The Diamond Jubilee celebrated on Sunday marks 60 years of Queen Elizabeth representing the British monarchy. But it’s a “diamond” jubilee in more ways than one. As part of the commemorations, Buckingham Palace is hosting an exhibit of the queen’s priceless diamond and gemstone collection. (Well, maybe not priceless – but most of us would have a hard time coming up with its value estimate of $57 million!)
Apart from the Crown Jewels, Queen Elizabeth owns a vast array of exquisite jewelry, including number of the world’s largest and most desirable jewels – in fact, her “jewelry box” is a secured room the size of an ice rink, laid in 40 feet below ground beneath the palace!
Some of the highlights of her collection include an assortment of diamond and gem-studded tiaras, heirloom pieces passed down through the royal family, and gifts from foreign rulers and dignitaries such as the Saudi king:
- Cullinan Diamonds
The Queen personally owns some of the biggest pieces of the famous Cullinan, the largest diamond ever unearthed. The original stone, which weighed well over a pound, was mined in South Africa and presented to Edward VII more than a century ago. The stone was cut into hundreds of smaller pieces of varying sizes, the largest of which are still the world’s largest fine cut diamonds.
The king’s wife had Cullinan III & IV made into a brooch which Queen Elizabeth inherited in 1953. They are jokingly refered to as “Granny’s Chips”! She also owns a brooch made from Cullinan VI & VII.
- Festoon Necklace
The Queen’s stunning three-strand diamond necklace, made by her father George VI, is the royal equivalent of “loose change.” He commissioned the necklace in 1947 to make use of the 150-odd diamonds he had acquired over the years.
Well, what else do you do with 170 carats of ice laying around the house?
- Burmese Ruby Tiara
The Queen had this piece made by Garrard & Co. in 1973, using jewels given to her as a wedding present by the people of Burma. The diamonds were a gift from the massive collection of Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar.
The Burmese attribute the ruby with powers that protect the wearer from sickness & evil. There is one ruby corresponding to each disease that can threaten a person’s (or a queen’s) good health.
- The “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” Tiara
This diamond and pearl tiara, also designed by Garrard & Co., was presented to Queen Mary as an 1893 wedding gift by a ladies organization. She wrote, “I need scarcely assure you that the tiara will ever be one of my most valued wedding gifts, as a precious proof of your goodwill and affection.” The money that was leftover out of the funds raised for the tiara went to charity, at royal request.
- Queen Alexandra’s Necklace
This gorgeous diamond and pearl necklace was originally a wedding gift for Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the daughter-in-law of Queen Victoria.
More on the Queen’s jewels: