Saturday, June 9, 2012

Treasures from the Royal Palace: A Diamond Jubilee Exhibition

Mosaic Easter Egg by Peter Carl Faberge, 1914
The Royal Collection, copyright 2012, HM Queen Elizabeth II
Photo Source: History Extra Magazine

Treasures from the Royal Palaces is a special exhibition celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The exhibit officially opened on March 16, 2012, with public displays in the Queen’s Gallery of Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland).

Though a large portion of the collection features paintings from old masters, as well as drawings from Leonardo da Vinci, a significant array of jewelry, gemstones, and jeweled decorations is also on display. Among the jewels, you will see several cameos from the Hellenistic period (1st and 2nd century BC), acquired by King George III from the collection of Consul Joseph Smith of Venice in 1762.

These ancient cameos appear to have been reset in gold as pendants during the late 1700s. The cameo collection also includes carvings from Imperial Rome, Northern Italy, and England, all from the 1700s.

One of the most beautiful displays of jewelry is a parure, which has an equally beautiful history. Exquisitely fashioned in 1899, this beautiful ensemble was made of enamelled gold, pearls, rubies, and emeralds, and was originally given as a gift by Mary, Queen of Scots, to her faithful attendant, Mary Seton.

Ms. Seton’s family maintained ownership of the matching jewels until they sold them at auction through Christie’s in 1894. The daughter of the new owner, Lilias Countess Bathurst, gave the set to Queen Mary during George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935.

Probably the most impressive jeweled item on display at the Queen’s Palaces is the Mosaic Easter Egg, one of the most ornate of the Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs. The Mosaic Egg was commissioned in 1914 by Tsar Nicholas II for his wife, Tsarina Alexandra (grand-daughter of Queen Victoria).

Designed by Alma Theresia Pihl, the egg was hand crafted with tiny individual squares cut precisely out of platinum. Into each perfectly calibrated slot a square-cut gemstone was inlaid by hand. Set with rubies, sapphires, demantoid, garnets, diamonds, and pearls, this beautiful egg harbored a surprise, which was revealed on Easter morning 1914, when Tsarina Alexandra opened it for the first time.

The egg's hidden surprise featured an enamelled medallion bearing the Russian (Romanov) Imperial Crown made out of diamonds and platinum. On the front of the medallion the five Romanov children were carved in profile, and on the back a Victorian-style basket of flowers sits surrounded by the names of their children.


1. Royal Collection, The. "Treasures from The Queen's Palaces: Gems and Jewels." Accessed June 8, 2012.
2. Royal Collection, The. "Treasures from the Queen's Palaces." Accessed June 8, 2012.
3. Royal Collection, The. "Zeus." Accessed June 8, 2012.
4. Royal Collection, The. "Parure with necklace, brooch and earrings." Accessed June 8, 2012.
5. de Guitaut, Caroline. "Imperial Easter Egg by Albert Holmstrom." (Video.) Accessed June 8, 2012.
6. Royal Collection, The. "About The Queen's Gallery." Accessed June 8, 2012.<
7. Royal Collection, The. "About the Palace of Holyroodhouse." Accessed June 8, 2012.

*Clip Art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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