. It was kept in a glass case which carried the insignia VM which was her name Princess Victoria Mary of Teck.

Queen Mary received some of her best pieces from Queen Victoria who had a special affection for her. She was given the necklace of graduated diamond hoops and a pearl and diamond pendant that now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II.

She also inherited her mother's jewelry The Duchess of Teck, like the neo classical ears of wheat tiara. This tiara is set with diamonds in tiers holding aloft the sheaves of wheat made in gold and silver. She also got a suite of sapphires and diamond clusters from her mother. She also received jewelry from her childless aunt Duchess of Gloucester.

Queen Mary began gifting her jewelry from 1935. When Princess Elizabeth got married to Prince Philip of Greece, she gave her grand daughter her best wedding gift. This was a tiara, which was gifted to her by the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland made by Garrard.

She gave a parure of turquoise and diamonds to Lady Alice Montague-Douglas-Scott when she married the Duke of Gloucester.

She gave Princess Royal, her daughter many favorite pieces and important jewelry that she inherited. Amongst them was a sapphire and diamond tiara that was designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. It is unfathomable to realize the beauty of the pieces till they are seen.

References used:
Christie's web site
The Jewels of Queen Elizabeth II - Her personal collection by Leslie Field
The Official Website of the British Monarchy

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