The British royal family has been amassing its vast collection of jaw-dropping jewels and regalia for centuries. Though some of the crown jewels have evolved over time — many are altered to fit newcomers to the royal family or reset with other precious stones from the collection — the priceless pieces remain breathtaking.
From tiaras to necklaces and brooches to rings, each and every heirloom of the British royal family has a story behind it. Let’s take a closer look at some of the sparkliest, shiniest, and most blindingly beautiful pieces of jewelry ever be fit for a queen.
Queen Mary Recycled Her Jewelry
The Delhi Durbar Tiara was originally made for Queen Mary in 1911. It was made by Garrard for a celebration in Delhi that marked the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India. Mary had this tiara made with remnants of another tiara set in platinum and gold. It used to have 10 cabochon emerald drops on top but these were later repurposed into a different tiara.
This tiara was most recently lent out to Queen Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, for her first appearance at a banquet as a member of the royal family.
Next: why some royals were less-than-impressed with Princess Di’s sapphire engagement ring
Princess Di’s Sapphire Engagement Ring
We all know the famous engagement ring formerly worn by Princess, Diana which now lives on Kate Middleton’s elegant finger. But did you know there was quite a bit of controversy around it within the royal family? When Diana picked the sapphire creation out of a Garrad catalog, some members of the family poo-pooed it because it wasn’t custom-made. For a member of royalty to pick a ring that was accessible to the common public was unheard of.
The unique ring that’s inspired copycats around the world features a 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire that’s surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds and set in 18-karat white gold.
Reinventing the Brooch
Queen Elizabeth loaned Queen Mary’s Bandeau Tiara for Meghan Markle to wear at her wedding to Prince Harry. In true fairytale fashion, Meghan got to enter her Majesty the Queen’s vault and have her pick of stunning tiaras.
In 1932 Queen Mary had the Bandeau Tiara made specifically to accommodate the centerpiece stone, which is actually a brooch. The brooch was given to Mary of Teck in 1893 as a gift from the Country of Lincoln on the occasion of her wedding to then-Prince George, Duke of York.
Ouch! This coronation ring was forced onto Victoria’s finger
The Coronation Ring That Didn’t Fit
Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the goldsmiths who made this ring of sapphire, rubies, and gold, screwed up royally in 1838. Apparently, the jewelers misunderstood the wording of the rubric given to them for the coronation and made this ring for Queen Victoria’s little finger, not the ring finger. Whoops!
Come ceremony time, the Archbishop forced it on her ring finger anyway. Queen Victoria had to soak her hand in ice water after the ceremony in order to get it off.
O Canada! What A Gift!
King George VI bought this Canadian maple leaf brooch for Queen Elizabeth during their first state visit to Canada in 1939. The brooch was bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth II after Queen Elizabeth’s passing in 2002.
The Canadian maple leaf brooch is one of the most loaned-out pieces of jewelry in the Queen’s collection. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, have both worn it several times, in addition to Queen Elizabeth II.
The Art Deco Lotus Flower Tiara Used To Be A Necklace
Keeping with the tradition of recycling other jewelry into new pieces, the Queen Mother had this tiara made from a Garrard necklace that was given to her in 1923 by her husband King George VI. She had Garrard dismantle the necklace and use the diamonds and pearls for a tiara.
The art deco-style Lotus Flower Tiara was given to Princess Margaret before her wedding to the Earl of Snowdon in 1959. In addition to Princess Margaret, her daughter-in-law Serena Stanhope and Kate Middleton have been seen wearing the tiara.
The ultimate wedding anniversary gift is coming up next
Taking The Traditional Silver Anniversary Gift Above And Beyond
Queen Alexandra’s kokoshnik tiara (a kokoshnik is a halo-shaped headdress worn by Russian women) was a silver wedding anniversary gift for the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1888. The piece has 488 diamonds set in white and yellow gold. A group of aristocratic women known as the Ladies of Society pooled their resources together to fund the gift of a blinding “blaze of diamonds.”
They must have felt they got their money’s worth, because this piece is a two-in-one! As an added bonus, it’s convertible: the tiara can be taken out of its frame and worn as a fringe necklace. It’s now owned by Queen Elizabeth II.
Next: rubies galore
Another Example Of The Repurposing Trend
Taking a page from Queen Mary and her mother, Queen Elizabeth II had this tiara made from gems she received as presents from the People of Burma for her wedding to Prince Philip. In 1973 she commissioned House of Garrard to create the Burmese Ruby tiara out of rubies and diamonds from a dismantled tiara given to her by the Nizam of Hyderabad.
The Burmese Ruby tiara features multiple Tudor rose designs and totals 96 rubies. The Burmese people believe that rubies help protect the wearer from the 96 diseases that can afflict the human body.
If you like turquoise, you’ll swoon over this next piece!
Every Girl’s Dream 21st Birthday Present
Princess Margaret’s Persian Turquoise Tiara was given to her by her mother on her 21st birthday along with a matching necklace, pendant earrings, a large square brooch, and several hair pieces. The tiara was created by Garrard in the early 1900s.
This stunning tiara has not been seen in public since Margaret’s death in 2002. There is some speculation about who owns the tiara today. Some think it was inherited by one of Margaret’s children, while others believe it was returned to the royal collection. Wherever it is, here’s hoping this beautiful turquoise tiara makes an appearance again.
The Lover’s Knot Tiara
The Lover’s Knot tiara, also known as the Cambridge Lover’s Knot, was a favorite of Princess Diana’s and has been worn multiple times by Kate Middleton as well. It was lent to Diana on her wedding day by Queen Elizabeth II and returned after her divorce from Prince Charles.
The gleaming tiara was created for Queen Mary in 1914 by Garrard and was made from pearls and diamonds already owned by the family. Queen Mary was inspired by her grandmother Princess Augusta of Hesse’s tiara and wanted this one made to look just like it.
The next diadem is worn exclusively by queens
The King George IV State Diadem is worn exclusively by queens even though it was made for a king. King George IV initially ordered the crown from Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell in 1820 and wore it on the way to his coronation (as did Elizabeth on her way to hers). It is constructed of gold, silver, diamonds, and pearls.
Queen Elizabeth II wears this impressive diadem when traveling to and from the State Opening of Parliament at Westminister and for many official portraits.
Let’s Brooch the Subject
It’s no secret that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth just loves a brooch. The Kent Amethyst Brooch is part of a set of amethysts owned by the British royal family. The first owner of the set was Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent. It includes a necklace, a pair of hair combs, a pair of earrings, and three brooches.
Queen Elizabeth wears the brooches most frequently and has only been seen publicly wearing the necklace and earrings once, at a banquet in 1984.
Nothing screams ‘royalty’ like a neck covered in gigantic, glistening diamonds. The Coronation Necklace and matching diamond earrings have been worn by every queen since Queen Victoria. The set consists of 25 gigantic diamonds. The teardrop diamond in the center is a whopping 22.48-carat stone known as the Lahore Diamond.
Queen Victoria pulled the Lahore Diamond from a ruby tiara she had and commissioned Gerrard to add it to the necklace. The matching earrings, worn by Queen Elizabeth II in this photo, were also pieces from that tiara.
Ariel Would Probably Rock This Aquamarine Tiara
Queen Elizabeth ordered Gerrard to create the Brazilian Aquamarine Tiara to match a pair of aquamarine earrings and a necklace she received from Brazil for her coronation.
Over the years, the Brazilians kept gifting Her Majesty with exquisite aquamarine gems and jewelry. As she received them she continuously swapped and added aquamarines to the tiara to make it even grander. This is one of the tiaras the Queen pulls out of the vault to wear the most.
One Of The Largest Diamonds Ever Discovered
The Imperial State Crown is really something. It was made for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 and is set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires (the largest being 104 carats), 11 emeralds and 269 pearls upon a purple velvet cap with ermine band.
The largest stone on the crown is called Cullinan II, or the “Second Star of Africa”, and weighs a jaw-dropping 317.4 carats. Traditionally worn by the monarch for his or her coronation, it was adjusted to fit Queen Elizabeth II when she took the throne in 1953.
Next: a (brief) break from diamonds
The Japanese Pearl Choker
Queen Elizabeth II commissioned this choker in the early 1980s using cultured pearls that were a gift from the Japanese government. She has loaned it to Princess Diana for a banquet and to Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, who paired the necklace with Diana’s pearl and diamond earrings.
The choker consists of four delicate strands of pearls meeting at the center diamond pendant. Fun fact about pearls: Just like snowflakes, no two pearls are exactly alike.
This honeycomb-style tiara was a favorite of the late Queen Mother’s and is a favorite of the Duchess of Cornwall’s today. With no heirs of her own, it was bequeathed to the Queen Mother by wealthy socialite and brewery heiress Margaret Greville in 2002, along with all her other rare jewels.
Made by Boucheron, it’s one of the sparkliest tiaras in the royal collection. The Queen Mother upped the bling on this tiara and had it made even larger, asking Cartier to add a marquise-shaped diamond in the center.
The Emerald City of Tiaras
The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara is another piece left by the Queen Mother after she died. It hadn’t been seen in public for almost a century until Queen Elizabeth lent the tiara to Princess Eugenie for her wedding day.
It was made by the Parisian jewelry house Boucheron in 1919 and consists of rose-cut pave diamonds set in platinum and adorned with six emeralds. The largest oval-shaped emerald stone clocks in at 93.7 carats. Like Queen Alexandria’s tiara, this one is in the kokoshnik style popularized by the Russian Imperial Court.
Greville’s Gifts Endure
The Greville Ruby Necklace is yet another treasure from the Greville haul. It was made by Boucheron in 1907. Queen Elizabeth II received this necklace as a wedding gift from her parents, King George VI and the Queen Mother.
This diamond and ruby necklace has not been worn in public since the 1980s. Her Majesty took it out of the vault and lent it to the Duchess of Cambridge, who wore it to the Spanish State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in 2017. She paired it with the pictured deep-v soft pink Marchesa gown.
The Scroll Diamond Tiara Has Adorned Many Royal Heads
Prince Charles’ sister, Princess Anne, is seen here wearing the Scroll Diamond Tiara (Cartier Halo Tiara). Anne stopped wearing the tiara publicly in the 1970s, but it made a big reappearance when Kate Middleton famously wore it at her 2011 wedding to Prince William.
As the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Anne traveled frequently to represent her family. This photo is from a formal event in March 1970, during an official trip to New Zealand.
Sapphires Are A Family Favorite
Here we are given the chance to take a peek back through history and see the Queen Mother wearing some of her favorite jewels, known as the diamond and sapphire fringe earrings, in 1986 as she attended a birthday celebration.
On the right, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wore the same pair of earrings as she arrived at a gala at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on October 27, 2015.
Queen Mary’s Diamond Bar Choker/Bracelet
This sparkling art-deco styled diamond choker was first owned by Queen Mary. After her death in 1953, the piece was not seen in public until the Queen Mother wore if for her 75th birthday portrait. It’s now owned by Queen Elizabeth.
In recent years, Kate Middleton has been spotted more than once wearing it as a bracelet. This photo from June 22 shows Prince William and Kate at a gala dinner benefitting East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.
Queen Victoria Received This Brooch As A Wedding Gift
This gorgeous sapphire brooch is said to be one of the Queen’s most treasured pieces of jewelry. It was a gift presented to her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria by her fiance Prince Albert the day before they were wed.
Victoria admired the brooch so much that she wore it many times after her wedding day. Queen Elizabeth also wears it frequently. This photo shows her at a reception for secretaries held at The Queen’s Gallery in 2017.
Meghan Markle’s Engagement Ring Holds Special Meaning For Prince Harry
Talk about romantic! Prince Harry designed the engagement ring he proposed to Meghan Markle with. The completely unique piece was custom-made by the famed jeweler British Cleave & Co. for Harry.
It features a three-carat cushion-cut diamond from Botswana, which is a country dear to the couple. Set in a yellow gold band, the diamond side stones were given to Harry by his mother, the late Princess Diana. How very touching.
Generations Have Worn This Necklace
Princess Alexandra of Denmark received this necklace as a gift on the eve of her wedding in 1863. The jewelry is now known as Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Necklace, and it was eventually passed down to the Queen Mother.
Upon her passing in 2002, the necklace became the property of Queen Elizabeth. As we’ve seen time and time again, the queen is generous in lending out her jewels. Here’s Kate Middleton wearing it to an official event in 2018.
Princess Victoria “Disposed” Of This Tiara
This tiara, seen atop Queen Alexandra’s head, has not been seen in over a century. Although it’s known as the Rundell Tiara, and there was a jeweler named Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, this piece was actually made by the jeweler Gerrard. It was part of a set that also included earrings, a necklace, and a brooch.
According to a book called In The Queen’s Diamonds by Hugh Roberts, the tiara was bequeathed to Alexandra’s daughter Princess Victoria and was “disposed of by her.”
The Sovereign’s Orb Contains 600 Gems And Pearls
The solid gold piece on the left is called the Sovereign’s Orb, which is part of the royal family’s coronation regalia. It was initially made for the 1661 coronation of Charles II and has been used at all coronations since.
The impressive orb contains more than 600 gems and pearls, including diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and amethyst. When William and Mary came to the throne as King and Queen in 1689, an orb was made for her as well (seen on the right). Both orbs were placed on Queen Victoria’s coffin during her funeral.
Crazy about tiaras? Read on for information about the most stunning royal tiaras of all time!
The City Of London Diamond Fringe Tiara
On April 24, 1963, Princess Alexandra of Kent was married to Angus James Ogilvy at Westminster Abbey. She is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth.
For the occasion, Alexandra wore the City of London diamond fringe tiara, which features diamonds that are set in both gold and silver. The jewelry had belonged to her mother, Princess Marina, who had a similar style for her own wedding. We’ll see her bridal ensemble later.
Queen Elizabeth Has The Largest Collection Of Tiaras In The World
Queen Elizabeth II became Head of the Commonwealth in 1952 after her father, King George VI, died. In the time since, she’s amassed a huge number of jaw-dropping tiaras and is thought to have one of the most extensive collections in the world.
Pictured here are Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on their wedding day in 1947. The tiara she wore had formerly belonged to Queen Mary, her grandmother.
A Beaming Princess Diana
It’s hard to upstage a piece of jewelry as stunning as the tiara seen here, but Princess Diana managed to do just that with her beautiful and beaming smile. This photo was taken in November of 1981.
Diana and Princess Anne were photographed while en route to the State Opening of Parliament. They’re riding in the glass coach that was used in Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles just months earlier.
Autumn Kelly Wore The Kent Festoon Tiara
Autumn Patricia Kelly married Princess Anne’s son, Peter Phillips, on May 17, 2008. Anne lent it to Autumn for the special day. Although the tiara was given to Anne the same year she was married to Mark Phillips, it was not a wedding gift. It had been given to her by the World Wide Shipping Group as a gift in 1973 after she christened a ship for them.
Princess Anne wears the tiara frequently. It’s thought to be one of her favorites.
Duchess Catherine’s Fairytale Wedding Tiara
When Kate Middleton married Prince William on April 29, 2011, the entire world watched. Their wedding was a real-life fairytale, and Kate’s bridal jewelry fit the bill.
For the big day, Kate wore the Cartier Halo Tiara, also referred to as the Scroll Diamond Tiara. It was made in 1936 and was presented as a gift from King George VI to his wife Elizabeth (also known as the Queen Mum).
The Original Fergie Married In Style
Sarah Ferguson married Prince Andrew at Westminster Abbey in 1986. She wore a headpiece called the York Diamond Tiara, which is said to have been purchased for her by the Queen.
Sarah continued to wear the tiara and kept it after her marriage to Andrew ended in divorce in 1996. She was last seen wearing it publicly at Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball in 2001. Many people predicted that her daughter, Princess Eugenie, would wear the York Diamond Tiara for her 2018 wedding. Instead, she opted to borrow an emerald tiara from the Queen.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Sophie Rhys-Jones became the Countess of Wessex when she married Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, in 1999. Sophie wore a silk organza gown that was embellished with 325,000 crystals and pearls.
At the wedding, Sophie also debuted a tiara that hadn’t been seen in public before. Some have speculated that the jewels were on loan from Queen Elizabeth’s personal collection. Others think the tiara might have been crafted from jewels that had belonged to Queen Victoria.
Margaret’s Fashion Style Inspired This Look
The Earl of Harrington’s daughter Serena Stanhope married Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon’s son Lord Linley in 1993. She is now known as Viscountess Linley. Serena’s custom-made dress was created as a tribute to her mother-in-law’s wedding gown. She also wore one of Margaret’s favorite tiaras, the Lotus Flower Tiara.
Kate Middleton has been spotted in this tiara, most famously during a 2015 state banquet at Buckingham Palace. For that event, she wore a red Jenny Packham gown.
Lady Rose Gilman (born Lady Rose Victoria Birgitte Louise Windsor), a daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, was married to George Gilman in 2007. She wore a long white couture gown for the event, as well as a stunning tiara with a very special history.
The Iveagh Tiara was originally a wedding gift to Queen Mary. It’s also been worn by two Duchesses of Gloucester, Alice and Birgitte.
This Tiara Paid Tribute To Her Parents
Laura Lopes is the daughter of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Camilla’s former husband, Andrew Parker Bowles. Prince Charles is her stepfather.
For her 2006 marriage to Harry Lopes, Laura topped off her look with the Cubitt-Shand Tiara. It belongs to Camilla, who wore it on the day she married Laura’s father, Andrew! The tiara belonged to Camilla’s grandmother, Sonia Keppel, who left it to daughter Rosalind (Camilla’s mother) upon her death.
Diamonds And Pearls
Lady Helen Taylor, née Windsor, is the only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. She is currently 42nd in line to the British throne. Taylor had a career in fashion as the muse of designer Giorgio Armani.
She married art dealer Timothy Taylor in 1992 and wore the distinctive Kent Diamond and Pearl Fringe Tiara for the event. We’ve seen that tiara quite a few times, and it’s always a stunner.
A Versatile Tiara
Lady Sarah Chatto, a painter, is Princess Margaret’s daughter. She is currently 23rd in line to the British throne (she was seventh when she was born). Sarah appears to have inherited her mother’s fabulous tastes in fashion.
For her 1994 wedding to Daniel Chatto, she wore the Snowdon Floral Tiara, which was made from three different brooches belonging to Magaret. The wedding was the only time the brooches were publicly worn as a tiara.
Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark became the Duchess of Kent when she married Prince George on November 29, 1934. Here is a photo of the couple on that happy day.
Marina is wearing a tiara very similar to the City of London diamond fringe tiara that we covered earlier. It had been a gift from the city of London to commemorate her marriage. She loaned the tiara pictured here to her daughter, Princess Alexandra, for her wedding day.