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The Sapphire Queen

This week marks a milestone for Queen Elizabeth II- she ascended the throne on the 6th February 1952- she has reigned for 65 years, longer than any other monarch in British history and this milestone has been declared her Sapphire Jubilee. Sapphires suit Her Majesty, matching the colour of her eyes and skin tone, so here we take a look at some of the most impressive pieces in her collection.

Buckingham Palace today released an official portrait of the Queen to mark her latest landmark. In it she wears a sapphire and diamond necklace and earrings, the stones clearly being of matchless quality. This set is particularly poignant to her- she received them as a wedding present from her father George VI to celebrate her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947. The King was only 56 when he died, so to the Queen her Accession Day is a bittersweet occasion- a reminder that her long reign is in part due to the early death of her father. She has worn the set often, as it is matches exactly the colour of her Garter riband. In 1963 the Queen had a tiara and bracelet made to complete the set, using stones from a necklace that had originally belonged to Queen Louise of Belgium.

An essential part of the Queen’s uniform is a brooch, which she always wears on her left shoulder. One of the most romantic sapphires in her collection is the Albert Brooch, given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert on their wedding day. It consists of a magnificent large sapphire surrounded by 12 diamonds. Because of its romantic associations, Victoria rarely wore it after the death of her beloved Albert and in her will left it to the Crown ‘to be worn by all future Queens of the United Kingdom’.

Another brooch of note is the Empress Marie Feodorovna’s sapphire and diamond brooch. This jewel too was a wedding present- it was given to the future Empress in 1866 to mark her marriage to the Tsarevich, the future Alexander III by her sister and brother-in-law, Alexandra Princess of Wales and the future Edward VII. When the Empress died in exile in 1929 this, along with several other pieces, were acquired by Queen Mary. The brooch must have attracted her attention not only due to the quality of the jewel but also the family connection.

Staying with the Romanov theme, another important piece acquired by Queen Mary but very rarely seen is the Empress’ sapphire and diamond bandeau tiara. It is a stylish piece centred on an important cushion cut sapphire with diamond rays radiating from it. It was acquired at the same time as the brooch and Queen Mary wore it often. It was inherited by the Queen and although she has never worn it, she loaned it several times to Princess Margaret. It is a piece Royal jewel watchers would love to see resurrected from the vaults, especially on the Duchess of Cambridge.

My personal favourite is the Queen’s Art Deco sapphire bracelet. It was given to her by her (clearly very generous) father. A favourite piece of the monarch’s, it is classic Art Deco, perfect timeless design that never dates.