The Exceptionally Noteworthy Gemstones of the British Regalia


Jamie Jamison

This webpage project was created for a gemstones and gemology course in the 2007 spring semester at Emporia State University. The assignment was to learn webpage creation, as well as present a summary of our knowledge regarding gemstones and their valuable properties and uses. It seemed appropriate to examine some of the largest, most elegant gemstones. The gemstones explored here also have extensive historical influence.

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In 1303, during the reign of Edward the Confessor, the British Crown Jewels were stolen from the Westminister Abbey, after which they were moved to the Tower of London. In 1994 The Queen opened the Jewel House, a special location at the Tower of London just for the jewels (English jewels). The various crowns and other regalia contain several exceptionally noteworthy gemstones.

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St. Edward's Crown

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While St. Edward's Crown does not contain any famous gemstones it still deserves mentioning. The present crown of this name was made in 1661 by Sir Robert Viner. It was part of the replacement regalia for the coronation of Charles II. The original was destroyed in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell and the republicans following the execution of Charles I (Kunz and Stevenson, 1908, p. 418).

This crown has been the coronating crown for every British Monarch since Charles II with the exception of Queen Victoria (English Monarchs, 2004-2005). Weighing about five pounds, it was deemed too heavy for her (Mandy's British Royalty, 1998-2007).

It consists of four fleurs-de-lis, four cross pattee, and has two arches. It contains 444 gemstones some of which are diamonds, rubies, pearls, emeralds, and sapphires (Wikipedia).
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Imperial State Crown

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The Imperial State Crown contains most of gemstones to be mentioned. The crown was made in 1937 for King George VI and is similar to the one made in 1838 for Queen Victoria (Wikipedia). That particular version, in 1850 was valued at $600,000 (Kunz and Stevenson, 1908, p.499)! The Imperial State Crown is the crown worn by the Sovereign at the opening of Parliament each year. It weighs just under 3 pounds (Mandy's British Royalty, 1998-2007).

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The Cullinan II diamond, shown in the image above, became part of the Imperial State Crown in 1937 when it was remade for George VI. The diamond is 317.40 carats. The two loops on the diamond are to allow it to be worn as a brooch with or without the Cullinan I (Thompson, 2007). More about the Cullinan diamond discovery and history is contained in the Sceptre section below.

At the top of the crown shown above is the St. Edward's Sapphire. This stone shown to the right is set in the center of the cross-patee. It is believed to have been the sapphire contained in Edward the Confessor's coronation ring.It is thought that the gem was cut to its present rose-cut during the reign of Charles II (Hughes, 1997-2007). There is a legend involving a beggar and the ring that deserves telling.

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Sitwell (1953) related the legend involving King Edward in the following way. There was a beggar near Westminister and Edward, having given all of his money away, gave his ring to the man. Later, two Englishmen on their way to the holy land encountered a storm in Syria. Abruptly, the path ahead was lighted and an old man came towards them. He was preceded by two youths bearing candles. Upon hearing the pilgrims were English and Edward their King, the man led the men to lodging and food. The next morning he told them he was John the Evangelist and gave them the ring to give back to Edward. He also told them to tell Edward he would see him in six months time in paradise. He had befriended them because of King Edward, his special friend, on account of his great goodness and chaste life. When they eventually returned to England they gave the King his ring and the message. He prepared for his death and six months later was buried with the ring on his finger. While the rest of the legend is questionable, it is believed that the tomb was opened in the twelfth century and the ring was given to the reigning King (Sitwell, 1953, p.63).

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The Black Prince's Ruby, which is actually a spinel, is less hard with a less intense color and brilliancy than a ruby possesses. The history is quite extensive and can be traced back to the mid-fourteenth century. At that time, Don Pedro murdered Abu Said for his jewels which included the Ruby. In 1366, Don Pedro ran to Bordeaux to seek help from the Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of King Edward III (Wikipedia).

Don Pedro promised the Prince treasures in exchange for his help. The Prince went to Spain and defeated Henry in the Battle of Najera on April 3, 1367, after which he received the Ruby. On October 25, 1415 Henry V wore the Ruby on his helmet in the Battle of Agincourt. The helmet was fragmented and a prisoner, Gaucourt, recovered the broken pieces but was not released as promised.

Henry VI lost his crown in 1464 which contained the Ruby and immediately after Edward IV was crowned with it at York. At the coronation of Henry VIII it was worn in the Bauderika (collar) which was later sold by Charles I to raise funds. Elizabeth I kept it by her and wore it on several occasions as an ornament. James I had the Ruby in his crown. In 1626 Charles I was crowned with the same crown. The Ruby did escape being sold after the execution of Charles I. The Ruby was used in the crown made for Charles II. Then in 1671 there was an attempted theft by Colonel Thomas Blood for which Charles II pardoned him. James II used the same crown as Charles II but it was too small. The next time the Ruby emerges is for the coronation of William III and Mary II on February 12, 1689. On July 19, 1821, George IV wore a crown that contained the Ruby for his coronation. The ceremony lasted six hours and the crown weighed near seven pounds. He developed a toothache from the event and later had to have the tooth removed (Imboden, 1996-2007). That crown was made by Messrs Rundell and Bridge. A new crown with the Ruby was made in 1838 for the coronation of Victoria on June 25. The last notable bit of information concerning the Black Prince's Ruby is that in October 1841 the crown containing the Ruby was saved from a fire at the Tower of London by Inspector Pierse (Orpen, 1890, p. 149).

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Queen Mother's Crown

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The Queen Mother's Crown contains the Koh-i-Noor, previously spelled Koh-i-nur or Rock of Light diamond. The first mentioned size of the diamond is 186 carats but is today 105.602 carats. There is a legend that it brings good luck to the women who wear it but it is more a curse for any man (English Monarchs, 2004-2005).

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The history is quite lengthy and a glimpse here is from Orpen (1890) and the tale begins on April 21, 1526...
At that time Humayun Mogul, son of Baber, of India was presented with a large quantity of jewels, including the diamond, as a tribute after defeating the people of Bikermajet the Hindoo. It is not known how Bikermajet came to have the diamond; however, Sultan Ala-ed-din had received it after conquering the Rajah of Malwa in 1304. After inheriting the stone from his father, Humayun passed the diamond to his son, Akbar. This fashion continued from Akbar to Jehangir, whom it is believed to have worn it as an ornament in a necklace, to Shah Jehan in 1627. He was dethroned by his son Aurung-zeb and thrown in prison with his jewels and daughter, Jiha-nira.

Aurung-zeb did not have many jewels and he decided he needed some to adorn his turban. He made his father give him some of his diamonds, including the Koh-i-nur, but Shah Jehan was not willing and threatened to break his gems before giving them to his son. Only by intervention of Jiha-nira was the diamond spared. Aurung-zeb kept the diamond in his turban as did all other Mogul empress until 1739. At that time Mohammad Shah lost the diamond to Kouli Khan better known as Nadir Shah, of Persia, when he exchanged turbans with him.

Nadir Shah had tricked Mohammad Shah into thinking their exchange was to show everlasting friendship. Nadir Shah named the diamond the Koh-i-nur. Nadir Shah gave the diamond to his son, Shah Rokh. In 1751 Aga Mohammed, dethroned Shah Rokh and, as was the custom put his eyes out. Then when Shah Rokh would not willing give him the diamond, Aga Mohammed poured boiling pitch and oil on his head. It still did not work and finally the Lord of Kandahar from Afghanistan saved Shah Rokh who gave him the diamond in gratitude.

In 1793, it was passed from father to son for the third time. Raman Shah was overthrown by his brother, Shah Shuja, who blinded Raman Shah. Not until some time later did he acquire the diamond because Raman Shah tried to hide it in the wall of his prison. Shah Shuja met the same fate. So, Shah Shuja and Shah Raman joined forces, escaped from prison, and crossed the border to Lahore, India. Runjeet Singh, better known as the Lion of Lahore welcomed them; he wanted the diamond. It was given to him only when a treaty was agreed upon to help them get their throne back. Unfortunately, they never did get the things promised to them in the treaty.

Shah Runjeet wore it as part of a bracelet. The succeeding rajah, Kurruck Singh was poisoned by Shere Singh who was assassinated. The last Indian owner of the Koh-i-nur was Runjeet Singh's infant son, Dhuleep Singh. Lord Dalhousie, of England, annexed Lahore in March 1849. Later, a proclamation was read, Dhuleep Singh signed it and sent the diamond to the Queen. England has possessed the Koh-i-nur since 1850 (Orpen, 1890, p.76-105).

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Sovereign's Sceptre

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This is the sceptre that is used for coronations. There are many others but they do not possess the all-impressive Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa. The largest of the diamonds cut from the Cullinan diamond it is 530.2 carats (Wikipedia).

The Cullinan diamond was discovered by Fredrick Wells on January 26, 1905. It was at the New Premier Mine near Pretoria. The uncut gemstone was 3106 carats. The diamond was named after the director upon whose farm it was discovered and given to King Edward VII on his birthday (Crookes, 1909, p.76).

The largest part of the rough diamond was four inches in diameter. It was cleaved by Joseph M. Asscher of Asscher and Company. The company, located in Amsterdam, was also responsible for cutting, and polishing the treasure (Crookes, 1909, p. 76).

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Number 17 is the Cullinan in the rough.
Star of Africa, Cullinan I, image taken from

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The value of the British Crown Jewels is unknown. The paradox is that they are not insured because no one is willing to risk it. Therefore, it is a decidely true statement when the regalia is claimed to be priceless.

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Crookes, W. 1909. Diamonds. Harper & Brothers, NY, 171 p. Book retrieved April 14, 2007, from

Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom World Wide Web homepage [retrieved on 14 April, 2007].

English jewels World Wide Web homepage [retrieved on 14 April, 2007].

English Monarchs - Kings and Queens of England - The Crown Jewels World Wide Web homepage [retrieved on 14 April, 2007].

Hughes, R.W. 1990. Ruby and Sapphire. RWH Publishing & Books, Book retrieved April 14, 2007, from

Imboden, Durant 1996-2007. Tower of London. Europe for Visitors p.5, retrieved April 14, 2007, from

Kunz, George Frederick, and Charles Hugh Stevenson 1908. The Book of the Pearl. The Devinne Press, Book retrieved April 14, 2007, from

Mandy's British Royalty World Wide Web homepage [retrieved on 14 April, 2007].

Orpen, G. 1890. Stories about famous precious stones. D. Lothrop Company, Boston MA, 277 p. Book retrieved April 14, 2007, from

Sitwell, Major-General H.D.W. 1953. The Crown Jewels. The Viscount Kemsley, London, 116 p.

Thompson, R. 2007. The world's most famous diamonds. World Wide Web homepage [retrieved on 14 April, 2007].

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Recommended Links

GO 340 Gemstones Syllabus GO 340 WebPage Assignment
Return to Past Student WebPages GO 340 Gemstone Links

Webpage created: 4/14/07 last updated: 5/13/07. Questions or Comments? Email: