19 April 2012

The Queen's Top 10 Diamonds: #3. The Coronation Necklace

There are plenty of necklaces in Queen Elizabeth's collection, from small to large and from fancy to simple. But I think the most regal one of all is the one that needs no fancy motifs or designs. Nothing says "I'm the Queen!" like giant diamonds, pure and simple.
The Coronation Necklace and Earrings
This necklace features 26 of those giant diamonds. Set in silver, gold and platinum, the 25 set in the main necklace are a range of sizes up to 11.25 carats. The 26th diamond is the Lahore Diamond, the 22.48 carat pendant which was previously suspended from the Timur Ruby necklace from India. The pendants on the earrings were also formerly part of the Timur Ruby setting and the setting of the Koh-i-Noor at various points. Queen Victoria commissioned this set from Garrard in 1858 using stones that were removed from two unused badges of the Order of the Garter and one sword hilt.
Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria was very careful about which jewels she wore; at the beginning of her reign, she was a petite young girl with an image to project (and in later years, a widow constantly conscious of maintaining her mourning status). She grew fond of a necklace of large diamond collets that had belonged to Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III whose jewels were left in dispute after her death between her Hanover relatives and the British royal family. When the dispute was decided in the King of Hanover's favor, Queen Victoria lost her precious necklace and this one was commissioned as a replacement. The original necklace included 28 stones and added up to a whopping 161 carats; 3 were removed later on. Victoria left the set to the Crown in her will.
Coronations, left to right: Queens Alexandra, Mary, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth II
Though the set might most accurately be called Queen Victoria's Diamond Necklace and Earrings, it has become known as the Coronation Necklace and Earrings in the years since Queen Victoria's passing. Every queen since Victoria has worn this necklace at her coronation: Queen Alexandra in 1902, Queen Mary in 1911, Queen Elizabeth in 1937, and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Queen Alexandra (left) and Queen Mary (center and right) with substituted pendants
Both Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary piled plenty of other necklaces on and around this one. Mary, as we know, was very creative with her jewels, and occasionally switched out the Lahore pendant for some of her Cullinan diamonds.
Queen Elizabeth's crown, and Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth, the future Queen Mother, reportedly swapped out a few of the diamonds for collets from other necklaces to make a second pair of earrings. She used the Lahore Diamond upright in the top cross of her crown, wearing only the chain with no pendant at the 1937 coronation (at this point, the diamond was actually cut down a bit to its current size). And in her own version of piling on the necklaces, she sometimes added a second longer collet necklace which was a present from the king to mark their coronation.
Queen Elizabeth II
The necklace and earrings transferred to the current queen when she came to the throne. Unsurprisingly, she doesn't use the necklace in any real creative ways, nor does she pile anything on. She lets the set stand on its own - and with diamonds this large, that's all you really need to do. It's a popular choice for the State Opening of Parliament, and she also wore it for her Diamond Jubilee portrait -just as Queen Victoria once did.
Diamond Jubilee portraits from Elizabeth and Victoria
For sheer size, queenly impact, and history witnessed, this necklace and earrings hold the number 3 spot on my countdown.
In action at the State Opening of Parliament

Photos: Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II/Leslie Field/BBC/Daylife