10,000 diamonds go on display

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

More than 10,000 diamonds set in works acquired by six monarchs over three centuries go on display at Buckingham Palace to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s 60-year reign.  The special exhibition Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration includes a number of The Queen’s personal jewels and works from the Royal Collection chosen for their artistic significance and their historic importance, and for the supreme skill in diamond cutting and mounting they embody. 

Several pieces of jewellery, such as the Delhi Durbar Tiara, Queen Victoria’s Fringe Brooch and the Kokoshnik Tiara, are on display for the first time.  The exhibition also includes jewellery made from the world’s largest diamond, the Cullinan Diamond, which weighed 3,106 carats as an uncut stone.  Pieces containing seven of the nine principal stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond are reunited for the first time.  They include the Cullinan III and IV Brooch, worn by The Queen for the National Service of Thanksgiving for Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, at St Paul’s Cathedral, on 5 June 2012.

The Kokoshnik tiara takes its name from the traditional Russian folk headdress.  The headdress was adopted by the Imperial family in the 19th century and used as the inspiration for jewelled tiaras worn at court.  Family ties between the Russian and British royal families ensured that the Russian style was adopted in the West, where the kokoshnik tiara became fashionable in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  This example was made for Alexandra, Princess of Wales, sister of Empress Maria Feodorovna, consort of Tsar Alexander III of Russia.  It was presented for her 25th wedding anniversary in 1888 by the ‘Ladies of Society’ (365 peeresses of the United Kingdom) and was made by R & S Garrard & Co. at a cost of £4,400.  Each bar is pavé-set with brilliant-cut diamonds, set in white and yellow gold.  Like tiaras of a similar design, it could also be worn as a necklace.  Queen Alexandra wore it often, notably for the marriage of the Duke of York (later King George V) to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck in 1893.  Queen Mary inherited the tiara and wore it frequently.  It was bequeathed to The Queen in 1953.

The Fringe Brooch brooch appears to have formed the centrepiece of a fringe-pattern chaîne de corsage which broken up to provide stones for Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown, which is also in the exhibition.  The larger stones in the brooch are thought to have come from one of the two impressive jewels presented to Queen Victoria by the Sultan of Turkey.  The Queen’s journal of 8 May 1856 shows that she decided she could not wear one of the jewels and wished to have it reset. 

The brooch is of typically mid 19th-century style and consists of a large emerald-cut central stone, which, with the immediately surrounding small brilliant-cut diamonds, is detachable as a separate brooch.  Nine graduated pavé-set chains are suspended from the outer row of 12 large brilliant-cut diamonds.  Queen Victoria left the brooch to King Edward VII.  Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth all wore it regularly, and in 2002 it passed to Her Majesty The Queen.  The Queen wore the Fringe Brooch at the State Banquet for the President of Turkey in 2011, along with several other pieces in the exhibition.

Also on display is the Dehli Durbar Tiara, made in 1911 for Queen Mary to wear to the Durbar, a ‘ceremonial gathering to pay homage’, in Delhi in 1911, to mark the succession of King George V as King Emperor.  The tiara was part of the Queen’s parure of emeralds and diamonds made for the occasion by Garrard & Co. Ltd.  The parure included a necklace, stomacher, brooch and earrings.  King George V referred to the Delhi Durbar Tiara as ‘May’s best tiara’.  Queen Mary loaned the tiara to Queen Elizabeth in 1946 for the South African Tour in 1947, and it remained with her until her death in 2002.  In 2005, it was loaned by The Queen to The Duchess of Cornwall.

Exhibition curator Caroline de Guitaut said, ‘The exhibition shows how over the past three centuries monarchs have used diamonds to display magnificence, whether in personal adornment or as a statement of power.  Each piece demonstrates breathtaking workmanship and extraordinary ingenuity in design.  Diamonds have of course long been associated with endurance and longevity, so this is a very fitting way to mark Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne.’

Buckingham Palace is open 30 June - 8 July and 31 July - 7 October 2012.

Explore the exhibition.