As we approach the Queen’s official 95th birthday, what a fantastic way to reminisce on her life than to dote on the impressive crown she wears upon her head. This gorgeous piece that was exquisitely designed and crafted sits within The Tower of London and is looked upon in awe by its many visitors.
(The Imperial State Crown, image courtesy of Tower of London)
Regardless of its younger age compared to other pieces within the regalia, crafted in 1937, the Imperial State Crown utilises some of the most historic jewels in the royal family’s collection. It is formed from an open gold framework, 3 very large stones, and many other smaller table-, rose-, and brilliant cut gemstones. Upon its body, this crown is host to 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls and 4 rubies.
With an abundance of gemstones passed down through the royal family and higher class, the Imperial State Crown holds a thick history and wealth of legends. One of which is the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’; the stone which is set into the front cross of the crown. This stone is in fact a semi-precious balas, or spinel. It was thought to be previously owned by Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile, before it was gifted to Edward, Prince of Wales (or the ‘Black Prince) in 1367 as a reward for helping him defeat his rivals. This spinel was originally thought to be a pendant due to the hole atop of its body, but then filled in later by a small cabochon ruby.
(Cullinan I (top left), Koh-i-Nur (top right), Blue Stuart Sapphire (bottom left), Cullinan II (bottom right), image courtesy of Tower of London)
The diamonds found upon the Imperial State Crown’s body are some of the most exceptional in the world. The glorious Cullinan I hosts an impressive 530.2 carats and boasts being the world’s largest top quality white cut diamond. The massive uncut stone was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and was separated to form 9 major diamonds and 96 smaller brilliant diamonds in total. Cullinan I alongside Cullinan II, the second largest stone in the world, are both set into the front band of this impressive crown.
The Blue Stuart Sapphire was smuggled out of the country by James II when he fled in 1688 and adorns the back of the crown. Like the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’, this sapphire was originally used as a pendant and carried 104 carats. James II gifted it to his son Prince James Francis Edward, and it eventually came into the collection of Henry, Cardinal York, who later died. When an Italian dealer, Angioli Bonelli, was sent on behalf of George IV to retrieve any remaining Stuart papers, he encountered a Venetian merchant who produced a large sapphire, saying that it belonged to the Stuart Crown. Bonelli bought the sapphire and returned it to Britain. George IV certainly believed it was the Stuart Sapphire and set the stone into the front band of the crown, however It was moved to the rear of the band in 1909 to make way for the newly acquired Cullinan II.
The lore and history of this crown could go on and on from its wealth of precious stones. Alongside the purple velvet cap and ermine band, it isn’t a mystery as to why this piece is still one of the most impressive and beautiful creations in the royal family’s collection. Only worn after a coronation or at the state opening of parliament, you’ll be privileged to see this crown in action.