Generations of English queens have worn ruby-laden tiaras as symbols of their influence and position. Many of these tiaras are among the most immaculately crafted pieces of ruby jewellery on the planet. Each has its own unique story that only adds to its beauty and character.
The Oriental Circlet has attracted the desires of many English Queens and has evolved since its conception to become the glorious ruby diadem that is today. The Oriental Circlet was originally an opal and diamond tiara that had been crafted by Garrard at the request of Prince Albert as a gift for Queen Victoria in 1853, utilizing a number of diamonds from jewellery pieces previously owned by Queen Charlotte. Prince Albert had long been a lover of fine jewellery and designed the Oriental Circlet in the image of Mughal arches after drawing inspiration from Indian jewellery he saw displayed by the East India Trading Company at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in the U.K. Albert had the gold circlet set with opals and 2600 diamonds as they were some of the prince’s favourite gemstones. Victoria adored this circlet, wearing it on many occasions, and purchased a set of opal and diamond jewellery from Garrard to match it. The circlet and other jewels were left to the crown after the Queen’s death and were eventually acquired by Victoria’s daughter-in-law, Queen Alexandra. In 1902, the matching necklace and earrings were refitted with some of Victoria’s Burmese rubies to become what are now called the Crown Rubies, and at the same time the Oriental Circlet was refitted with some of the same Burmese rubies from Victoria’s collection; Alexandra supposedly made the choice to remove the opals from Victoria’s jewellery suite due to a belief that opals were bad luck. In 1910 the Oriental Circlet and Crown Rubies were handed down to Alexandra’s daughter-in-law, Queen Mary, who then passed them onto her daughter-in-law, the Queen Mother, in 1936. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was frequently seen wearing the Oriental Circlet and matching Crown rubies, so much so that one could assume it was her favourite diadem. The Queen Mother did not pass the Circlet and accompanying jewels to her daughter Queen Elizabeth II when the young Queen took the throne. The Oriental Circlet stayed with the Queen Mother until her death in 2002, when it was passed on to Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth II was famously seen wearing the Oriental Circlet with the Baring Ruby Necklace during a state visit to Malta in 2005, but even after acquiring it the Queen has not been seen wearing the Oriental Circlet as often as she wears the spectacular Burmese Ruby Tiara.
Queen Elizabeth had the Burmese Ruby Tiara crafted for her in the 1970s using stones from another tiara already in her possession: the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara, a Cartier floral diamond tiara given to the Queen as a wedding gift. For Elizabeth’s wedding, the Nizam of Hyderabad, ruler of an Indian princely state famed for its gemstone enthusiasts, instructed Cartier to give the Queen whichever jewellery pieces she desired. The young Queen selected the floral diamond tiara, which featured detachable brooches, and a matching necklace as her gift. At this point in time, the Oriental Circlet was still in the possession of the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth was in need of a ruby tiara for herself. In 1973, Elizabeth had the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara dismantled by Garrard to use its stones in the construction of the Burmese Ruby Tiara, along with a suite of 96 rubies which had been given to her as wedding gifts by the people of Burma. Rubies are thought to be protective in Burma, and these 96 Burmese rubies were said to have been given to the Queen for protection against the 96 diseases of traditional Burmese culture. The crimson stones were set into the Burmese Ruby Tiara in a series of rosettes framed by floral diamond motifs in a manner evocative of the Tudor Rose. The Burmese Ruby Tiara became the Queen’s preferred diadem, and she has made countless public appearances wearing the jewel since its completion.
Queen Victoria once owned a lavish ruby tiara which is thought to have an Indian origin. The gold tiara features a number of rose cut rubies set into paisley motifs rimmed with diamond lasques and affixed to a pearl rimmed headband, with enamelled portraits painted on the inner side of the paisley corona. After her death, the Queen’s tiara was left to the Duchess of Albany, Victoria’s daughter-in-law. In 1924, the Royal Family took possession of the tiara once more and King Geroge V added it to the Monarchy’s Indian collection. The tiara remains in the royal collection and will likely never be worn by a British monarch again. Despite this, Victoria’s Indian Ruby, Lasque, and Pearl Tiara continues to be a resplendent display of craftsmanship and the creative use of rubies.
The tiaras of English queens cannot be ignored as phenomenal examples of ruby crowns, and they each possess their own character. European royalty from various nations have also made their with various ruby tiaras arguably as elaborate as those of England. Learn about the other ruby tiaras of Western Europe in the next instalment of this series.
Here is some of our favourite ruby jewellery from the Skyjems catalog:
© 2020 Yaĝé Enigmus a.k.a. Kevin Back