Could anything be even more sumptuous than the glittering crowns at King Charles III’s coronation this May? Possibly yes! We expect the Coronation Necklace, in all its resplendent glory, will decorate the neck of the new Queen Consort, Camilla. It will be an incredible sight to behold.
The story of the pieces is simple – jewellery made for Queen Victoria from diamonds in her collection – but why they came to be made is more complex…
At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, in 1837, her uncle, Ernst, the Duke of Cumberland became King of Hanover. When Ernst’s mother, Queen Charlotte, passed away, Victoria, as her granddaughter, inherited her magnificent collection of jewels.
Unfortunately, once Ernst August became King, he decided to file a lawsuit to lay claim to his mother collection of jewels. It would take the courts almost two decades to come to a conclusion of ownership. In December 1857, the court decided in favour of the Hanoverians. By this time, King Ernst August had passed away and the throne had passed to his younger brother, King George V of Hanover.
Once the decision was made, Queen Victoria had to give back a number of stunning pieces of jewellery to King George. Although Victoria viewed many of the pieces as her own family heirlooms, she reluctantly gave back her grandmother’s diamond necklace and earrings, among other treasured pieces.
In the wake of this personal loss, Queen Victoria requested that Garrard create some new pieces to replace the ones she had given back. Thus, the new Coronation Necklace was conceived.
For this opulent piece, 28 stones were taken from a Garter badge and a sword hilt considered useless items in the Royal Collection. Nine of the largest diamonds weighed between 8.25 and 11.25 carats.
Additionally sourced for the necklace was an impressive gem that was used as the central element of the Timur Ruby Necklace. The stone itself was known as the Lahore Diamond and originally was gifted to Queen Victoria in 1851. Garrard used the gem so that it could be interchanged as the central pendant on either the Coronation or Timur necklace.
The remaining stones in the necklace are cushion cut brilliant diamonds in cut down silver collets. They are graduated in size, with the largest stones set in the front of the necklace, where the Lahore pendant can be attached. The Lahore diamond is set in platinum and is detachable.
Now, you cannot have an exquisite and lavish necklace of ice cube-sized diamonds without earrings to match – that would be unheard of! Thankfully, Queen Victoria had also commissioned a set of earrings to match her newly-created necklace.
Originally pieces of the Kohinoor armlet, the most imposing of the gems in the earrings are two pear drop pendant stones, which are approximately 12 and seven carats respectively. When the armlet was dismantled, the two pear shaped gems were reset into the Timur Ruby Necklace. Garrrard retrieved the stones from the Timur to be used as the pendants of the Coronation Earrings.
In addition to the pear drops, four smaller diamonds help to create this striking set – which may look fairly normal in size, are actually rather large!
Two larger cushion-cut collet studs and two smaller round brilliant stones finish off these imposing baubles. All four gems were taken from an aigrette (headdress) and a Garter Star, also part of the Royal Collection and deemed unusable.
While the pear pendants seemingly look identical, they actually are not, and have been aptly described as sisters but not twins. Interestingly, all of the pieces of the earrings are detachable.
Just so history would not repeat itself and so there would never be any question as to the ownership of the ravishing original suite of gems, Queen Victoria had the pieces designated as heirlooms of the Crown in her will.
Subsequently, the Coronation Necklace has been worn to four successive coronations. Queen Alexandra was the first to wear the necklace but chose to wear her wedding earrings on her special day. Queen Mary also wore the necklace on her Coronation Day, while Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II both opted to not only wear the Coronation Necklace but the earrings as well to their coronations in 1937 and 1953 respectively.
It remains to be seen as to which combination of jewels Queen Camilla decides to accessorise herself with. Whichever ones she chooses, we suspect will be able to see them sparkle from the ends of the Earth…!