The Queen’s most expensive and lavish brooch is The Cullinan III & IV. The piece has a fascinating backstory, part of the world largest diamond and forming Queen Mary’s coronation crown.
Expert Alexandra Michell, Gemologist Prestige Pawnbrokers of Channel 4’s Posh Pawn told Express.co.uk all about this fascinating gem and how it came to the British Royal Family.
She said: “In 1905, Frederick Wells, surface manager of Premier Mines in South Africa, discovered the largest gem quality diamond in history; The Cullinan. Weighing a staggering 3106cts, this incredible rough diamond is said to only be a portion of a much larger diamond, although it has yet to be discovered.
“It was presented a few hours later to the mines’ owner, Sir Thomas Cullinan.
“The sale of the stone was negotiated and purchased by the Transvaal Government at £150,000 in 1907 (now roughly £18,000,000) with a view of gifting it to King Edward VII as a birthday present, as well as a gesture of loyalty to Great Britain.”
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The story of how the stone reached British shores involves a plot full of intrigue.
The expert went on: “The stone had to be shipped over to England, and a ploy was concocted to ship a decoy stone aboard a steamer to London, locked up in the captain’s safe, accompanied by a security squad, all the while, the real diamond had simply been posted in a plain box!”
The stone was cut by none other than the so-called “Greatest Cleaver in the World” Joseph Asscher, who designed the famous Joseph Asscher cut.
Alexandra explained: “Cutting the gem was entrusted to Joseph Asscher, who, before any blades touched the stone, spent six months examining it.
“It then took four days to make an initial groove, and When Asscher finally took the plunge, his blade broke. When he tried the second time, after cleaving the stone perfectly, he fainted!
“All in all, it took eight months for Asscher to complete the process, and the gem yielded 105 stones, including 9 of the most important diamonds.
“King Edward kept Cullinan I and II, while one part of the parcel was given to Asscher as a fee, and another part was bought by the People of South Africa, and eventually gifted back to the British Royal Family.”
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The pieces which make up the Queen’s famous brooch are the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV.
“Cullinan III is a pear-shaped diamond weighing 94.4cts, and Cullinan IV is a 63.6cts cushion-shaped diamond,” Alexandra explained.
“Both stones are described as colourless, and are thought to be a rare Type IIa grade, as well as being exceptionally clean stones, despite their size.
“The stones became part of Queen Mary’s Royal jewellery box in 1910 and were originally set in her crown for her Coronation of 1911. Cullinan III was set atop the crown, while Cullinan IV was set on the band of the crown. It is said that the stones made their way into other jewellery before finding a home in a two stone pendant-brooch later in 1911.
“The brooch was then inherited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.”
Despite the gems having enormous wealth, they became known by a nickname which does little to belay their huge wealth.
The Queen refers to the enormous diamonds as “Granny’s Chips”.
Alexandra said: “The brooch earned its title when Queen Elizabeth II, who was visiting the Asscher workshop in 1958, nonchalantly mentioned this name as she passed the brooch over to Louis Asscher for a closer look. Apparently, compared to the much larger Cullinans I & II, the III and IV, as well as the seven other Cullinan diamonds, are light-heartedly called the Cullinan Chippings.
“If both stones were to be valued in the usual way, their worth would be over £16 million, almost the same price as the original rough of 3106cts! But given they had been cut and polished by one of the greatest jewellers and are a regular piece in the Royal Family’s rotating collection, I would estimate this incredible brooch to fetch £35 million to £50 million should it ever sell through auction.”
Another stunning piece of jewellery in the Royal Family is the Queen’s engagement ring.
This piece is not an heirloom in the sense that Her Majesty inherited it, as Prince Philip designed the gorgeous piece for her.
Romantically, Prince Philip crafted the ring from diamonds taken from his mother Alice’s tiara.
Prince Philip designed the square-cut diamond engagement ring with jewellers Philip Antrobus Ltd.
The ring is a platinum ring set with eleven diamonds, a 3 carat round solitaire and five smaller stones set on each shoulder.