We’re nearly halfway through our Platinum Jubilee countdown of ten of the Queen’s most sparkling platinum jewels, and today we’re marveling at a magnificent Cartier brooch that features a very special diamond.
When Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947, her royal wedding gifts included some truly remarkable jewels. Among the most special pieces given to her was an incredibly rare pink diamond. The gemstone had been discovered in Tanzania earlier the same year. The owner of the mine, Canadian geologist John Thoburn Williamson, decided to present the uncut pink diamond to the princess as a wedding present. The rough stone weighed in at 54.5 carats.
The presentation of such a magnificent, important diamond that had not yet been cut gave Elizabeth the opportunity to decide how she wanted the gem to be used. To help her, she recruited a very experienced royal jewelry expert: her grandmother, Queen Mary. The two of them collaborated on a plan for the gem. Above, in March 1948, Mary and Elizabeth make a joint visit to Briefel and Lemer, the diamond-cutting factory in Clerkenwell Green where the stone was being shaped. Queen Mary, true to form, reportedly asked a whole lot of questions during the visit.
After the cutting process was finished, the resulting stone weighed in at 23.6 carats. Now, Elizabeth had to decide how the stone should be set. She turned to her parents’ favorite jewelry firm, Cartier, to create a suitable setting. After considering various options—placing it in a diadem, or perhaps a necklace—she decided to have the stone placed in a brooch. The new platinum brooch, made in the shape of a jonquil flower, was designed by Frederick A. Mew of Cartier’s London branch. An additional 203 white diamonds were used to craft the jewel.
Work on the new brooch was completed in the Queen’s coronation year, 1953. The piece quickly became one of her very favorites, and she has used it over the years for a variety of different kinds of occasions. She’s worn the piece for family portraits, like this iconic image, captured by Marcus Adams in 1954, which features her with her two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
She’s worn the brooch over the years for family weddings as well, including the nuptials of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, and the wedding of the Earl of Wessex and Sophie Rhys-Jones in June 1999 (pictured above).
The brooch has also frequently been worn for state occasions. Here, in October 1955, she wears the brooch for an official welcome ceremony during President Francisco Craveiro Lopes of Portugal’s state visit to Britain.
Here, in June 2014, she wears the brooch at the Élysée Palace in Paris during a state visit to France.
And, relevant to our recent interests, she wore the brooch in June 1977 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for a service of thanksgiving celebrating her Silver Jubilee. (The outfit she wore for this service will soon be going on display in a special exhibition in Scotland!)