Queen Elizabeth II has an impressive collection of jewelry set with September’s birthstone, the sapphire, but few have as long a personal history as today’s piece, the Sapphire Chrysanthemum Brooch.
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The brooch, which features sapphires and diamonds set in platinum to form a chrysanthemum design, has been in the Queen’s collection for decades. It’s a rare piece that dates from before either her wedding or her accession to the throne; she received it in 1946 when she launched an oil tanker, appropriately named the British Princess.
From the start, Elizabeth chose the brooch for important events. In April 1948, she wore the brooch in Grosvenor Square for the unveiling of a memorial to American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A few weeks later, she wore the brooch during an important visit to Paris — more specifically, for a speech that warned against the dangers of nationalism at the Galliera Museum.
She has also worn the brooch for important family occasions, including multiple family portrait sessions. Above, in October 1950, she wears the brooch for an early portrait with Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and baby Princess Anne.
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The Queen’s jewelry box expanded exponentially in the early 1950s, following her accession and the death of Queen Mary, but the brooch remained a frequently worn piece. Above, she wears the brooch for a visit to the tomb of the late Empress Menen Asfaw of Ethiopia in February 1965.
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In June 1991, the Queen wore the brooch on a powdery blue coat for the Epsom Derby. The “stem” of the brooch is especially visible against the pastel color.
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Most often, however, the Queen has chosen to wear the brooch with clothes in brighter shades of royal blue. Here, during a luncheon with Robert and Grace Mugabe at Buckingham Palace in March 1997, a decade before the honorary knighthood granted to him by Britain was removed.
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She wore the brooch with a similarly hued coat in May 1998, when she joined Canadian PM Jean Chretien to inspect the honor guard, then composed of members of Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, at Buckingham Palace.
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The setting of the sapphires in the chrysanthemum’s center is especially evident in this photograph, taken in June 2000 during a visit to Cardiff University.
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Seven decades after the brooch landed in the Queen’s jewelry box, she’s still wearing it. A recent high-profile appearance for the brooch came in April 2015, when the Queen wore it on a light blue jacket for Easter Sunday services at Windsor.
Perhaps most famously, though, the then-Princess Elizabeth wore the brooch for a series of portraits taken with Prince Philip at Broadlands during their honeymoon in 1947.
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The Queen wore the brooch again in November 2007 as she and Philip recreated a famous image from the series at Broadlands in honor of their 60th wedding anniversary.