No one has a diamond jewelry collection quite as vast, historic and intentionally impressive as Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrates her 95th birthday this month. There are many deeply personal pieces such as the wide diamond bracelet she received from her beloved Prince Philip, who died on April 9, as a wedding present. Her collection also contains historic and quite intentionally impressive jewels.
According to Sir Hugh Roberts, author of the official 2018 publication The Queen’s Diamonds, “Kings and queens of England, since at least the sixteenth century, have subscribed to the view that diamonds should be accumulated as a necessary part of the outward show of monarchy and as a visible representation of the wealth and influence of the country and its rulers.”
Queen Elizabeth II loves jewelry and is happy to flaunt the treasures from her personal collection as well as the official crown treasury. During a rare interview covering her jewels for the BBC documentary The Coronation, the Queen’s passion for the subject was on full display. In it she says, “the more jewels the better.”
So among all the Queen’s diamond jewels, which are her favorite? While she does adore the giant Cullinan diamonds in the brooch she delightfully nicknamed “Granny’s Chips,” which she received from her grandmother, Queen Mary, there are also many designs that are, at least by the Queen’s standards, a little easier to wear.
Discover below the jewels that Queen Elizabeth II has kept in her regular rotation for decades.
Queen Mary’s Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara
The names of many items in Queen Elizabeth’s collection are straight forward descriptions of the designs. Others reference the original owner and sometimes they also include the person or group who gifted the jewel.
Queen Mary’s Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara falls into the latter category. The tiara by the British jeweler Graff was given to Queen Mary when she was a princess in 1893 as a wedding present from a group called the ‘Girls of Great Britain and Ireland.’
Queen Mary gave the jewel to Elizabeth as a wedding present in 1947. For her first official portrait as monarch taken in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II wore the tiara. She is also depicted wearing it on some British coinage and banknotes.
Queen Elizabeth’s Festoon Necklace
For glamorous occasions, the Queen has often paired Queen Mary’s Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara with the Festoon necklace. The triple strand diamond statement jewel was commissioned by Elizabeth’s father King George VI for her mother from Garrard in 1950.
The jewel is composed of 105 gems from the Crown collection. The rest of the gems in the jewel are believed to have been provided by Garrard. Interestingly the style of the setting features cut-down collets of silver backed by gold. The technique dates to the Georgian era and makes the jewel seem like a stylish antique.
Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Brooch
Bow brooches are a leitmotif that weaves throughout the Queen’s collection. She has at least six, but none are quite as impressive as Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Brooch. The large-scale jewel was made during the late 19th century. Mary acquired it in 1932 and bequeathed it to Elizabeth.
The sovereign has worn the piece on several important occasions including to the royal weddings of Princess Margaret in 1960 and Prince William in 2011.
The Queen’s Williamson Pink Diamond Brooch
The Queen received a 54.5 carat rough pink diamond in 1947 as a wedding present from the Canadian geologist, Dr. John Thorburn Williamson, a royalist who owned the Mwadui mine in Tanzania where it was discovered. It took two months for the lapidaries in London to cut the stone into a 23.6 carat round brilliant-cut diamond. The Queen and the Queen Mother checked in on the progress repeatedly.
The gem was set in a white diamond flower brooch designed by Frederick Mew of Cartier in London in 1953.
The Queen has worn the brooch to several significant events including her Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981. In 2011, she sported the design to the horse races at Royal Ascot.
The Cullinan V Brooch
When the 3,106 carat rough Cullinan diamond was discovered in South Africa in 1905, it was the largest gem ever mined. Named after the mine’s chairman Thomas Cullinan, it was gifted to Britain’s King Edward VII in 1907. The monarch had master lapidary Joseph Asscher cut the historic diamond.
The rough yielded eight important stones, with two of the biggest weighing in at approximately 63 and 94 carats; these became known as Cullinan III and IV and were set in the Granny’s chips brooch.
Cullinan V, which is shaped somewhat like a heart, weighs comparatively much less at 18.8 carats. It is set in a romantic Edwardian style platinum and diamond brooch featuring scrolls and a laurel pattern.
Queen Elizabeth loves the jewel and has worn it steadily since Queen Mary bequeathed it to her in 1953. A few years ago, she memorably wore the magnificent jewel when she joined Anna Wintour in the front row of a British designer Richard Quinn’s fashion show.