10 Iconic Royal Jewellery Moments And The Surprising Backstories Behind Them

From tiaras to engagement rings

There’s arguably no image more defining of royalty than a crown or tiara.

And while the British royal family are well-known for their exquisite diadems, we’d argue that their many iconic jewellery pieces deserve recognition alongside them.

In fact, possibly more than any outfit Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle have worn (except, perhaps, the Duchess of Sussex’s blue ‘Renaissance dress’), it’s their gems and jewels that tell sentimental stories.

From British royal tiaras to engagement rings, scroll on for 10 of the most iconic royal jewellery moments and the fascinating histories, rumours and tales behind them.

Kate Middleton's acorn wedding earrings

Kate Middleton Wearing Earrings Featuring Diamond Acorns On Her Wedding Day In 2011

Worn as her ‘something new’, Kate Middleton’s wedding earrings actually held a very personal meaning for the Duchess.

Created by Robinson Pelham and gifted to the bride by her parents, the elegant piece was styled after her family’s coat of arms.

“The super glam jewels are particularly unique as they were styled after the Middleton coat of arms—incorporating oak leaves and acorns,” the jeweller told Hello! of the design.

Princess Diana Wearing Her Sapphire And Pearl Choker With Her 'Revenge' Dress

Princess Diana Wearing Her Sapphire And Pearl Choker With Her ‘Revenge’ Dress

It was the fashion moment that sparked tabloid headlines around the world. While many remember the off-shoulder LBD Princess Diana donned for her famous ‘revenge dress’ moment, eagle-eyed royal watchers noticed that the late princess accessorised her form-fitting ensemble with one of her favourite jewellery pieces—a seven strand pearl choker with an enormous sapphire and diamond centrepiece.

Interestingly, the stunning centrepiece (pictured here on a different date) was originally a brooch which was later converted into part of the necklace gifted by the Queen Mother for Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding. The piece became a signature jewel of Diana’s during her marriage to Charles, and was perceived as a fitting ‘revenge jewel’ when she wore it with the now-infamous dress, as she asserted her independence following her husband’s infidelity.

Queen Elizabeth II Wearing The Fringe Tiara At Her Wedding In 1947

Queen Elizabeth II Wearing The Fringe Tiara At Her Wedding In 1947

Loaned to her by the Queen Mother as her ‘something borrowed’, a then-Princess Elizabeth wore the famous ‘Fringe’ tiara for the first time at her wedding to a then-Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. Widely regarded as of the most beautiful royal tiaras, the stunning piece consists of rows of diamond spikes in a fringe pattern, and can also be worn as a necklace.

Unfortunately, just hours before she was meant to walk down the aisle, the tiara snapped in two as the hairdresser was securing her veil (a bride’s worst nightmare).

“The Fringe Tiara was given to Queen Elizabeth on her wedding day, and the hairdresser broke it. On that day, they had it police escorted to the House of Garrard workshops,” a representative of House of Garrard told marie claire US.

“We fixed the tiara that morning, had it sent back to Queen Elizabeth, and then she got married in it. You don’t expect the royals to have those sorts of mix-ups, but they do!”

The piece remains intact today, still in The Queen’s possession.

Princess Diana and Kate Middleton's Sapphire Engagement Ring

Princess Diana and Kate Middleton’s Sapphire Engagement Ring

Princess Diana’s famous sapphire engagement ring, which went on to become Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable rings in history. Incidentally, the inspiration behind its origins actually lies with another royal family member, namely Queen Victoria, and is quite poignant.

“Queen Victoria absolutely loved sapphires, so Prince Albert always used to buy her sapphires. There’s a very famous sapphire brooch which Queen Elizabeth wears regularly, passed down from Queen Victoria,” House of Garrard told marie claire US.

“That was the inspiration for the sapphire engagement ring that the Duchess of Cambridge wears. Prince Charles had always seen this beautiful sapphire brooch of his mother’s, which House of Garrard had created. When he went to House of Garrard he saw that ring, and thought it was perfect.”

Apparently, when Princess Diana selected her ring, The Queen was initially unimpressed by how ‘flashy it was’, but Princess Diana apparently liked that it matched her eyes and bore a similarity to her mother’s engagement ring.

According to Stephen Barry, who was one of Charles’ valets at the time of the engagement and wrote about it in the book Royal Secrets: The View from Downstairs, Diana reportedly said of her chosen ring: “The Queen’s eyes popped when I picked out the largest one.”

Meghan Markle's Engagement Ring

Meghan Markle’s Engagement Ring

A long time fan of sentimental jewellery, the jewels in Meghan Markle’s engagement ring have, not one, but two, sweet origins.

The centre diamond—a cushion-cut diamond said to be around 5 carats—came from Botswana, a country close to the hearts of both Prince Harry and Meghan, whilst the side stones were taken from the personal vault of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Queen Wearing A Burmese Ruby Tiara To Meet President Donald Trump In 2019

The Queen Wearing A Burmese Ruby Tiara To Meet President Donald Trump In 2019

While the royal family goes to great lengths to remain politically neutral, some royal watchers believed the tiara Queen Elizabeth wore to meet U.S. President Donald Trump during his state visit to the U.K. in June 2019 was anything but.

According to the crown’s jeweller, the 96 Burmese rubies in the tiara created for Her Royal Highness by the House of Garrard was: “originally given to the queen as a wedding gift from the people of Burma, intended as a symbol of protection against illness and evil.”

We’ll leave you to read between the lines on this one.

Princess Margaret Wearing The Poltimore Tiara To Her Wedding In 1960

Princess Margaret Wearing The Poltimore Tiara To Her Wedding In 1960

Widely looked upon as the royal family’s biggest rebel, it seems fitting that Princess Margaret chose to break from tradition for her wedding to Lord Snowdon, and buy her own tiara.

Instead of following the custom of borrowing from the family’s vast collection of over 40 tiaras, legend has it that the princess bought the incredible piece herself, though there is some debate about the exact truth.

“It was purchased for her at auction in January 1959. It is not absolutely clear whether Margaret, her sister the Queen, or her mother actually paid for it,” Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos, a vintage jewellery dealer and scholar with a particular expertise on Princess Margaret, told Town & Country.

“Once bought, Margaret couldn’t wait to wear it.”

She wore the design a number of times throughout her life, as both a tiara as a necklace, including when it was all she wore for in an infamous bathtub photo taken by Snowdon in 1962, which was later depicted on The Crown.

Princess Diana and the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara

Princess Diana and the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara

Commissioned by Queen Mary of Teck in 1914, the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara has become one of the family’s most recognisable pieces, worn by multiple members throughout the years—though Princess Diana reportedly was not a fan.

Although she was photographed sporting the splendid piece multiple times and apparently loved its ornate design, which boasted 19 arches and 38 teardrop-shaped pearls, she reportedly used to say it was too heavy and noisy due to its large swinging pearls. Can’t say we relate.

Royal family wedding bands

All The Royals’ Wedding Bands

Considering the royal family’s love of tradition, it’s unsurprising that they also have a longstanding custom for their wedding bands.

For over a century, all royal wedding bands have been made from the same lump of Welsh gold, and are typically plain, thin designs. Meghan Markle (pictured here), Kate Middleton, Princess Eugenie, Sarah Ferguson and more, all have this same ring.

That said, there is one royal who broke convention, with Princess Beatrice sporting a custom-made platinum and diamond design by British jeweller, Shaun Leane.

Princess Beatrice Wearing The Fringe Tiara At Her Wedding In 2020

Princess Beatrice Wearing The Fringe Tiara At Her Wedding In 2020

Marking one of the most low-key royal weddings in history, when Princess Beatrice married her fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a small private ceremony in Windsor, the world took notice.

Opting for a wedding look that was as relaxed as her nuptials, Beatrice borrowed her vintage Norman Hartnell wedding dress from her grandmother, The Queen, recycled a pair of Valentino shoes, and, most notably, also wore her grandmother’s tiara.

She chose Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara, which The Queen wore on her own wedding day in 1947. The tiara, composed of 47 diamond spires on a kokoshnik-style arced band, was also worn by Princess Anne for her wedding in 1973.

As far as royal tiaras go, it’s considered “quite light and simple”, according to tiara expert Leslie Field, who wrote the book The Queen’s Classic Jewels. And while the choice to wear it was part sentiment and part tradition, it also seemed to serve a clear aesthetic purpose.

“Because of the ornamentation on the Hartnell dress, I think it was decided the tiara had to be all diamonds,” Field told People.

“There are tiaras with diamonds and emeralds, diamonds and sapphires, diamonds and rubies and diamond and pearls. There really wasn’t that much choice of pure diamond tiaras.”

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