19 December 2020

The Cullinan V Brooch

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If I could pick one dream royal brooch to be waiting for me under the Christmas tree this year, it would have to be this one! Here's a closer look at the history of the fabulous Cullinan V Brooch.

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The brooch is one of the most wearable pieces of jewelry to have come from the great Cullinan Diamond. The incredible diamond, named for the man who owned the mine in which it was found, was discovered in South Africa in 1905. The uncut diamond weighed more than a pound and measured at more than 3000 carats, far surpassing the size of any other diamond that had ever been found.

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The diamond was presented to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom in 1907. (The process of getting the king to accept the diamond was complicated—more on all that over here.) The job of cutting the immense stone was given to the Asschers, who famously had to come up with new tools to be able to handle such an enormous stone. The process of cutting and polishing the stones that came from the Cullinan took almost an entire year. About 2000 carats of the original stone were lost. The product of the Asschers' work was nine magnificent diamonds, ranging in size from 530.2 to 4.4 carats, plus 96 smaller brilliants. Today, all nine of the biggest diamonds belong to the British royals, with the largest two set in the Crown Jewels.

Grand Ladies Site

The Cullinan V, which is the stone set in the brooch we're discussing today, is a diamond that is often described as "heart-shaped." It's a major royal diamond, weighing in at almost nineteen carats. When Queen Mary was deciding how she wanted to use the various Cullinan stones, she planned for the Cullinan V to be a multi-purpose piece, used in different jewelry items. She wore it on her crown for the 1937 coronation, and she often used it in the center element of her honeysuckle tiara. (Once that tiara was given to Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, a different diamond center element was constructed. Mary gave away the tiara but kept the Cullinan V.)

Grand Ladies Site

Usually, though, Queen Mary kept the brooch in its lovely brooch setting, which frames the Cullinan V in platinum and diamond scrolls and laurels, with lovely sunray details. That didn't keep her from continuing to innovate with it, though; for example, she wore the brooch as part of the grand Delhi Durbar Stomacher. She also wore it in a configuration with the Cullinan VI and VIII Brooch.

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When Queen Mary died in 1953, the brooch was passed, along with the lion's share of the rest of her jewelry, to her granddaughter, the new Queen Elizabeth II. She has owned it ever since. It's remarkable to think that this fantastic royal brooch, made in 1911, has only been owned and worn by two royal women in its 109-year history.

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The Queen began wearing the Cullinan V Brooch early and often after inheriting it from her grandmother. It features in numerous photographs from throughout her reign. Above, she wears it for the christening of her godson, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, in December 1956.

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I'm particularly fond of this early photograph of the Queen wearing the brooch with a pair of sunglasses. She's watching the Duke of Edinburgh play in a cricket match at Highclere in August 1958.


The brooch has remained a mainstay in the Queen's jewelry collection for more than half a century, and she still wears it very frequently today, and for a wide range of occasions. It's often spotted, for example, during holiday celebrations. Above, in 2004, she wears it for the Royal Maundy service at Liverpool Cathedral.

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And here, in December 2008, she wears it for her annual Christmas Broadcast.

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The brooch is often packed in the Queen's luggage for royal tours and state visits, too. Here, in November 2010, she wears it during a state visit to Oman.

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The brooch is sentimental enough for holidays, and grand enough for diplomatic events, but it's also perfect for a day at the races. You'll often spot it on the Queen at events like Royal Ascot. Here, in 2016, she wears it for the Epsom Derby.

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The brooch's heart shape makes it perfectly suited for romantic royal weddings as well. In October 2018, she wore it for the wedding of her granddaughter, Princess Eugenie, at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.


And, because it's a Cullinan, it also has stately links to the enormous diamonds in the crown jewel regalia. When the Queen isn't wearing the Imperial State Crown or the Diamond Diadem for the state opening of parliament, she wears the Cullinan V Brooch. The piece has been chosen for both "dressed-down" state openings in the last five years, including the appearance above from December 2019.

The Royal Family

Our most recent glimpse of the brooch came this summer, when the Queen wore it for the official portrait taken to mark the Duke of Edinburgh's 99th birthday.

And the brooch has gotten a lot of love in 2020 from all of you, too! It was the winner of our inaugural Tournament of Brooches this year! No wonder—just look at that sparkle!