The History of Famous Heirloom Jewelry of the British Royals

April 14, 2022
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The British royal family has always been protective of their heirloom jewelry, lending it to no one outside of their circles and commissioning pieces of such grandeur that one can only dream of attaining such an exquisite item. Throughout time, famous pieces have been lent and borrowed by the most prominent British royals for extravagant occasions. Read on for all the glittering details!

Royal Engagement Rings

Throughout history, the Royals’ engagement ring choices were not made without intense speculation and (at times) controversy. Some rings were passed down, and some were hand-picked. Here are the stories behind these famous engagements and the jewelry that encapsulates them. 

The Controversy of Princess Diana’s Sapphire Ring

Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princess Diana was permitted to choose her engagement ring from the crown jeweler Garrard, and while her stunning sapphire ring has gone down in history, not everyone was pleased with her selection. 

The oval sapphire was placed on a white gold band and surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds. The controversy comes from the ring’s accessibility to the public. It was featured in Garrard’s catalog, meaning that anyone with a spare £47,000 ($60,000) could also purchase the ring. This accessibility did not go unnoticed by the rest of the royal family. They were openly displeased that an ordinary person would be able to acquire a piece of jewelry fit for a royal. 

Diana, however, was not bothered by the prospect of sharing her ring with those of a lower social class. In fact, she loved the ring so much that she chose to wear it long after her divorce. When she passed on, the ring was inherited by Prince William, and he proposed to Kate Middleton with the famed blue sapphire. 

The Duchess of Sussex: Meghan Markle’s Engagement Ring

Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Meghan Markle herself is not without controversy, but there is no denying the understated glamor of her engagement ring. Romantically, Prince Harry designed the ring himself. It comprises three stones; the middle stone is a gorgeous three-carat cushion cut and was ethically sourced from Botswana, where Meghan and Harry vacationed together as a new couple. The two surrounding diamonds are from his late mother’s (Princess Diana’s) personal jewelry collection, keeping the royals’ tradition of wearing family jewelry intact.

They continued down the path of tradition when the ring went under a significant alteration in 2019; the original band was replaced with the rare and highly sought-after Welsh gold. This gold ring was created by Cleave & Company and was a gift from the Queen, who chose to carry on the centuries-old tradition of Welsh gold wedding rings. 

When did the tradition of wedding rings begin? Read our article here!

Heirloom Jewelry and The Fantasy of Royal Tiaras

There are few things as lovely and awe-inspiring as a royal tiara. Here are some of the most famous and beautiful tiaras worn by the British royal family members.

The Cartier Halo Scroll Tiara 

Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

This piece of heirloom jewelry dates back to 1936, when it was given as an anniversary gift to Queen Elizabeth (the Queen’s mother) from George VI, the Duke of York. The Cartier Scroll tiara is modest in size, has a geometric band of diamonds, and is topped with detailed scroll-like elements. 

Due to its small size and relative simplicity, this tiara was worn mainly by younger royal family members. Queen Elizabeth first gifted the tiara to Elizabeth II in 1944, who passed it down to her younger sister Princess Margaret, who wore the tiara often in her single days. Princess Anne was then loaned the tiara until it was put into the vault for years to come.

The Cartier Halo Scroll tiara was resurrected for the union of William and Kate in 2011, on loan from the Queen. The Duchess of Cambridge wore the tiara on her walk down the aisle. It comprises 739 brilliant-cut diamonds and 149 baguette diamonds, perfectly completing her bridal look in a beyond-stunning fashion. 

Are you searching for more fascinating jewelry history? Check out our article here!

Meghan Markle and the Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau Tiara

Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The Duchess of Sussex’s wedding tiara of choice was also on loan from the Queen, and contrasted the sweet simplicity of Kate’s wedding tiara. The Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau has a grandeur reminiscent of Meghan herself. The tiara comprises eleven sections, complete with pavé and brilliant diamonds of many sizes. 

This show stopping heirloom jewelry piece was created in 1925 for Queen Mary by Garrard and originally had a sapphire as its centerpiece. The sapphire was later changed to a diamond, as seen on the Duchess of Sussex as she glided down the aisle. 

The jewelry of the British Monarchy has been storied, beautiful, and transformative throughout the years. However, you don’t have to be a member of the British royal family to inherit or create a piece of heirloom jewelry! Any beloved piece of jewelry can be passed down through the generations, documenting your family’s stories through time. 

We at Stewart Kuper Jeweler’s love all things diamond and fine jewelry related and hope you are as fascinated by the royals’ heirloom jewelry as we are.

Thank you for reading! If you would like to schedule a one-on-one appointment to buy or sell fine jewelry, call us at 520-462-5612 or contact us here!