The exhibition, which runs from June 30 to July 8 and then from July 31 to Oct. 7, was designed to coincide with the queen’s diamond jubilee this year, and features jewels she wears regularly at official functions in Britain and abroad.
“The aim of the exhibition is to show how rulers have used diamonds as visible signs of wealth and power,” said curator Caroline de Guitaut, who described the crowns, tiaras, rings, earrings, swords and snuff box on display as “priceless.” De Guitaut said the 86-year-old monarch was consulted on what would be used for the exhibition, housed in a darkened room inside Buckingham Palace and accessed via gilded, colonnaded corridors lined with royal portraits going back generations. “We have tried to showcase some of the most important diamonds in royal possession.” The first item on show in a brightly lit glass case is Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown which, despite its size, features more than 1,100 diamonds.
After her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861, the only other British monarch to have marked a diamond jubilee wore only mourning clothes, meaning that colourless stones such as clear diamonds were an ideal adornment. Victoria was regularly pictured wearing it, including in her official diamond jubilee portrait. Perhaps the most impressive display, however, is that containing seven of the nine major stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest ever found. Underlining how diamonds were used as gifts of diplomacy as well as objects of desire, Queen Victoria’s fringe brooch includes stones presented to her by the Sultan of Turkey as a token of thanks for Britain’s support in the Crimean War. Victoria appears not to have appreciated the sultan’s tastes, and had the jewels reset.