It is the most valuable – and glittering - exhibition ever created at Buckingham Palace. Ten thousand priceless diamonds on display, many for the first time ever, to mark the Queen’s Jubilee.
From the diminutive diamond crown worn by Queen Victoria throughout her widowhood, to the breath-taking Coronation Necklace, featuring a staggering 22.48 carat pendant, the exhibition features some of the most spectacular pieces from the monarch’s private collection.
Each of the 21 hand-picked items on display also has a fascinating history behind it, such as the iconic diadem worn by the Queen for the state opening of parliament and on our postage stamps.
Set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant, the piece was actually made for the famously extravagant coronation of George IV in 1821.
It cost the king an eye-watering £8,000 – more than £815,000 today (although the provenance of the items means it will be worth many times more) – but in the event could not even be seen over his gaudy plumed hat.
Although created for a man, its feminine appearance so much appealed to his wife, Queen Adelaide, that she borrowed it on a rather more permanent basis.
As a result it was handed down female members of the family from Queen Victoria to Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and then to our present Queen who wore it on the journey to and from her own coronation.
Queen Victoria’s dazzling Fringe Brooch, which has never been displayed in public before, includes two impressive jewels presented to the Queen by the Sultan of Turkey.
It contains a large, emerald-cut central stone and nine graduated pave-set chains suspended from an outer row of 12 large, brilliant-cut diamonds and was last seen being worn by the Queen, appropriately, for a state banquet in honour of the President of Turkey last year.
The Dehli Durbar Tiara was made in 1911 for Queen Mary to wear to a spectacular ceremonial gathering in India in 1911, paying homage to the new King George V. It was referred to by the king as ‘May’s best tiara’.
This, too, has never been displayed in public before and feature an exquisite tall circlet of lyres and s-scrolls linked by festoons of rose and brilliant-cut diamonds.
In 2005 the queen loaned it to her new daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, who has worn it in public numerous times since.
But perhaps the most charming item on display is the exquisite miniature crown measuring just under four inches across and weighing five ounces to wear that Queen Victoria had made in 1870 while in mourning for her beloved husband, Albert.
Due to her grief she found it impossible to wear her favourite coloured jewels that she so associated with happier times.
The crown, although still beautiful, was considered ‘modest’ but perfect for formal occasions and was usually worn over her famous veil of Honiton lace.
The monarch recorded her first wearing of it to the state opening of parliament on February 9 1871, saying; ‘Wore a dress trimmed with ermine & my new small diamond crown over a veil, on my head.’
The crown was also placed on her coffin as her body was transported from Osborne on the Isle of Wight to London for her state funeral in February 1901.
Curator Caroline de Guitaut, said; ‘Diamonds have always been associated with longevity and endurance which make them a fitting tribute to the Queen in her jubilee year.
‘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.’
Diamonds: A Jubilee celebration runs at Buckingham Palace from Saturday until October 7. For further details and ticket see www.royalcollection.org
Here are som few of them.