Image Credit: Cam Brunner
From gargantuan diamonds to rare pearls, there's nothing that evokes magnificence quite like the royal family's collection of jewelry. More than just a fashion statement, these pieces are relics from a different time, from moments in history that have come to represent tradition, resilience, and family values.
While there are some accessories that you're bound to be familiar with, we'll delve deeper into their history and iconic moments in the limelight. We'll also show you how you can recreate these striking looks without a royal budget.
The most famous pieces of royal jewelry
Sometimes, it's a gemstone's brilliance that brings it to glory, but more often than not, royal jewelry is made famous by the history surrounding it.
Viewed by millions of tourists each year, the Crown Jewels are among the most lavish in the world. Of the 142 Crown Jewels, 20 are pieces of wearable jewelry, made up mostly of crowns, coronets, and rings. These accessories represent 800 years of monarchy and feature the regalia worn by British queens and kings at their coronations.
But it's not just these famous jewels that have made it into the Google searches of people around the world. The jewelry pieces worn by royals at weddings, ceremonies, and other appearances, have also captured our collective fascinations. Necklaces, tiaras, brooches, and even engagement rings that aren't part of the Crown Jewels, but rather in the personal collections of royals, have also become popular for their symbolism, history, and often grandeur.
Let's take a look at some of the most iconic pieces of royal jewelry.
Princess Diana and Kate Middleton's engagement ring
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One of the most well-known pieces of royal jewelry is Princess Diana's sapphire engagement ring that now belongs to Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. The ring has 14 round diamonds surrounding a 12 Carat oval Ceylon sapphire, set in 18-karat white gold. The ring was created by then-crown jeweler Garrard, with controversy stemming from the fact that it was not custom-made, and was available at the time for purchase by the public.
After Diana's devastating death, her children, Princes William and Harry each chose a memento from their mother's belongings. Although it was Harry that had initially chosen the ring, with William opting instead for a Cartier watch, it became clear that they switched when Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with Diana's ring in 2010.
St Edward's Crown
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Dating back to the 11th century, St Edward's crown is one of the most significant pieces in the Crown Jewels, due to both its grandeur and purpose. Historically, this piece was placed on the new monarch's head at their coronation. Now, it is instead rested on the high altar during crowning, with a lighter crown or state crown used in its place.
St Edward's crown is made of 22-karat gold and 444 stones including rubies, sapphires, amethysts, garnets, and topazes. Its image can be found on coats of arms and various other royal insignia, particularly in the Commonwealth areas.
Meghan Markle's engagement ring
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When Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle in 2017, he did so with a three-piece diamond ring made up of sentimental stones. The largest center stone is a three-carat cushion-cut diamond from Botswana, where the couple first vacationed together. It is flanked by two round diamonds estimated at around a carat each, taken from a brooch that belonged to Harry's mother, Princess Diana. These jewels were set on a gold band and made by royal jeweler, Cleave and Company.
In 2019, during the Duchess of Sussex's pregnancy, the ring was resized and reset by celebrity jeweler, Lorraine Schwartz, so that the original jewels sat on a more intricate gold band with micro-pavé diamonds.
Imperial State Crown
Image Credit: The Court Jeweller
A real show-stopper and well-known by most, the Imperial State Crown is a lighter crown worn by a monarch either when leaving Westminster Abbey after his or her coronation, and at the annual State Opening of Parliament. The most current Imperial State Crown was made in 1937, although its precious gems date back to the 11th century.
This crown is supported by gold, silver, and platinum and features 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and five rubies. In 1909, the famous 317 Carat Cullinan II diamond was added to the crown, which is part of the largest rough diamond ever found. The crown also features a 170 Carat ruby worn by Henry V in the Battle of Agincourt and a 104 Carat sapphire taken from the ring of the Confessor in 1163.
Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara
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Queen Mary's fringe tiara was made by E. Wolff and Co. for Garrard in 1919, although its diamonds date back to 1893. A necklace that Queen Victoria gave to Mary as a wedding gift in 1893 was dismantled in order to make this fringe. It features an all-diamond design set in both gold and silver.
In addition to Mary, sisters Princess Anne and the current Queen Elizabeth II both wore this famous piece on their wedding day. On Her Majesty's wedding day, it was reported that the hairdresser accidentally snapped this tiara, and it had to be taken for quick repairs before the ceremony. The Queen recently loaned the piece to Princess Beatrice of York, her granddaughter, on her wedding day.
Princess Diana's sapphire and pearl choker
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Setting off a fashion moment that went down in history was a sapphire and pearl choker necklace that accessorized Princess Diana's 'revenge dress'. The dress in question was an off-the-shoulder form-fitting black dress, worn with a seven-strand pearl choker featuring a diamond and sapphire centerpiece.
The centerpiece of this necklace was originally a brooch that was gifted by the Queen Mother for Diana and Prince Charles' wedding. As Diana stepped out following her husband's infidelity scandal with Camilla, it was thought that she was making a statement by wearing a necklace that was one of her signature jewels during her marriage to Charles.
Queen Elizabeth II's three-strand pearl necklace
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Queen Elizabeth II has many pieces that make up her official uniform, but of the more notable is her three-strand pearl necklace. What most may not realize is that it's not simply one necklace, but three that she regularly interchanges.
The Queen received her first three-strand pearl necklace when she was young, as a gift from her grandfather, King George V. It became a favorite part of her collection, and she ended up getting another made after she came to the throne. This necklace features cream pearls that graduate in size fastened by a diamond clasp.
Her final set of three-strand pearls came as a coronation gift by the Emir of Qatar in 1953. It falls longer than the other pieces and has a pearl and diamond clasp.
The Poltimore Tiara
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As far as tongue-in-cheek royal moments go, Princess Margaret posing in a bathtub wearing only a tiara sits somewhere close to the top. She broke from royal tradition when she purchased the Poltimore family tiara at an auction for her wedding to Lord Snowdon in 1960, rather than borrowing from the family's collection.
Stacked around four inches tall and dating back to 1870, this tiara isn't subtle and is made of cushion-shaped and old-cut diamonds. The design features both clusters and scroll motifs and is set in silver and gold. Princess Margaret wore the tiara as both headpiece and necklace throughout her life, and most famously in the bathtub photo taken by her husband.
The Cullinan III and IV Brooch (Granny's Chips)
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Affectionately known in the royal family as 'Granny's Chips', this brooch features parts of the Cullinan rough diamond and was worn by the queen on the day of her Diamond Jubilee.
Made up of two diamonds, Cullinan III and IV (which are together known as 'The Lesser Stars of Africa'), these stones weigh 158 carats. The design showcases diamonds in a cushion-cut shape and pear shape. Originally given to Queen Mary in 1910, these famous diamonds were passed on to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, which is how they received their nickname.
The Spencer Tiara
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Whilst it's common for Princesses to don a tiara borrowed from the Queen on their wedding day, royal rebel Princess Diana had her own ideas. She wore a tiara from her family's collection on the day of her marriage to Prince Charles, made by former crown jeweler, Garrard.
The Spencer family tiara is made up of diamonds set in silver in gold, and has an intricate floral pattern, with the centerpiece curved into a heart shape. In 2018, Celia McCorquodale, Diana's niece from sister Lady Sarah, wore it to her own wedding.
Royal family jewelry favorites
It's no secret that the royal family likes luxury, with diamonds, pearls, and other precious stones donning the necks, hands, and heads of royals at every public appearance. The rarity of these stones is what gives them their value. Here are some of the gemstones, metals, and accessories favored by members of the royal family.
Diamonds are a royal's best friend, featured on most pieces of jewelry the royal family chooses to wear. Most famously, the largest rough diamond ever found, the Cullinan Diamond was gifted to the royal family and broken into smaller pieces that adorn some of their most valuable possessions. Cullinan I, the largest piece, remains the largest clear-cut diamond in the world and sits atop the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross, fitted with loops so it can be taken out of its setting and suspended from Cullinan II to make a brooch, a favorite of Queen Mary.
It's also not uncommon for the royal family's diamonds to be repurposed—taken from their original setting and used to create more modern jewelry pieces, which is true of the diamonds taken from Princess Diana's collection in order to complete Meghan Markle's engagement ring.
Diamonds: Get the look
A Cullinan diamond might be out of reach but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the brilliance of your own sparkling diamond. Lab-grown diamond jewelry like that from Lightbox has the same sparkle and appearance as natural diamonds at a fraction of the price. Why not treat yourself to some dazzling lab-grown diamond studs or a pendant?
From the blue sapphires adorning Diana's neck and fingers to the stunning emeralds of the Cambridge and Delhi Durbar Parure, it's no secret that the royal family likes a bit of color in their jewelry boxes. Colored precious stones have long had a place in the collections of Kings, Queens, and other royalty thought to symbolize power and standing out from the crowd.
Although it may just be speculation, some say that the royals prefer to adorn their most prized pieces with these gems due to superstition. Rubies, as seen on Queen Elizabeth II's coronation crown, are said to symbolize protection. Emeralds, one of her majesty's favorites, represent prosperity, and sapphires are symbols of loyalty and devotion.
Gemstones: Get the look
While we won't deny that sapphire rings and ruby crowns sound wonderful, without a royal inheritance, it may be harder to add them to your personal jewelry collection. The good news is that there are more accessible alternatives so you too can feel at least slightly like Princess Eugenie when she was proposed to with a pink sapphire.
If you love the look of Princess Diana and now the Duchess of Cambridge's engagement ring, you could opt for a similar Oval Sapphire and Diamond Halo Engagement Ring. If you're a fan of Sarah Ferguson's ruby and diamond engagement ring, think about garnet jewelry as an alternative. While there's nothing quite like an emerald ring, lovers of green may enjoy what peridot offers in terms of vibrancy. Lab-grown diamonds also offer an array of beautiful colored stones including pink and blue, which would be almost impossible to find in naturally occurring diamonds.
The pinnacle of elegance, pearls are often seen worn by royal family members, and particularly Queens. Said to be fitting for daytime appearances, the Queen's love of pearls is said to be inspired by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who gave each of her kin a pearl every year on their birthday. This was so that on their 18th birthday, they had enough pearls to complete a necklace.
One of the most famous sets of pearls is a four-strand pearl and diamond necklace that has been worn repeatedly by the Queen, Princess Diana, and most recently Duchess Kate Middelton.
Pearls: Get the look
While the Queen's pearls may hold both literal and sentimental value beyond what's able to be recreated, pearl necklaces are a royal favorite that's relatively simple to mimic.
South Sea and Akoya pearls are on the more luxurious end of the spectrum, and freshwater pearls are more accessible. Layer a few freshwater pearl necklaces to achieve Queen Elizabeth II's iconic pearl necklace look on a budget or opt for a three-strand necklace that is already tiered.
There's no doubt that there's something quite special about jewelry adorned by kings and queens for hundreds of years. Whether you're trying to recreate a royal jewelry look or are fine with simply admiring from afar, these collections will no doubt inspire us for many years to come.