25 October 2020

The Graving Dock Diamond Brooch

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The Queen's brooch collection is filled with pieces that date to the early part of her life, as well as newer pieces that have been acquired later. Today's brooch, the Graving Dock Diamond Brooch, sort of fits into both categories.


Princess Elizabeth in South Africa in March 1947, flanked by the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret (Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


In 1947, Princess Elizabeth made her first overseas trip, accompanying her parents and her sister on an extensive tour of South Africa. On March 4, she made her first solo appearance during the trip, opening the new Graving Dock in East London on the southern coast of South Africa. After making a speech, the princess received a stunning gift from the South African Railways Administration. The Scotsman reported that a Mrs. Sturrock, on behalf of the administration, "presented Princess Elizabeth with a set of five diamonds cut to form a bracelet when mounted." Of the five diamonds, the largest center stone "a magnificent pure white oblong diamond, weighs nine carats." The article added that the "set is officially valued at £3700, although the market value would be higher." Translating that amount to a present-day value is difficult, but every calculator I've used agrees that the diamonds would be worth well over £100,000, and perhaps much more than that.


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Though the news reports indicate that the diamonds were intended to be set in a bracelet, at some point the Queen had them set in a brooch instead. We don't know when the diamonds were placed in the brooch setting. The setting of the brooch does echo the jewelry trends of the 1940s, with a definite late Art Deco feel. But more than half a century elapsed between the time that Princess Elizabeth received the diamonds and Queen Elizabeth II wore them in public for the first time.


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That occasion was the Commonwealth Reception at Marlborough House in London in March 2014. The diamonds, having come from a Commonwealth country, are now often worn at events related to the Commonwealth of Nations.


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Since then, the Queen has worn the brooch on several occasions. In June 2016, the Queen wore it for a trip to Northern Ireland. She paired it with a springy green coat, which acted as an excellent backdrop of the piece and gave photographers a chance to snap detailed pictures of the brooch.


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A few weeks later, in July 2016, she wore the brooch again, this time for an audience at Buckingham Palace with the Governor of New South Wales.


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The brooch was an appropriate choice for another occasion at Buckingham Palace in April 2018: the unveiling of a new panel on the palace's Commonwealth Walkway.


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One of the Queen's most recent appearances in the brooch came in November 2018, when she opened the new headquarters of Schroders in the City of London.