02 April 2021

95 Years, 95 Jewels: Part 9 (March 1953)

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Our celebration of the Queen's upcoming 95th birthday continues with more of her sparkling inheritance from Queen Mary. This time, we're focusing on one of the grandest parts of that collection: some of the jewels set with the Cullinan Diamonds and Cambridge Emeralds.

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This grand tiara was made for Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, wife of Grand Duke Vladimir, around 1870, and then smuggled out of Russia by a British diplomat during the revolution. Queen Mary bought it from Maria Pavlovna's daughter, Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark, in 1921. The tiara was originally hung with pearl drops; Mary had it converted so it could also be worn with drops from the Cambridge emerald collection. The tiara has remained one of the Queen's most-worn pieces in the decades since she inherited it in 1953.

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Elizabeth II inherited this magnificent diamond and emerald negligee necklace, worn by Queen Mary at the 1911 Delhi Durbar, in 1953. The emeralds in the necklace came from the Cambridge emeralds, which had been won by Mary's great-grandmother, in a German state-sponsored charity lottery in 1818. The marquise diamond pendant is one of the Cullinan diamonds (Cullinan VII, to be precise). Since Elizabeth did not inherit the Delhi Durbar Tiara from Mary—that piece remained with the Queen Mother until 2002—she has generally paired this necklace with the Vladimir Tiara in its Cambridge emerald setting.

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In 1905, the largest diamond ever discovered was found in the Cullinan mine in South Africa. Two years later, the enormous diamond was presented to King Edward VII. Over the next year, the 3100 carat stone was cut and polished into nine major stones. In 1910, the new king, George V, ordered that the largest two stones should be set in the Imperial State Crown and the scepter. The next two biggest diamonds, Cullinan III and IV, were made into a brooch. Queen Mary bequeathed the brooch to the Queen in 1953; she has jokingly referred to the enormous diamond brooch as "Granny's Chips." Fittingly, the Queen chose to wear this brooch during the celebrations for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

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The Cullinan V stone is a heart-shaped diamond; Queen Mary had it placed in a lovely brooch setting by Garrard in 1911. (She also sometimes wore it with her honeysuckle tiara, which now belongs to the Gloucesters.) The Queen inherited the brooch in 1953, and she has worn it consistently throughout her reign. It continues to be one of her most-worn brooches today.


The Cullinan VI stone belonged to Queen Alexandra privately; she bequeathed it to Queen Mary in 1925. Mary generally wore it linked together with the Cullinan VIII stone, and it was bequeathed in that configuration to the Queen in 1953.

More of our celebration is coming your way next!