05 March 2017

Sundays with Victoria: The Small Diamond Crown

Caroline de Guitaut displays Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown
(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Tonight is the season finale of Victoria on PBS, and to celebrate, we're looking at one of Victoria's signature pieces of jewelry: her small diamond crown.

Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The crown was made in 1870 by Garrard; that's the firm's signature "diamond and dot" pattern at the piece's base. The crown is packed with more than 1100 diamonds -- some of which were likely recycled from the chaine de corsage that originally accompanied the diamond fringe brooch -- but it's tiny, measuring about 10 centimeters in diameter. The crown can be made even smaller by removing the arches.

Queen Victoria wears the Small Diamond Crown, the Coronation Necklace and Earrings, and the Koh-i-Noor Diamond

Because of its size, the crown also extremely lightweight, so it's no wonder that Victoria favored the piece. Caroline de Guitaut calls the crown "the most recognisable jewel of Queen Victoria's middle and old age." In 1870, Queen Victoria was nearly a decade into her mourning for Prince Albert -- a period that lasted for the rest of her life. de Guitaut argues that the crown was made to satisfy "the need for a formal head ornament of colourless stones, suitable for mourning." She notes that Victoria "found it impossible to wear her coloured jewels that were so associated with happier times" after Albert's death. This is mostly true, but we know that Victoria did wear some of her colorful jewels, including the sapphire coronet and the crown opals, during her long widowhood.

Queen Victoria wears the Small Diamond Crown without its arches, pairing it with diamond and pearl jewelry

Victoria wore the small diamond crown for the first time at the State Opening of Parliament in 1871. It featured in some of the most important portrait images of the monarch during the latter years of her reign. She was photographed in the complete crown for her 1887 Golden Jubilee portrait; her 1897 Diamond Jubilee portrait (actually taken in 1893) featured her wearing the crown without the arches.

Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

When Victoria died in 1901, the crown was placed atop her coffin as it traveled from Osborne to London. Queen Alexandra received the piece after Victoria's death, and she wore fairly frequently, often to the State Opening of Parliament. Since 1937, the tiny crown has lived in the Tower of London, where it is on display with the Crown Jewels.