This year, Queen Elizabeth II will be celebrating her Platinum Jubilee, the first British monarch in history to reach such a milestone. Seven decades have passed since the death of her father, King George VI, during which she has earned a reputation not only of devotion to the monarchy and her people, but also as one of the best dressed women of our time.
None of the Queen’s outfits would be complete without her jewelry, however – from historic gems passed down from queen to queen through the centuries to recently acquired jewels. In the daytime, she is almost never seen without a pearl necklace, glittering brooch, and pearl earrings. For formal evening events, a necklace or tiara will be pulled out from the vault.
Despite having access to an awe-inspiring number of jewels, the Queen views them casually as being part of her uniform. Her sister, Princess Margaret, once marveled that Her Majesty was the only woman she knew who could put on her own tiara while walking down the stairs to attend an event.
Here, Vogue highlights key jewelry moments from each decade of the Queen’s 70-year reign.
Posing after her historic Coronation ceremony in 1953
For the actual moment of crowning, the gold St Edward’s Crown was used, but was then switched for the Imperial State Crown for the rest of the day. The Imperial State Crown was designed by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell for Queen Victoria in 1839. It is set with several historic stones: St Edward’s sapphire, Queen Elizabeth I’s pearl earrings, The Black Prince’s ruby, the Stuart sapphire and The Cullinan II. It was remade by Garrard in 1937 to be lightened for King George VI, but still weighs 2.3 pounds.
The Queen has spoken about the weight of the crown when worn during the State Opening of Parliament. “You can’t look down to read the speech – you have to take the speech up. Because if you did, your neck would break, or it would fall off. So there are some disadvantages to crowns, but otherwise they’re quite important things.”
The necklace and earrings worn that day are appropriately known as The Coronation Necklace and Earrings. In the 1850s, Queen Victoria had to return a number of Hanoverian heirlooms to her cousin the King of Hanover, including her grandmother Queen Charlotte’s diamond necklace. As a replacement, Queen Victoria had this new necklace and earrings created by dismantling jewels from “swords and useless things” belonging to King George III.
Attending the Royal Variety Performance in 1967
The Lover’s Knot Tiara was made by Garrard in 1913 for Queen Mary using stones from a tiara she was given for her wedding. Queen Mary had a passion for jewels, especially those with family history, so she had Garrard copy the design from a tiara belonging to her grandmother Princess Augusta, which was inherited by her aunt. The Queen inherited the tiara from Queen Mary in 1953 and later famously gave it to Diana, Princess of Wales as a wedding present. It’s now worn by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
The necklace worn by the Queen was a Golden Jubilee gift to Queen Victoria from a committee called The Women’s Jubilee Offering. Originally the committee hoped to raise £10,000 to create a statue of Prince Albert, but when more than £84,000 of donations poured in, the committee set aside £5,000 to purchase this necklace from Carrington & Co. Queen Victoria designated this piece as an heirloom of the Crown.
The earrings worn by the Queen are from Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Parure, given to Queen Alexandra by King Edward VII for their wedding in 1863. The diamond bracelet on the Queen’s wrist was a wedding present from Prince Philip. Philip had used diamonds from a tiara given to him by his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, to design a bracelet and engagement ring for his future wife. The Queen has worn the bracelet frequently throughout her reign but in recent years has loaned it to the Duchess of Cambridge.
On a royal visit to Finland in 1976
The Vladimir Tiara was made for Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, wife of Grand Duke Vladimir in the 1870s. Designed as a row of interlocking diamond circles with pearl pendants, it is believed to have been made by Bolin, and often graced the head of the Grand Duchess during her famous parties. The Grand Duchess was forced to flee Russia during the Russian Revolution, leaving her jewels behind hidden in a secret compartment in her St Petersburg palace. Eventually, on behalf of the Grand Duchess, a British officer dressed as a worker snuck into the palace, retrieved the Grand Duchess’s famous collection of jewels, and returned them to her once out of the country.
After the Grand Duchess’s death in 1920, her children sold part of her collection, this tiara being purchased by Queen Mary. Once in London, the tiara was repaired, having been damaged during the escape from Russia, and Queen Mary had the pearl drops made interchangeable with the Cambridge Emeralds: a collection of emeralds inherited from her grandmother Princess Augusta (who won them in a lottery in Frankfurt shortly after her marriage in 1818).
The Queen inherited the tiara in 1953 and enjoys wearing the drops interchangeably. On occasion, she will go for an all-diamond look and wear the tiara without any drops. The necklace and earrings were made by Garrard for Queen Mary to wear at the 1911 Delhi Durbar using some of the Cambridge Emeralds.
The Dorset Bow Brooch is pinned to the Queen’s sash. It was a wedding present to Queen Mary in 1893 from the County of Dorset. Queen Mary later gave it to the Queen as a wedding present in 1947.
Greeting members of the public on a state visit to Portugal in 1986
Here, the Queen is wearing the oldest set of jewelry in her collection, the Kent Amethyst Parure. The parure belonged to Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria’s mother. Consisting of a necklace, earrings, three brooches, and a pair of side combs, the parure was made an heirloom of the Crown by Queen Victoria. The parure is vary rarely worn, but the Queen enjoys wearing the brooches. On one occasion in 1902, Queen Alexandra wore the necklace cascading down the skirt of her dress.
The tiara worn here is the Queen’s favorite, referred to affectionately as Granny’s Tiara. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland presented this to Queen Mary in 1893 as a wedding present. The tiara is designed with diamond festoons and scrolls on a detachable diamond base. It was originally topped with pearls, but these were removed and used to create the Lover’s Knot Tiara. The Queen has worn this tiara most frequently, and it is probably her most recognizable piece, being featured on currency around the world.
Attending a state banquet in 1990
The necklace and earrings worn here are some of the Queen’s most cherished jewels. Her father King George VI purchased them from Carrington & Co in 1947 and gave them to her as a wedding present. In the 1960s, the Queen found she was without a sapphire tiara, and in 1963, she purchased this one at auction. Her diamond and sapphire bracelet was acquired the same year, completing the parure.
The brooch pinned to the Queen’s sash is the Albert Sapphire Brooch and was given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert on the eve of their wedding in 1840. Queen Victoria recorded in her diary, “My precious Albert gave me a splendid and lovely brooch of an immense sapphire, set round with diamonds; it is quite beautiful.” Queen Victoria designated this piece as an heirloom of the Crown, and it has been worn by every Queen since.
Smiling in the middle of a trip to Malta in 2005
Prince Philip was stationed with the Royal Navy in Malta between 1949 and 1951, and on her visits there, the Queen was able to briefly experience life as any other newlywed wife. Prince Philip’s cousin Lady Pamela Hicks recalled, “The Queen really loved living in Malta because she was able to lead a normal life, wander through the towns and go shopping. It was the only place that she was able to live the life of a naval officer’s wife, just like all the other wives.”
Prince Albert designed the Oriental Circlet Tiara, which was made in 1853 for Queen Victoria, who designated it as an heirloom of the Crown. Originally, the tiara was set with opals but Queen Alexandra believed opals to be unlucky and had them replaced with rubies. The tiara was a favorite of the Queen Mother, so much so that the Queen allowed her to retain it after ascending the throne when it should have been passed on.
The Queen’s necklace is known as the Baring Ruby Necklace, as it was acquired from the Baring Collection in 1964. She paired this set of jewels with Queen Mary’s Ruby Earrings. The earrings, which consist of large rubies surrounded by nine diamonds, were a birthday present to Queen Mary from King George V in 1926.
Hosting a state visit in 2019, one of her last before the pandemic
The Burmese Ruby Tiara was created by Garrard for the Queen in 1973. The rubies used in the tiara were from a necklace presented to the Queen as a wedding present from the Burmese people. The necklace consisted of 96 rubies, which by Burmese custom would protect the wearer from the 96 diseases that can afflict a human. The diamonds used in the tiara were taken from another wedding gift, a tiara from the Nizam of Hyderabad. The new tiara is designed as a wreath of ruby roses, inspired by the Tudor rose, connected by diamond and ruby sprays.
The necklace and earrings worn by the Queen were made for Queen Victoria and originally set with opals instead of rubies. They were left as heirlooms of the Crown by Queen Victoria. Queen Alexandra had the opals replaced with rubies in 1902.
Her outfit is completed with the diamond-studded insignia of the Order of the Garter and the Family Orders of King George V and King George VI. Royal Family Orders are given to female family members by the monarch and feature their miniature portrait in a diamond frame on a silk ribbon.
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk