With the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle still fresh in our minds, the idea of how the soon-to-be-married couple and their royal guests will dress for the occasion is a hot topic.
For centuries, members of the royal family have passed down precious pieces of jewellery for their relations to wear as part of their wedding attire — and the tradition is ongoing. Reportedly, Meghan’s engagement ring was personally designed by Prince Harry using diamonds formerly belonging to his mother, Princess Diana. Here, we explore other precious and iconic pieces of wedding jewellery that have adorned the hands and heads of British royalty over the decades…
The Queen’s diamond engagement ring
The Queen has worn her engagement ring — designed by Prince Philip himself — for over 70 years. Unlike the Queen’s wedding band, which is made of Clogau gold, her engagement ring features a platinum setting and a three-carat diamond flanked by five more petite diamonds on each shoulder.
What made this precious ring extra special was that the diamonds were actually taken from the tiara of Princess Alice of Battenberg, who was Prince Philip’s mother. Princess Alice was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and was born in Windsor Castle in 1885 before leaving the UK after marrying Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark.
According to experts, the Queen’s engagement ring has a value of £200,000.
The Cartier Halo tiara
Made in 1936, the Halo tiara by eminent jeweller, Cartier, has been most recently worn by the Duchess of Cambridge for her wedding to Prince William in 2011. However, the gorgeous jewellery item has certainly done its royal duty.
The piece became a part of the British royal family collection when it was presented by the Queen’s father, King George VI, to her mother before he ascended the throne. However, the Queen’s mother preferred larger jewellery pieces, and the Halo tiara — known then as the Scroll tiara — was given to the Queen as an 18th birthday present. Since the Queen also opted to loan this precious jewellery item to her sister, the late Princess Margaret, the Halo tiara has sat on the heads of several members of the British royal family for more than 80 years. According to the Royal Collection Trust, this platinum and diamond tiara features 149 baton diamonds and 739 brilliants diamonds. It went on loan to the National Gallery of Australia in March this year.
The Duchess of Cambridge’s sapphire engagement ring
One of the most famous royal jewellery hand-me-downs of recent times is the stunning 18-carat white gold engagement ring featuring a 12-carat blue Ceylon sapphire that Prince William opted for to propose to his now-wife, the Duchess of Cambridge.
The fact that this beautiful piece of jewellery was initially personally chosen by Princess Diana in 1981 for her engagement to Prince Charles before being passed to her eldest son made Prince William’s decision particularly poignant to the public. Prince William even said: “It was my way to make sure my mother did not miss out on today.”
The sapphire engagement ring originally cost £28,000 and was presented to Princess Diana by famous royal jeweller, Gerrard.
The Fringe tiara
Made from diamonds, gold and silver, the iconic Fringe tiara was worn by the Queen on her wedding day in 1947 and was a ‘something borrowed’ gift from her mother for the occasion. A stunning piece of , this item of jewellery has also been in the possession of several other former queens — the Queen mother and grandmother — as well as her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. The Fringe tiara was then given to Princess Anne by the Queen for her wedding to Mark Philips in 1973.
Interestingly, the tiara was created using diamonds from a necklace that was once owned by Queen Victoria — but this was not the only time that new jewellery pieces were created from others. Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet — a piece designed by Prince Albert with a current price tag of approximately £5 million — was made from precious stones passed down to Queen Victoria by her uncle, King William IV and his wife, Queen Adelaide.
The Duchess of Cornwall’s engagement ring
Prince Charles proposed to his now-wife, Camilla, in 2005 with a ring passed down to him by his grandmother, the Queen Mother. Featuring a square-cut diamond — approximately five carats — and three diamond baguettes, Camilla always wears her art deco engagement ring next to her simple gold wedding band (made from gold taken from the same mine as the Queen’s).
The Duchess of Cornwall’s stunning engagement ring has an estimated market value of an impressive £220,000 — partly due to its historic significance — and is believed to be one of the most valuable in the royal selection.