23 April 2012

The Cullinans, Part 2: Granny's Chips

Apart from the stones set in the Crown Jewels, these two diamonds – known as Cullinan III and IV, or the Third and Fourth Stars of Africa, or just “Granny’s Chips” (more on that nickname in a bit) - are the most famous Cullinan chippings.
The Cullinan Brooch
Cullinan III is a pear-shaped 94.4 carat diamond and is suspended from Cullinan IV, a square-cut 63.6 carat diamond, in the famous silver Cullinan Brooch setting. They were both given to Queen Mary in 1910 by the South African government, along with Cullinans V and VII through IX, and the rest of the miscellaneous leftover chippings. As I mentioned before, these stones were initially left with the Asscher company as a fee for cutting down the Cullinan Diamond, and new government of the Union of South Africa bought them and gave them back to Mary.

Queen Mary loved her Cullinan chips, these two perhaps most of all. I know I say it over and over again, but she really was one of the most creative royals when it came to jewels, and that is never more evident than when you look at what she did with these two large diamonds.
Queen Mary with various uses of these two diamonds
Spotting Cullinans in photos of Mary is essentially a sparkly version of Where’s Waldo? In the above pictures starting from the left, III and IV were temporarily set in the new crown she had made for herself for her 1911 coronation alongside her husband, George V (the pear diamond was mounted upright on the top cross, while the square diamond was nestled front and center on the base of the crown). She also mounted both or just one in the Delhi Durbar Tiara made for her for the Indian celebration of her husband’s accession; she occasionally replaced the Lahore Diamond pendant on the Coronation Necklace with both or just one of the stones; and at least once, she used III as a diamond pendant on her Ladies of India emerald necklace.
Queen Mary with the brooch
But the most famous use of these two Cullinans is in that brooch – so simple, yet so huge. Mounted front and center on Mary’s outfits, in this setting these diamonds saw all the important family events, including her children’s weddings and Princess Elizabeth’s wedding, plus the 1937 coronation and more.
Queen Elizabeth
All of the smaller Cullinans (everything except I and II) were kept by Mary until her death in 1953, when they passed to the current queen. She hasn’t moved them these two out of their brooch setting, and has only used the jewel a handful of times. She has, however, given this brooch (which can simply be called the Cullinan Brooch) its amusing nickname. "Granny's Chips" is sometimes used to refer to all of the Cullinan chippings, but specifically it's about this brooch.
Queen Elizabeth at Asscher's in 1958
While on a state visit to the Netherlands in 1958, Queen Elizabeth visited Asscher’s, the site of the initial Cullinan cutting. Present for the visit was Louis Asscher, who had witnessed the cutting of the great diamond in 1908. The queen wore the huge brooch for the visit, and as she removed it so Mr. Asscher could have a better look - a gesture which was said to have reduced him to tears - she was overheard casually referring to it as “Granny’s Chips”. You know, because 158 total carats isn’t really that big of a deal. (I suppose, compared to the brooch you can make out of Cullinans I and II, "chips" seems appropriate.) Click here to see the sparkle of Her Majesty's 1958 visit.

Photos: Mirror/Corbis/Leslie Field