13 April 2012

The Queen's Top 10 Diamonds: #10. Victoria's Fringe Brooch

History and carat weight are both going to factor heavily into this countdown, and our starter piece has both in spades.
Queen Victoria's Fringe Brooch
Queen Victoria's diamond fringe brooch (alternately referred to as a waterfall or tassel brooch) has all of these qualities in abundance. The piece includes a huge emerald-cut brilliant diamond surrounded by brilliants with an outer row of 12 large diamonds. From this, 9 swinging strings of diamonds are suspended.
Queen Victoria
It was made for Queen Victoria in 1856, when Garrard remodeled an existing jewel from her collection to add in diamonds she received as a gift from the Sultan of Turkey earlier that year.
Queen Alexandra (left and center), Queen Mary (right)
It's been worn by all queens since Victoria: next was Queen Alexandra, and after her, Queen Mary. After King George VI acceded the throne, this brooch was among the jewels Mary handed over to her daughter-in-law (and new queen) Elizabeth. The future Queen Mother made frequent use of the brooch, giving it a spotlight unseen in its history: on her, the brooch saw events like the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II and the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
This brooch was really designed to be worn at the bodice of a dress, to complement the low necklines popular at the time of its creation. The Queen Mother also wore it up on her shoulder as she traditionally wore her brooches, though less successfully as the long strings were prone to getting jumbled or slanting to one side.
Queen Elizabeth II
The brooch passed to the current queen when the Queen Mother died in 2002, and she's worn it once since (that we know of): for the state visit from Turkey, appropriately. She even wore it as it was intended to be worn, at the center of her neckline. This sparkly brooch will be included in the exhibition of the queen's diamonds at Buckingham Palace this summer.

It's not the biggest brooch in the collection, this is true. But it's seen its way through four generations and counting, and it's got enough heft to come in at number 10 in my countdown.

Photos: Queen Elizabeth II/The Royal Collection/Corbis/Daylife