Crown Jewels Of Britain
Tower of London
Wold famous Jewel Collection
One of the most priceless collections in the entire world is the British Crown Jewels. This group of regal regalia consists of crowns, scepters, orbs, swords, rings, spurs, as well as the special garments donned by the Monarch for ceremonial events, particularly a coronation. This is a look into the remarkable British Crown Jewels, as well as detailed descriptions and histories on some of the most famous pieces in the collection.
The British Crown Jewels are housed in the Tower of London, where they were moved in 1303, following a theft from Westminster Abbey, where they had previously been stored. Despite several subsequent attempts at theft, the Crown Jewels have been safe in the Tower of London, where they are guarded by the iconic Yeomen Warders, more commonly known as the Beefeaters. This spectacular collection is open for the public to view, drawing millions of tourists, gem lovers, Royal enthusiasts, historians, and the merely curious to the Tower of London each year.
Crown Jewels Destroyed In Enlish Civil war
One of the interesting facts about the British Crown Jewels is that much of the Coronation regalia is still in use in modern times, which sets it apart from the Crown Jewels held by the other royal families of Europe. The British Crown Jewels are fraught with symbolism; so powerful is the meaning of the regalia that the majority of it was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1649 during the English Civil War period. A new set of Crown Jewels was created for the Restoration, when Charles II ascended to the throne. Some of the new pieces were modeled on those that were destroyed, and there is also speculation that some of the gold left when the original crowns were melted down was recast into the new items. One of the few surviving pieces from the original set of Crown Jewels is the 12th Century Anointing Spoon, which is used to anoint the Sovereign with holy oil.
The British Crown Jewels include some legendary and priceless items. The best known include St. Edward's Crown, the Imperial State Crown, the Sovereign's Orb (symbolizing Christ's dominion over the world), the Sovereign's Scepter (or Scepter with the Cross), and the Scepter with the Dove, which represents fairness, justice, and mercy. St. Edward's Crown, which was created in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II, is the official crown worn when a new Sovereign is crowned. Made of solid gold, encrusted with 444 precious stones, and weighing in at a hefty 4 pounds, 12 ounces, the St. Edward's Crown is almost as famous for its weight as its beauty. Perhaps this is the origin of the saying "heavy hangs the head that wears the crown"!
Queen Elizabeth II Talks About The Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State crown is somewhat similar in design to St. Edward's crown, as it also consists of four crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, which are topped with two arches and a cross. The Imperial Crown, which is lighter and more comfortable than St. Edward's crown, is worn at the end of the coronation ceremony when the new Sovereign exits Westminster Abbey, as well as for the opening of Parliament each year. In addition, a few monarchs have opted to wear the Imperial Crown instead of the traditional St. Edward's Crown for the entire coronation service, including Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.
The current version of the Imperial State crown is a replica of an earlier one which was made for Queen Victoria. The modern version was created in 1937 by the Crown Jewellers, Garrard and Company. The Imperial Crown boasts a staggering 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies. As if this were not enough, the crown is also adorned with several large famous gems which are priceless in their own right, including St. Edward's sapphire, Black Prince's ruby, and the Cullinan II, also known as the Lesser Star of Africa.
The Koh-i-Noor diamond
The Koh-i-Noor Diamond
One of the most legendary diamonds in all the world also resides in the Imperial State Crown: the 108.93 carat rose cut diamond called the Koh-i-Noor, which means "Mountain of Light" in Persian. This diamond, which at one time was the largest cut white diamond in the world, has a legendary curse associated with it, much like the Hope Diamond. An ancient Hindu curse stated that, "He who owns this diamond will rule the world, but will also know all of its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman can wear it with impunity.". Interestingly enough, the Koh-i-Noor has most recently been owned by several female world leaders, beginning with Queen Victoria of England, and more recently, Queens Elizabeth I and II.
The origins of the Koh-i-Noor diamond can be traced back to Golconda, India, and according to some accounts, the enormous diamond may have been discovered thousands of years ago. The gem has passed between scores of rulers, from the Sikhs to the Mughals to the Persians. There is a long history of violence around those men who owned the diamond, and it was seized as the spoils of war numerous times. (Perhaps this is where the curse comes in.) One of the most legendary non-European heads of state to own the Koh-i-Noor was Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, whose name meant "King of the World" in Persian. Shah Jahan was best known for building the Taj Mahal palace. It is said that when the Emperor was later imprisoned by his son, the Koh-i-Noor diamond was placed near a window, and that Shah Jahan could view his magnificent Taj Mahal only as a reflection in its facets.
As history held, the Koh-i-Noor once again traded hands as part of the spoils of war. When the British colonized India in 1849, the famous diamond was explicitly mentioned in the Treaty of Lahore, the document that made India a part of the British Empire:
The gem called the Koh-i-Noor which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.
The astonishingly valuable diamond was formally presented to Queen Victoria on July 3, 1850. In its form at that time, the Koh-i-Noor was remarkably large, but not particularly brilliant, leading to the gemstone being recut in 1852. It is said that Prince Albert, who supervised the recutting of the diamond from 186 1/16 carats down to 105.602 carats, was disappointed at the finished results. Nonetheless, the recut Koh-i-Noor was mounted into a tiara with two thousand smaller diamonds, and was kept at Windsor Castle (unlike most of the Crown Jewels, which are housed in the Tower of London). The Koh-i-Noor continues to be a part of the British Crown Jewel Collection to this day. It was reset into a new platinum crown for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I in 1937. The Koh-i-Noor now resides in the ceremonial artifact called the Imperial State Crown, efforts to reclaim it by Pakistan and India notwithstanding.
The Cullinan Diamond
The Cullinan Diamond
There is another world famous diamond that is a part of the British Crown Jewels (actually, there are many!), and that is the Cullinan I, which is also called the Great Star of Africa. Unlike some of the world's other extraordinary gems, the origins of the Cullinan diamond are much less murky. This is likely because it is a relatively modern discovery, having been unearthed in 1905 in the Premier Diamond Mine in Gauteng, South Africa (Cullinan was the name of the mine owner). The 3106.75 carat rough diamond was one of the largest ever found, and until 1985, the Cullinan I was also the largest polished diamond in the world.
Following its discovery, the Cullinan diamond was purchased by the Transvaal government and then given as a birthday gift to King Edward of England. You may be surprised to hear that the invaluable gem was shipped to London in a plain box via registered parcel post! A decoy stone was sent on a steamer ship with London detectives from South Africa to England to draw any potential thieves.
The breathtaking 3106.75 carat diamond was cut by Joseph Asscher of Amsterdam. He studied the rough diamond for a solid three months before daring to cleave it, and yet on his first attempt, the enormous diamond actually broke the cleaving blade! To destroy such a one-of-a-kind gem would be unthinkable, but fortunately, Mr. Asscher's second attempt was more successful, and the original Cullinan diamond was split into nine large gems and additional smaller ones. The largest of these, the Cullinan I, or Great Star of Africa, weighs in at an impressive 530.20 carats. Along with its sister diamond, Cullinan II, Cullinan I became a part of the British Crown Jewels.
The Great Star of Africa, which has been estimated at a value of over $400 million, is now mounted in the Sceptre with the Cross, which is a ceremonial piece housed in the Tower of London. The Sceptre, which was created in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II, was reconfigured in 1905 to accommodate the Cullinan I diamond. The cross represents a monarch's secular power under God. For those days when a jewel encrusted sceptre might be a bit too fancy, the 530.20 carat diamond can also be removed and worn as a brooch.
These famous gems, artifacts, and royal regalia make the British Crown Jewels one of the premier gem holdings anywhere in the world. They are rich with history, breathtakingly beautiful, symbols of immense power, and truly priceless. Most of us are accustomed to the comparatively simple jewelry that marks the rites of passage in an average person's life, such as the First Communion cross, the diamond engagement ring, the pearl bridal jewelry, and the anniversary band. To see such indescribably ornate and opulent pieces such as those that make up the British Crown Jewel Collection is an opportunity of a lifetime for anyone fortunate enough to pay a visit to the Tower of London.
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