Royal treasures: Victoria and Albert’s sparkling love story

Queen Victoria's sapphire and diamond coronet, designed by Prince Albert, made by Joseph Kitching. Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

Many of the royal family’s most beautiful jewels were tokens of love between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. We spotlight some of their most precious pieces, many of which are still worn by the royals of today   

For generations the name Garrard has been synonymous with British royalty, and now the jeweller has opened up some of its royal treasures to the public for the first time in a new display in the Jewel Room at London’s Kensington Palace. Dating back to the firm’s founding year of 1735, royal commissions have ranged from silver communion cups to gemstone-laden crowns.  

royal treasures
The Family of Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1846. Credit: Alamy

You can also pore over the intricate technical drawing used to create one of Garrard’s most iconic royal treasures, Queen Mary’s fringe tiara (1919). Incorporating diamonds – taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding gift to Mary – into 47 spectacularly graduated rays, the glittering headpiece was later worn by the then Princess Elizabeth (now HM The Queen) on her wedding day in 1947.  

Alongside the fascinating archival material of royal treasures are samples of Garrard’s current collections like the Albemarle suite, which draws on motifs featured in the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, a gift presented to Elizabeth at Garrard in 1947: just one example of how historic royal commissions continue to influence the firm’s designs that you can buy today. 

royal treasures
The Garrard Visitors Book, on display at Kensington Palace. Credit: Garrard

While the relationship between Garrard and Britain’s royalty goes back to 1735, it reached its apogee in 1843 when Queen Victoria appointed the firm as the first official Crown Jeweller. Claudia Acott Williams, Collections Curator at Historic Royal Palaces (which cares for Kensington Palace) says: “Jewellery has always been central to the image of monarchy, and no two members of the royal family understood this better than Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.”  

Indeed the royal couple’s jewellery through the years was so intimately entwined with their lives that every piece offered a precious insight into their shared story. For Victoria, jewellery held great symbolic value, and she was invariably interested in a piece’s associations more than its monetary worth. “One of her most treasured pieces of jewellery was a small glass heart locket that contained a lock of Prince Albert’s hair, given at Victoria’s request after their engagement on 15 October 1839,” Claudia says. “She wore it constantly.”  

This is an extract of an article printed in the latest issue of BRITAIN (March/April 2022).
To read the full feature, you can buy the issue here, or subscribe online to have every issue delivered right to your door.

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