Most of the jewels were acquired by or customized by Queen Mary, grandmother of the present queen. Queen Mary had a certain knack for obtaining jewels (and other precious antiques), whether by purchase or carefully dropped “hints”, which were more akin to boulders being dropped on butterflies. Her capacity to collect never diminished, even in her later years. So when the women of the British Royal Family adorn themselves in rich, sparkling diadems or brooches, they have the former German princess Mary of Teck to thank. Profusely.
The Jardiniere Brooch and the Flower Basket Brooch
The Queen’s colorful and intricate garden-themed brooches were given to her at different stages of her life, and both are from her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
At left, the Jardiniere brooch (jardiniere is French for “an ornamental pot or stand to display of flowering plants”). It was given to then-princess Elizabeth in 1941. It is in the Art Deco style with cabochon rubies for berries, pale emerald leaves, and sapphire flower petals. The Flower Basket, right, is precisely that, overflowing with diamond, ruby, and sapphire flowers. This was a present from Elizabeth’s parents upon the birth of her first son, Prince Charles. The young mother can be seen gazing lovingly at her new baby while wearing the brooch.
Dr. John Williamson was a Canadian geologist famous for establishing the Williamson diamond mine in Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania). This rare pink diamond had been unearthed in Williamson’s mine the month before the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, to whom he presented the diamond as a wedding present.
The pink diamond weighs in at 23.6 carats, cut into a round brilliant. Legend has it that Williamson wanted to present more pink gems to Princess Elizabeth, but he was unable to get hold of them. Instead, he added to his gift 170 small brilliant-cut diamonds, 12 baguette-cut diamonds and 21 marquise diamonds, which were used to form the flower specifically to hold this lovely rose-colored stone.[Top]
Dorset Bow Brooch
This brooch was presented to the newly-married Queen Mary, at the time the Duchess of York. It was given by the County of Dorset, for whom it is named. [Top]
Another of Queen Mary’s famous pieces is the Kensington Brooch, a wedding gift from the people of Kensington. [Top]
These are two emerald brooches made from peices of the Duchess of Teck’s stomacher. The Duchess of Teck was the mother of Queen Mary, who passed on her love of emeralds to her imperial offspring.
Queen Mary, as well as the Duchess of Teck, favored large stomachers, jewelry designed to cover the front of a bodice. As fashions changed, stomachers became less popular and were broken down into smaller brooches. Mary had these made to match the other pieces in the Cambridge emerald parure. [Top]
King William IV had this brooch made from a dismantled Badge of the Order of the Bath, which once belonged to his father King George III. It is comprised of 6 large brilliants and smaller diamonds. A marble statue of Queen Victoria, located at the Royal College of Physicians, shows the monarch wearing this brooch that was made by her uncle. It has been worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, and Elizabeth II. [Top]
Chips from the famous Cullinan diamond, referred to as the “Lesser Stars of Africa”.
Each cleaving is numbered, and these particular chips are Cullinans III (the pear drop) and IV. The bigger chips, Cullinans I and II, are part of the Crown Jewels. Cullinan I is in the head of the Sceptre and Cullinan II, or the Lesser Star of Africa, is set on the front of the brow band of the Imperial State Crown.
The Cullinan diamond was found by miner Thomas Powell in January 1905. The stone was named for Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the diamond mine, located in South Africa. [Top]
Made of aquamarines and diamonds, this was a birthday present to then-Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday. Her Majesty wears the clips as a pair and as one piece.[Top]