Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Royal Scepter

Queen Elizabeth II in full regalia, holding the Royal Scepter
Photo Source: Royal Splendor Blog

Now on permanent display at the Tower of London, the Royal Scepter (Scepter with the Cross) was made in 1661, for the coronation of Charles II. Symbolizing the power and justice of the monarch, this exquisite piece was redesigned in 1910, to accommodate the Cullinan I diamond.
Held in the left hand of the monarch during the crowning and procession, the scepter is a three-foot twisted rod fashioned out of gold from which rises the Cullinan I diamond encased in a jeweled gold mounting.

Atop this mounting rests a gemstone-encrusted girdle surrounding a faceted amethyst orb upon which rests a diamond-studded cross pattee, displaying a large emerald as a centerpiece. Clasps in the mounting allow the brilliant diamond to be worn by the queen as a brooch.

On June 28, 1838, Queen Victoria departed from the altar of Westminster Abbey and entered St. Edward’s Chapel. Shedding the heavy regalia robes, she took her place upon St. Edward’s Chair. In this regal seat, the priest consecrated her as sovereign, anointed her with holy oil, and handed her the royal scepter, the orb, and the ruby coronation ring, the three most prestigious and weighty symbols of office.

After receiving communion at the altar, she was shrouded in the mantle of state (a great robe). She proceeded from the abbey, orb and royal scepter in hand, for the carriage ride back to Buckingham Palace. It is reported that her first task after that five-hour event was to rush upstairs to greet and bathe her dog, Dash.

1. Rush, Kim. "The Symbols of Sovereignty: The Objects Held by the Sovereign During a Coronation." UK/Irish History @ Suite 101. Posted July 21, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2012.
2. Cristina. "The Cullinan I--The Star of Africa Diamond." The Jewelry Blog. Accessed May 28, 2012.
3. The Faded Star of Africa. "The Diamond." Accessed May 28, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A History of St. Edward's Crown

Rufus Sewell playing Charles II at his coronation
Photo Source: h2g2

Not to be confused with St. Edward’s Sapphire, St. Edward’s Crown is the foundational piece of the Crown Regalia (coronation jewels). It is believed that the crown that inspired its design (which bears the same name) was used in 1043 for the coronation of Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England.

Some sources describe the original crown as a gold diadem circlet adorned with small stones and two bells. It was likely among the royal collection which was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1649; however, there is some speculation that gold from Edward the Confessor's crown was somehow preserved and used in the new St. Edward's Crown.

In 1830, Thomas Robson wrote a book of heraldic definitions called The British Herald, Volume III, in which he documents the history of what he termed the Crown, Royal. According to Robson, the Saxons were the first documented monarchs to use crowns, which were simple circlets of gold. It seems to this historian that the Crown Royal of Robson's day is the same crown the British Court calls St. Edward's Crown.

Made by Sir Robert Vyner for the coronation of Charles II in 1661, St. Edward's Crown was originally set with imitation pearls and paste (glass cut so as to imitate gemstones). These imitations are still used in the crown when it lies in state in the Tower of London. However, they are replaced by the Royal Jewelers with the true gemstones when the crown is used for the coronation of a new monarch.

Throughout the 1800s, the Imperial State Crown served as the crown of choice for the coronations of George IV, William IV, Queen Victoria, and Edward VII. During this time, St. Edward’s Crown was carried as a symbolic object during the procession to Westminster Abbey.

Beginning with the coronation of King George V, St. Edward’s Crown once again became the crown of choice to coronate the new monarch. Every sovereign since then has been crowned with this regal and heavy crown.

When not in use, St. Edward’s Crown holds court in the Tower of London among the other pieces of the British Crown Regalia. It will make its next grand appearance at the crowning of the Prince of Wales, at a date which no one wants to think about just yet. Long live the Queen!


1. Official Website of The British Monarchy, The. "The Crown Jewels." Accessed May 28, 2012.
2. Rush, Kim. "St. Edward's Crown." UK/Irish History @ Suite101. Posted July 17, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2012.
3. Jewelry Gems About. "British Crown Jewels." Accessed May 28, 2012.
4. Robson, Thomas. The British Herald; or, Cabinet of armorial bearings of the Nobility. Sunderland: Turner & Marwood, 1830.

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

St. Edward’s Crown: An Introduction

St. Edward's Crown, worn by Queen Elizabeth II
Photo Source: For English Fans Blog

Lined with the purple velvet ‘Cap of State’, St. Edward’s Crown, made by Sir Robert Vyner for the coronation of Charles II, is a gold circlet edged in silver pearls and set with approximately sixteen large semi-precious gems outlined in clusters of diamonds.

Four gold cross pattee and four gold fleurs-de-lis emerge from the rim of the crown. Rising from the tops of the crosses, two complete arches of gold cross each other beneath the gold monde.

Symbolizing the independent sovereignty of the monarch, these jeweled arches are lined with silver pearls and adorned with gemstone clusters across the length of each arch. At the pinnacle of the crown rests a final cross pattee, ornamented with diamonds and other gemstones. Two silver tear-drop pearls hang delicately from the crossbeam of the cross pattee, and a single spherical pearl rests upon the very top of the cross.

In total, there are 444 precious and semi-precious gems in this crown, which weighs over four pounds (2.23 kg). When the crown was remade for George V, jewelers replaced worn pearls with rows of gold spheres and added new gemstones, including green tourmalines, topazes, aquamarines, amethysts, and rock crystals. The crown was last used to crown the current sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.


1. Pam Pearce. “Glimpses of the Crown Jewels: A Talk by Alan Jobbins,” Sussex Mineral and Lapidary Society Journal, 208 (July/August 2007),
2. Kim Rush, “St. Edward’s Crown: Britain’s Coronation Crown,” UK/Irish History @ Suite 101 (July 17, 2009), accessed May 9, 2012,
3. “St. Edward’s Crown,” London Online, accessed May 9, 2012,
4. “British Crown Jewels,” Jewelry Gems About, accessed May 9, 2012,

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, May 28, 2012

Prominent Features of the George IV State Diadem

George IV State Crown
Photo Source: Knowing the Royals Blog

The George IV State Diadem is paved nearly entirely in diamonds, save the pearl-lined base and the solitary four-carat canary diamond mounted in the central cross. This masterpiece features 1,333 white diamonds set in four bouquets symbolizing England (rose), Scotland (thistle), and Ireland (shamrock), as well as in four cross pattee.

Framed between two rows of pearls, the diamond scroll work band was remounted in 1902 for Queen Alexandra, who grudgingly passed the diadem on to Queen Mary when her son, George V, was crowned king. It has remained among the Crown Jewels since Victoria bequeathed it to the state in her will.

The George IV diadem was designed to encircle the Cap of Estate, an ermine-trimmed velvet headpiece which up until the time of King Henry VII was worn in lieu of a crown. King Henry VIII was the first king to wear the Cap of Estate in tandem with a crown.

Just as Queen Victoria chose the diadem for her coronation procession, Queen Elizabeth II also wore the diadem on her way to Westminster Abbey. Queen Elizabeth II continues to favor the jewel, wearing it for the State Opening of Parliament each year.

Philatelists also celebrate the diadem, which is featured on the first postage stamp ever made. The 1840 Penny Black, a rare and prized stamp, features Queen Victoria's young profile ensconced in her favorite crown.


1. The Wedding Tiara. "George IV State Diadem Royalty Tiaras." Accessed May 28, 2012.
2. Royal Exhibitions. "St Edwards Crown." Accessed May 28, 2012.
3. Butschal, U. "Queens Juwel Casket: Windsor Tiara's." Royal Magazin. Accessed May 28, 2012.
4. Hardwick, Holly. "George IV State Diadem Crown." Queen of Crowns Blog. Posted September 9, 2007. Accessed May 28, 2012.

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

George IV Designs the State Diadem

George IV State Diadem
Photo Source: Queen of Crowns Blog

King George IV loved beautiful things. It is said that Buckingham Palace and the Windsor Apartments still reflect his exquisite taste in art, furniture, and interior design. His passion for masterpieces of art also translated to a vast collection of beautiful jewelry, both acquired and custom made for him.

One of the most prominent pieces of this collection, the State Diadem, was designed to his specifications. Historians report that he commissioned Royal Jewelers, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, to construct the crown in 1821, for his coronation.

Though he petitioned to have the Imperial State Crown permanently replaced with the State Diadem for the coronation ceremony, his request was denied by Parliament. He did, however, birth the tradition of wearing the State Diadem during one portion of the ceremony.

The custom at the time of George IV’s coronation was to lease the jewels used in the crowns from a local jeweler. The jewels, inset before the ceremony, were removed following the ceremony and returned to the Royal Jeweler.

This remained the custom for the diadem until Queen Victoria’s coronation, at which time the gems were soldered into the frame permanently. The diadem was her crown of choice for multiple family and official events, and it has remained a favorite among the queens ever since her reign. In her will, Victoria gifted the State Diadem to the Crown.


1. Queen of Crowns Blog. "George IV State Diadem Crown." Posted September 9, 2007. Accessed May 22, 2012.
2. "George IV State Diadem Royalty Tiaras." The Wedding Tiara. Accessed May 22, 2012.
3. "King George IV State Diadem." Royal Exhibitions. Accessed May 22, 2012.
4. Butschal, U. "Queens Juwel Casket--Windsor." Royal Magazin. Accessed May 22, 2012.

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Friday, May 25, 2012

Determining the Vintage of Your Engagement Ring

Vintage Engagement
Photo Source: Andrea Carlyle Photography,
Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved.

It has become popular for today’s bride to sport a vintage, antique, and/or estate engagement ring, but most brides-to-be aren’t sure exactly how to determine into which category their rings fit. There is no hardline rule as to what the terms vintage and antique mean, but here follow a few guidelines that should help you determine the "vintage" of your ring.

The term estate engagement ring applies to any ring that has been previously owned. The terms vintage and antique are a little more difficult to pin down, as several factors play a role in a ring’s classification.

It is generally accepted that antique engagements rings are at least 100 years old. However, the term also applies to the Art Deco era of jewelry, which spanned the 1920s and ‘30s, clearly not 100 years ago.

The term vintage is even trickier. Typically, vintage refers to rings that are at least 50 years old, but it also includes rings from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian eras, clearly more than 50 years ago.

You can see how these categorizations can be confusing if you’re looking for one exclusive classification for your ring. If you view the classifications as inclusive, an Art Deco engagement ring, for an example, can be classified as an estate, antique, and vintage ring.

Understanding the loose nature of these terms allows you to choose whether you will tell your friends that your fiance bought you a vintage ring, an antique ring, or an estate ring.


1. Country Consultant Blog. "What Makes Jewelry Vintage." Posted March 29, 2011. Accessed May 22, 2012.

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Chemical Properties of Amethyst

Photo Source: SandAtlas

Throughout the 19th century, experts believed that deposits of manganese were responsible for the purple tones that set amethysts apart from other quartz crystals. The later discovery that heat alters the color of the crystals sent chemists and physicists on a search for a new explanation. Scientists now report that iron deposits situated in specific locations within the crystal structure provide the key to their color.

Since iron deposits usually result in reds or browns, the question remains: How is it that amethysts are purple? The answers to this question are found in the silicon-rich hydrothermal liquid in which amethysts are birthed.

Geologists conclude that this rich liquid must be infused with uranium particles in order to produce the radiation necessary to oxidize the iron, the process necessary to transform the usual reddish-brown color of iron to the violet hues.
Heat and radiation, both of which play a key role in the formation of amethyst, can also oxidize the iron further, resulting in shades of green, orange, or red. Intense heat or radiation can even drain the color completely from the crystals.

Conversely, other colors of quartz crystals can be irradiated, synthetically or naturally, to elicit the purple hues of amethyst. There is currently no way to determine if an amethyst is naturally or synthetically altered by heat or irradiation.

Read More About Amethysts


1. Oldershaw, Cally. Firefly Guide to Gems. Ontario: Firefly Books Unlimited, 2003, 154-55.
2. "Amethyst Mineral Information." Gem & Mineral Miners, Inc. Last updated November 5, 2011. Accessed May 21, 2012.
3. Rolph, Jolyon, and Ida Chau. "Amethyst." Mindat. Accessed May 21, 2012.
4. "Amethyst." The Quartz Page. Last modified November 13, 2011. Accessed May 21, 2012.

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Chemical Properties of Rubies

Rough & Cut Ruby
Copyright 2007-2013 Gemstone Buzz
All rights reserved.

Colored corundum (aluminum oxide) is called sapphire, which can be found in nearly all the colors of the rainbow. The darker hues of red sapphires have been given a class of their own - ruby. Ranging from pink and purple to brownish red, rubies and other pink sapphires have one thing in common: the chemical element chromium.

The strength of red in a ruby directly correlates to the amount of chromium in the crystal. A corundum crystal absent chromium will not possess the red quality, so even pink sapphires have a small amount of chromium. Though there are not clear industry standards to establish when a pink sapphire becomes a ruby, generally speaking, the darker the hue of a ruby, the more valuable it is.

Rubies can also be reddish brown. The presence and strength of brown tones directly correlate to the amount of iron replacing small portions of aluminum in the crystal. These iron-infused rubies are still prized, but not as much as true red corundum.

Strength of color in rubies is the primary determining factor for price, though size also plays a role. However, since chromium naturally inhibits crystal growth, it is rare for rubies to be more than 10 carats.

Though these tiny gems are small, the rarity and hardness of red corundum make them equal to, if not greater in value than diamonds.

Read More About Rubies


1. Smigel, Barbara. "Ruby: July's Birthstone." Gem Society. Accessed May 21, 2012.
2. Oldershaw, Cally. Firefly Guide to Gems. Ontario: Firefly Books Unlimited, 2003, 64-66.
3. Spignesi, Stephen J. Gems, Jewels and Treasures: The Complete Jewelry Book. West Chester: QVC Publishing , 2001.
4. "Synthetic Ruby." Accessed May 21, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Miracle of Ruby Formation

Natural ruby crystals from Winza, Tanzania
Photo Source: Wikipedia
Rubies form deep beneath the earth’s surface, where molten metals, minerals, and gases are pushed to the surface by cataclysmic events. They seem to defy all natural odds by emerging in bands of marble in some of the highest mountain peaks.

It seems ruby formation is a miracle of sorts. Geologists, gemologists, and chemists know what they’re comprised of, and their primary geological locations lend themselves to some educated speculation as to how they form, but their unique properties present a mystery that is, as yet, unsolved.

The mystery revolves around the absence of silica and the low amount of iron in their structure. Considering that silica and iron are two of the most copious minerals on Earth, it baffles geologists as to which process would eliminate silica and minimize iron enough for rubies to form. In addition to the absence of these elements, chromium (one of the rarest elements on earth) must find its way into the aluminum crystal grid to lend rubies their brilliant red hues. This is also confounding to geologists.

So, just how does a gemstone, which requires no silica, low amounts of iron, and the presence of a rare element, chromium, form? One theory is the Tethys Sea Theory


1. Sasso, Anne. "The Geology of...Rubies." Discover Magazine, November 2004. Accessed May 21, 2012.
2. "How are Rubies Formed." Want To Know It. Accessed May 21, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Oriental Circlet

The Oriental Circlet. Photo Credit: The Royal Order of Sartorial Blog.
The Oriental Circlet.
Photo Credit: The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor Blog.

The Oriental Circlet was among Queen Victoria's most treasured tiaras. Intimately aware of her love of tiaras, Prince Albert commissioned R. & S. Garrard and Co., in 1853. Drawing inspiration from the Indian jewels presented to Queen Victoria by the East India Company, the Oriental Circlet (also called the Indian Ruby Tiara), was designed entirely by him. Victoria wrote in her journal: ‘My dear Albert has such good taste and arranges everything for me about my jewellry.’

In its original state, the Oriental Circlet featured eleven diamond-studded Moghul arches which served as banners over opal-centered lotus flowers. In 1902, Queen Alexandra, who harbored a superstitious fear of opals, replaced the gemstones with Victoria’s rubies from 1876.

Victoria was known to wear the Circlet with fresh water lilies in her hair. Prince Albert also designed three other tiaras for her, the neo-Gothic diamond and emerald tiara, the stately sapphire and diamond tiara, and the shimmering diamond and ruby strawberry leaf tiara.

Today, the Oriental Circlet remains a beloved British treasure, bequeathed by Queen Victori to the Crown upon her passing. Most recently, the Circlet is most closely associated with the Queen Mother, who favored the crown for many public appearances in the last days of her life. Though she could have claimed rights to it far sooner, Queen Elizabeth was happy to abdicate possession of the beloved jewel to her mother until her death in 2002.


1. Munn, Geoffrey. Tiaras: Past and Present (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002).
2. Royal Collection, The. “The Oriental Circlet.” Last modified 2010. Accessed May 9, 2012.
3. Heathman. “Queen Victoria’s tiara turns up in a Highgate home.” Ham & High (January 25, 2012). Accessed May 9, 2012.
4. “Strawberry Leaf Tiara.” Royal Magazine. Accessed May 9, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy