Throughout history, royal families across the world have had a huge influence on both fashion and the creation of jewellery. Although Queen Elizabeth II no longer holds as much influence as Queen Victoria did in jewellery and fashions, there is still much adoration for her outfits and the jewellery she wears.
It is not just the Queen who is admired and whose style is coveted, but also the princesses. Many young girls dream of being a princess and most would give anything to have a slice of a royal lifestyle. It is for this reason that royalty has had such a influence upon the jewellery world. Members of the royal family were the celebrities of yesteryear, having had all the influence and notoriety that Hollywood a-listers enjoy today.
Most women have their own personal collection of jewellery, but there is one family whose collection is famous the world over. This, of course, is the British Crown Jewels. Having been treasured and collected by kings and queens for 800 years, today they are priceless. The Crown Jewels are much more than mere gold, Diamonds and other precious gemstones, they represent hundreds and hundreds of years of British history.
The current Crown Jewels are not the first. King John lost the original jewels dating back to the Anglo Saxon period in Britain in 1216. It is said that he lost them in quicksand! Replacements were made, but in 1330 they were stolen from Westminster Abbey. Just days later they were recovered after being discovered for sale in a jeweller’s shop window in central London. Oliver Cromwell sold or melted down the majority of the Crown Jewels in 1649, stating that they were a symbol, as he described it, of the ‘detestable rule of kings’. It wasn’t until the restoration of the monarchy in 1661 with Charles II that they were fully replaced.
The ultimate jewels in the collection are the Cullinan Diamonds, commonly known as the ‘Stars of Africa’. The Cullinan, discovered in South Africa in 1905, was the largest Diamond ever found. Weighing in at 3,106ct, in its rough state it was more than three times the size of its nearest competitor. The gem was purchased at a price close to $1 million, and was given as a present to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday. The stone was later cut into nine large gems and dozens of smaller ones by the famous Asscher Brothers, who were amongst the best lapidarists in the world - and possibly of all time. The Cullinan I is set in the royal sceptre and weighs a massive 530ct. Until 1985, when the Golden Jubilee Diamond was discovered weighing 545.67ct, it was the largest faceted Diamond in the world.
The Cullinan II at 317ct is set into the Imperial State Crown. Also in the crown above the Cullinan II is the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’ which is one of the oldest stones in the Crown Jewels. Its British royal possession can be dated back to 1367 when it was received as a gift by Edward of Woodstock, who was known as ‘The Black Prince’ - hence the stone’s name. The interesting thing about this stone is that it is not a Ruby at all but a Spinel, a gemstone historically mistaken for a Ruby. During World War II the Jewels were taken and hidden in a secret location to protect them. To this day we don’t know where they were hidden. Today the Crown Jewels are kept under strict guard at Jewel House, in the Tower of London.
One piece of jewellery associated with royalty that has had a big impact on the jewellery world is Diana Spencer’s engagement ring from Prince Charles. Diana Francis Spencer became officially engaged to the heir to the throne on February 24th, 1981. Her engagement ring was an 18 carat Sapphire surrounded by 14 individual Diamonds. Ever since Prince Charles asked for Diana’s hand in marriage, Sapphire engagement rings have become synonymous with elegance, royalty and romance. Shortly after the proposal, Cartier brought out a whole line of Sapphire and Diamond rings. Princess Anne also had a Sapphire engagement ring. Sarah Ferguson, when she became engaged to Prince Andrew wore a Ruby ring. After this event Ruby engagement rings soared in popularity, people again wanting a slice of the royal lifestyle for themselves.
Looking for your own jewellery collection centrepiece? Start with our Lorique Collection of timeless heirloom pieces here.