Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration

Release date: 
Monday, 11 June 2012

Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace
30 June - 8 July and 31 July - 7 October 2012

This year Her Majesty The Queen became only the second sovereign in British history to have reigned for 60 years.  In celebration, a spectacular exhibition at Buckingham Palace will show the many ways in which diamonds have been used and worn by British monarchs over the last two centuries. The exhibition includes a number of The Queen’s personal jewels – those inherited by Her Majesty or acquired during her reign. 

Diamond, the hardest natural material known, carries associations of endurance and longevity.  These qualities, allied to the purity, magnificence and value of the stones, have led rulers to deploy diamonds in regalia, jewellery and precious objects.  Individual diamonds have achieved great renown, passing down the generations and between enemies or allies as potent symbols of sovereignty and as precious gifts.  Many of these extraordinary stones have undergone a number of transformations during their history, having been re-cut or incorporated into new settings as fashions and tastes have changed.

Queen Victoria is the only other monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.  The exhibition includes the magnificent Coronation Necklace and Earrings created for Queen Victoria and worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) and Her Majesty The Queen at their coronations.  The necklace is formed of 25 graduated cushion-shaped brilliant-cut diamonds and a central drop-shaped pendant of 22.48 carats.

Queen Victoria’s dramatic Fringe Brooch was designed to be worn at the centre of a chaîne de corsage along the top of the fashionably low-cut bodices of the period, as seen in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s State portrait of the Queen from 1859.  The brooch consists of a large emerald-cut brilliant surrounded by twelve large brilliants, from which are suspended nine diamond chains.  It was almost certainly made in October 1856 by R & S Garrard, who remodelled an existing piece of jewellery that had been presented to the Queen by the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Mejid I in May that year.  After Prince Albert’s death in 1861, Queen Victoria wore the Fringe Brooch without the chaîne. The brooch was left to King Edward VII and often worn by his consort, Queen Alexandra.   Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother wore the brooch for the Coronation in 1953.

The beautiful miniature crown worn by Queen Victoria for her official Diamond Jubilee portrait in 1897 was made by R & S Garrard in 1870.  It was designed to be worn over a veil, which the Queen adopted following the death of Prince Albert. The crown’s 1,187 diamonds give it a grandeur that belies its tiny proportions (it measures just 9 x 10cm).  Probably because of its physical lightness, Queen Victoria favoured this crown over any other throughout the last 30 years of her life.

The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara was a wedding present to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary) from the ‘Girls of Great Britain and Ireland’.  The Princess (then Duchess of York) wore it at the celebrated Devonshire House Ball in 1897 to complement her French Renaissance-period costume.  The tiara was presented to Her Majesty by Queen Mary as a wedding present and is frequently worn by The Queen.

Seven of the nine principal stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever found, will be reunited for the first time in the exhibition.  The remaining two stones form part of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.  These seven stones are set in a ring, a necklace and three brooches, one of which, the Cullinan III and IV Brooch, was worn by The Queen during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations on 5 June 2012.  The diamond, which weighed 3,106 carats in its rough state, was discovered at the Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa in 1905.  At first the stone was assumed to be a crystal, as it is three times larger than any other diamond that has been discovered.  When it was taken to the mine manager’s office, the clerks threw it out the window, unable to believe that something so big was a diamond.  Eventually they were persuaded, and the diamond was named after the chairman of the mining company, Thomas Cullinan.  Measuring 10.1 x 6.35 x 5.9cm, the diamond was notable for its blue-white colour and exceptional purity.

European diamond cutting reached the peak of mathematical precision in the early 20th century with the invention of the round brilliant cut.  By allowing the best possible balance between reflected and refracted light, cutting releases the internal ‘life’ and ‘fire’ that give the diamond its unique characteristics.  Among more modern pieces in the exhibition are the South Africa Necklace, presented to the then Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday in 1947.

The Williamson Brooch incorporates at its centre what is considered to be the finest pink diamond ever discovered.  The pink diamond was found in Tanzania in October 1947 by the Canadian geologist Dr JT Williamson, who gave the uncut stone to Princess Elizabeth for her wedding in November that year.  In 1953 Cartier set the cut diamond at the centre of the jonquil-shaped brooch with 200 small diamonds, also presented by Dr Williamson.

The exhibition also includes one of Her Majesty’s most widely recognised pieces of jewellery. The Diamond Diadem is worn by The Queen on British and Commonwealth stamps and also features on certain issues of banknotes and coinage.  Despite its feminine associations, the piece was actually made for the famously extravagant coronation of George IV in 1821.  The Diamond Diadem is set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant, and consists of a band with two rows of pearls either side of a row of diamonds, above which are diamonds set in the form of a rose, a thistle and two shamrocks – the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Tickets and visitor information: or
+44 (0)20 7766 7300.

For further information and photographs, please contact the Royal Collection Press Office, +44 (0)20 7839 1377,  A selection of images is also available from  Film footage will be available for the exhibition’s launch.