In a stunning snowflake shape, this brooch was a gift from the people of Canada to The Queen in 2017 to mark her Sapphire Jubilee (65 years).
Created from over 400 diamonds of 4.39 carat-weight, the stones are set in 18-carat Canadian white gold. The shape is also studded with 48 sapphires, varying in shade from dark blue in the centre to ice, milky blue at the tips of the arms; the sapphires weigh more than 10 carats together.
Governor General David Johnston presented Her Majesty with the piece during a visit to Canada House, when she and Philip marked Canada 150 celebrations. The Queen had scaled back all long-haul travel a few years ago, meaning her days of visiting the north-American nation are long over.
There is even further symbolism within the brooch. The blue stones were discovered by Seemeega and Nowdluk Aqpik, two brothers, in 2002 on Baffin Island, which is the only known sapphire deposit to be found in Canada.
Of course, the design is inspired by the Canadian Arctic – specifically from the small village of Kimmirut on Baffin Island, and the centre of the brooch ‘is elevated and set with diamonds to represent the rocky hill located across the water from Kimmirut’.
The Governor General’s office said: “Presented in a momentous year that marks both The Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee and Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, this brooch celebrates the historic and profound relationship between Her Majesty and Canada.
“It serves as a companion to the maple leaf brooch given to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by her husband King George VI, to mark their visit to Canada in 1939.”
*The* maple leaf brooch, as seen on other Royals, was a gift to the Queen Consort on a visit there early on in George VI’s reign.
The brooch is just over 6cm tall and wide, and was created by Hillberg & Berk, based in Regina. The company also made The Queen’s Saskatchewan pink tourmaline flower brooch, gifted in 2013 by the province, as seen below.
Rachel Mielke, CEO of the firm explained that it took just two hours to design the piece, even with all the restrictions given to them by the government: it had to be all-Canadian materials, they wanted sapphires to mark the jubilee (incredibly hard to come by in Canada) and that it should reflect the whole of the nation.
We are also told that the government’s budget for the gift didn’t actually cover the brooch… “I wanted to create something phenomenal for The Queen,” Mielke said.
“For 65 years ago, she has been one of the most powerful women in the world. We can all look up to her as someone who has taken on that role with dignity and grace.”
It took a year for the piece to make its debut, being worn when the King and Queen of Belgium visited The Queen privately at Windsor Castle in 2018, and then reappeared in 2019 at Ascot and a garden party.
Hear more about the brooch and its development below.