The Royal Family has many notable pieces of jewellery in its collection and rubies feature heavily.
Considered one of the traditional cardinal gems along with amethyst, sapphire, emerald, and diamond, the ruby is known as the birthstone for July. The word “ruby” itself comes from ruber, the Latin word for red.
Among the most famous pieces in the Windsor vaults are two tiaras with very different histories. One is a moment of modernity, the other is an heirloom piece that one queen liked so much she decided not to pass it on when the time came for her to hand it over.
Queen Victoria’s Ruby TiaraEmbed from Getty Images
Prince Albert is responsible for a delicate tiara studded with diamonds and set with rubies that is always passed to the current queen. It’s been known as the Oriental Tiara, because of its design, and it was created around 1853 as a gift for Albert’s beloved Victoria. He was inspired by displays he had seen at one of his main achievements, the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The tiara is made of diamonds studded into arches inspired by the east but the really eye catching part of the design are the rubies at the centre of sparkling lotus flowers. These were originally opals, a favourite jewel of Albert’s, but were replaced as time went on.
The tiara is meant to be passed from queen to queen. However, Elizabeth II was only seen in it once. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was so taken with the tiara that she continued to look after it following her husband’s death and her daughter’s accession. Following Queen Elizabeth II’s death, it now passes into the use of Queen Camilla who has shown a preference for tiaras beloved of the Queen Mother before and may yet give this long hidden gem another outing.
Burmese Ruby TiaraEmbed from Getty Images
Made by Garrad and Co., Queen Elizabeth II ordered the Burmese Ruby Tiara in 1973. It is designed in the form of a wreath of roses with silver and diamonds making up the petals while clusters of gold and rubies form the centre of the flowers.
A total of 96 rubies are mounted on the tiara, with jewels coming from The Queen’s private collection. The rubies are originally from a necklace that was gifted as a wedding present in 1947 by the people of Burma (now Myanmar.) The rubies are credited as having the ability to protect its owner from sickness and evil.
As for the diamonds on the tiara, they are a wedding present from the Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, who had a vast jewellery collection of his own.
The Baring Ruby NecklaceEmbed from Getty Images
Upon the death of King George VI the crown rubies were passed down to Queen Elizabeth II. Because they were a favourite of The Queen Mother, she kept them in her possession until her death in 2002. While it has not been confirmed, it’s thought that this is the reason Queen Elizabeth II bought her own rubies in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1964, Elizabeth II acquired the Baring Ruby Necklace. Formerly, it belonged to the Baring collection. It’s believed that each of the three central pendants had been used as a pair of earrings and a pendant.