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 Great Star of Africa
The Great Star of Africa
The Cullinan Pieces
The Cullinan Pieces

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.

We hope that you have found this interesting and that you will visit the following links indicated for much more affordable bridal jewelry and gifts suitable for wedding jewelry for bridesmaids and mothers of the bride and groom.

More by this Author

  • Emily Post: Society, Scandal, and Etiquette
    2

    "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use." Those who assume that the first lady of etiquette was a proper...

  • British Royal Wedding History
    20

    Almost every young girl dreams of feeling like a princess on her wedding day. But only a select few are the genuine thing: royal brides. British royal weddings have always been breathtaking pageants that inspired...

  • Modern Dating Etiquette
    1

    For as long as there have been men and women, there has been the desire to meet that special someone. Dating has been around forever, and in every society there have been unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that...


20 comments

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I find this article terribly interesting. I have seen these jewels but did not know the background information you have so well provided. Thank you very much for a fine read. Nicely done.


Seabastian profile image

Seabastian 7 years ago from Raleigh Author

James-Thank you for the compliment.

The jewels are truly fascinating. I have seen them a couple of times and in both instances I wanted to look at them longer but the security people had to keep the lines moving so there was not enough time.

I wish I could spend a lot more time studying British history and I am thankful for the contributions of public broadcasting as a suplement to my reading.


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

Diamonds might be a sensible investment in these troubled economic times, but I doubt any of these will ever be sold or in deed have many people who could afford them if they were.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

Seabastian, I enjoyed this article, and like you, I've seen the Crown Jewels several times, most recently at Easter this year. Just a quick note though, about the Koh-i-Noor diamond. It could never have been owned by Elizabeth I as she preceded Victoria by several centuries. Maybe the other Elizabeth you refer to was Elizabeth the Queen Mother? I don't know whether she would ever have worn this crown as she was never the monarch, but it's a possible explanation if you've found mention of two Queen Elizabeths wearing it.


Seabastian profile image

Seabastian 7 years ago from Raleigh Author

Brian

Since DeBeers and the Russians seem to have lost the grip they once had on the diamond market and consequently also lost the ability to keep prices rising,the lustre of a diamond investment is not what it once was. Also the thought that these spectacular jewels with all their history should be shared with us commoners would probably keep them from being sold.

Amanda

Thank you for your observations: You are right that the Koh-i-noor first came into Britain's possession under Queen Victoria and the Elizabeth wearing the Koh-i-Noor was indeed Elizabeth the Queen Mother as indicated in the excerpt below:

Later, the stone was used as the centrepiece of the crown of the Queen consort of the United Kingdom. Queen Alexandra was the first to use the crown, followed by Queen Mary. In 1936, the stone was set into the crown of the new Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), wife of King George VI; in 2002, the crown rested atop her coffin as she lay in state. The stone was recently set into the Imperial State Crown, where it remains to this day.

from the Wikipedia article at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koh-i-Noor


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

Thanks for the link Seabastian, and the interesting clarification. The Queen Mother was indeed a Queen Elizabeth, but as she was never monarch, she was never Queen Elizabeth I. Sorry to be a bit picky here, but this is a good and useful hub, and I'm sure you'd want it to be accurate. I hope I haven't offended you.


Seabastian profile image

Seabastian 7 years ago from Raleigh Author

No Offense Amanda-As a history student I always appreciate any help in making it clearer.If I am ever lucky enough to return to the U.K. I will look to you for some advice for where to go and what to do. Your hubs on Brighton http://hubpages.com/travel/A-holiday-in-Brighton--... and Wales http://hubpages.com/travel/A-Holiday-in-Wales-Card... are terrific. The tourist boards should be paying you.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Very interesting hub Sebastian about the Crown Jewels. I haven't been to view them for quite a few years, so must plan a visit to the Tower of London


James 6 years ago

I have consistently read in varioius historical articles that in fact it is the Cullinan ll that resides just beneath the Black Prince's Ruby (Spinelle) in the Imperial State Crown and that the Koh-i-Noor resides in the centre of the front cross pattee of the crown that was made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on the occasion of her husbands coronation.


yyyy 6 years ago

great lots of info to help me work:)


4 years ago

worst


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

This is another brilliant article, that really brings it's subject to life.

One extra little thing. When Joseph Asscher succeeded in cutting The Cullinan Diamond he fainted. such was the stress he was under.

Oh. BTW, The Koh-i-noor diamond was in the crown of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, when she was consort to King George VI.


eugene lam 4 years ago

nice article,but what about ampulla,the sceptres,orb,spoon,and imperial crown of india???


blhblh 4 years ago

rubish stuff


commenter 4 years ago

dimonds are so rubbish now


commenter 4 years ago

commenter was joking


king fisher 4 years ago

this is a good website because the dimonds are nice they will cost some mony a lot now not that much unless it is on some rings


commenter 4 years ago

this page ok but rubbish


horse jockey 2 years ago

i found this website very instresting. the video very informal as well.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi just to let you know that this hub is copied on,

http://documentariezblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/ho...

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working