Life Through a Royal Lens
As part of the Life Through a Royal Lens exhibition at Kensington Palace, explore the array of important jewels that shed light on Garrard’s close working relationship with the Royal Family.
Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara
In her “accession” photographs, shot in 1952 by Dorothy Wilding, HM Queen Elizabeth II is pictured with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara upon her head – a jewel that you might recognise because Her Majesty is seen wearing it on the front of every Bank of England banknote.
Originally the property of Queen Mary, Duchess of York, Princess of Wales and finally Queen Consort of King George V, the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara was crafted by Garrard in 1893 to be given as a wedding present from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland committee. Designed to be transformable, allowing it to be worn as either a necklace or coronet, over the years Queen Mary requested that Garrard add diamonds, remove pearls and separate the bandeau from the base so that she could wear it as a headband.
In 1947, Queen Mary gave the tiara to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present and, then in 1969 The Queen asked for the bandeau and tiara to be reunited, as it remains today.
One of Queen Elizabeth II’s most frequently worn jewels, The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara is an ongoing source of inspiration for Garrard’s designers, with the repeated pattern of diamonds encircling the base reflected in the round and geometric Windsor motif, which is a signature of the Albemarle and Fanfare jewellery collections.
Cullinan V Brooch
The Queen’s love of brooches is legendary, and in Bob Thomas’ intimate portrait of Her Majesty at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, she is pictured wearing the Cullinan V Heart Brooch, one of several important brooches commissioned from Garrard by the Royal Family.
Showcasing the 18.80-carat heart shape Cullinan V diamond, the fifth-largest gem to be cut from the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond – the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever discovered – the diamond was given to Queen Mary in 1911 as a gift from the South African government.
Originally worn by Queen Mary as part of the suite of jewellery made by Garrard for her to wear at the Delhi Durbar in 1911, when Queen Mary died in 1953, the Cullinan V Brooch was passed to her granddaughter, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has been photographed wearing it throughout her reign.
Princess Diana’s Sapphire Cluster Engagement Ring
The sapphire and diamond cluster ring worn by the Duchess of Cambridge in the 2013 portrait by her father, Michael Middleton, is among Garrard’s best-known creations. Set with a magnificent 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire, encircled by a cluster of diamonds set in 18 carat white gold, the ring was personally chosen by Diana Spencer for her engagement to Prince Charles and became instantly famous after it was prominently showcased in an engagement shoot in 1981 that took place in grounds of Buckingham Palace.
A new chapter in the story of Princess Diana’s engagement ring was written when, in 2010, Prince William chose to propose to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with the same engagement ring his father had given to Diana. As this royal jewel, passed down through generations, takes on new meaning and sentiment upon Catherine’s hand, we continue to honour this history-defining design in the 1735 collection. Garrard’s iconic cluster setting also features prominently in the Jewelled Vault, where each one-of-a-kind creation is designed around an exceptional central stone.
Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown
A page from the scrapbook of Princess Victoria of Wales, daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, shows photographs of Alexandra dating from 1901 wearing a diamond crown that is much smaller than a traditional royal crown. Crafted by Garrard in 1871 at the request of Queen Victoria, the miniature crown was designed to be worn over Queen Victoria widow’s cap.
Set with more than 1,000 diamonds and featuring alternating crosses and fleur-de-lis motifs, Garrard created the crown so that the arches could be removed. Queen Victoria wore the Small Diamond Crown for the first time at the opening of Parliament in 1871 and frequently thereafter for state occasions.
After Queen Victoria’s death, the crown was worn by Queen Alexandra, who in turn passed it to her daughter-in-law, Queen Mary. Today, Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown is housed at the Jewel House at the Tower of London, where it is on display.
Imperial State Crown
Both King George VI and HM The Queen are pictured wearing the Imperial State Crown in the Life Through a Royal Lens exhibition. The 10th iteration of this historic jewel, the crown was crafted by Garrard in 1937 for King George VI and adjusted for The Queen ahead of her coronation in 1953.
Some of the most historic gems in the royal collection reside in this Crown Jewel, including, at the front of the crown, the Cullinan II, the second largest diamond cut from the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond – the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever discovered. Above it, mounted on a diamond Maltese cross, is the Black Prince Ruby, which is not a ruby at all. In the 16th century, it was discovered that this blood-red semi-polished stone is, in fact, a spinel, a gem that is often referred to as “the great imposter” after it was discovered that some of the most famous “rubies” seen in crown jewels around the world are, indeed, spinels.
The Koh-i-Noor Diamond
A big moment in Garrard’s history was the recutting of the Koh-i-Noor diamond. This sizeable white diamond was first displayed to the public at the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1852, Prince Albert, who was instrumental in the creation of the Exhibition, commission Garrard to recut the diamond.
The intensely demanding cutting process lasted eight weeks and was overseen by The Duke of Wellington. Garrard worked to create more facets to enhance its beauty; consequently, the diamond emerged as a dazzling brilliant weighing 105.6 carats.
In 1911 the Koh-i-Noor was set into Queen Mary’s Crown, newly created by Garrard for the Coronation. Today, the fabled Koh-i-Noor diamond (which is now only worn by a woman – if a man wears it, he will supposedly by cursed) is set at the centre of The Queen Mother’s Crown created by Garrard in 1937.
Delhi Durbar Suite
In a black-and-white photograph taken at the Delhi Durbar in 1911, held to mark the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India, Queen Mary is pictured wearing the magnificent Delhi Durbar Suite. Created by Garrard at the request of the Queen, who wanted a suite of jewels that perfectly captured the majesty of the occasion, the suite included an emerald and diamond tiara, earrings, a brooch, a stomacher and a spectacular necklace.
Designed by Garrard in a striking circlet style, the Delhi Durbar necklace is set with eight large cabochon emeralds known collectively as the Cambridge Emeralds, with a pendant suspended beneath set with a ninth Cambridge Emerald. In 1912, Garrard made slight alterations to the necklace, making the emerald pendant detachable and adding a second removable pendant showcasing the 8.80-carat marquise cut Cullinan VII diamond.
Queen Mary regularly wore the necklace, and the other jewels in the parure, for the rest of her life, after which they became the property of HM The Queen, who inherited the Delhi Durbar Necklace in 1953 and has worn it on many occasions. The Delhi Durbar Tiara, meanwhile, was given by The Queen to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, on long-term loan after her marriage to Prince Charles.
Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara
Commissioned by Queen Mary in 1919, the Fringe Tiara was crafted by Garrard in the fashionable Russian style reminiscent of a kokoshnik and designed to be convertible so that it could be worn as either a tiara or a necklace.
Queen Mary gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, who is pictured wearing it in Cecil Beaton’s whimsical portrait. Queen Elizabeth in turn loaned it to her daughter, then Princess Elizabeth, now Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to wear for her wedding to Philip Mountbatten in 1947 as her “something borrowed”. In 1974, the Queen Mother loaned the Fringe tiara for another royal wedding, that of her granddaughter Princess Anne. Most recently, it was worn by Princess Beatrice on the occasion of her wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2020.
Originally created by Garrard in 1870 for Florence, Lady Poltimore, the 2nd Baron of Poltimore, the Poltimore Tiara was not publicly known until it was acquired by Princess Margaret prior to her engagement to Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1959. Featuring elegant diamond scrolls evocative of flora – an enduring source of inspiration during the Victorian era in which it was made – it quickly became one of the Princess’s most prized possessions.
In the ensuing years, both Margaret and the towering jewel were regularly in the spotlight, including, most famously, the photograph on show as part of the Life Through a Royal Lens exhibition featuring the Princess wearing the Poltimore Tiara in the bathtub.