mercoledì 4 gennaio 2017

Kate Loves: Sapphires

When you mention sapphires, the one that comes instantly to mind (well, to the royal watcher's mind, at any rate!) is the iconic engagement ring that now sparkles on Catherine's hand, and that once belonged to her late mother-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales.

Feautring a 12ct oval blue Ceylon sapphire stone surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds and mounted in 18ct white gold, it was purchased in 1981 by the Prince of Wales at a cost of £28,000 (although reports differ, and some think it was in fact the Queen who footed the bill) and is now thought to be worth more than £300,000, due to its impressive royal legacy.
Diana's selection of this ring was unusual. It was neither custom-made nor a family heirloom and was, at the time of her engagement to Charles, featured in the jeweller's catalogue and available to anyone for purchase.

Jewellery historian Leslie Field, author of The Queen's Jewels, stated: "She [Diana] had obviously already said she would like a sapphire; she had half a dozen rings [to select from]  and she chose this one purely because she liked it. Somebody came up with the story that she immediately went for the biggest, but I asked her and she told me it definitely wasn't the biggest, she simply thought it was very beautiful".

It is a piece by Garrard & Co. Limited, Crown Jewellers from 1843 to 2007 and nowadays holders of a Royal Warrant for the Prince of Wales.

Garrard's connections with Royal Weddings dates way back to 1840, when Prince Albert commissioned the London firm to create a sapphire and diamond cluster brooch as a wedding gift to his future wife, Queen Victoria. The Queen was delighted with her present, and wore the brooch pinned to her wedding dress, as shown in this portrait by Winterhalter:

Incidentally, sapphires seem to be a rather popular choice with British royal brides: besides Princess Diana, the Queen Mother also had a sapphire engagement ring (although she switched to a pearl and diamond one in later years), as did Princess Anne, who received sapphire and diamond engagement rings from both Mark Phillips (below left) and Timothy Laurence (right):

Following the death of Princess Diana, her sons selected mementoes from their late mother's possessions. It was widely reported in the press that Harry chose the engagement ring, while William opted for Diana's yellow gold Cartier watch. Eventually the brothers swapped mementoes and in October 2010 William took the priceless ring with him to Kenya, ready to pop the question.
didn't really plan it that far in advance, like I just knew I wanted it to feel comfortable where I did it and I wanted it to mean something, other than just the act of getting engaged. She understands what it means to me being in Africa, and my love of conservation
One imagines he carried a similar box in his rucksack:

I didn't really plan it that far in advance, like I just knew I wanted it to feel comfortable where I did it and I wanted it to mean something, other than just the act of getting engaged. She understands what it means to me being in Africa, and my love of conservation.
The ring was reportedly resized just before the wedding by Crown jewellers G. Collins & Sons with the addition of two tiny platinum beads to the inside, to make it a UK size I (US size 4 3/4).

During the enagement interview, Prince William talked briefly about the ring and said: "It is very special to me. It was my way of making sure my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement, and the fact we are going to spend the rest of our lives together", while Catherine said: "It's beautiful. I just hope to look after it. It's very, very special".

And of course she was right. As far as engagement rings go, I don't think it gets any more iconic than this!

The style is, unsurprisingly, very widely replikated! By far the best one I've come across so far (and, believe me, I've looked!) is this one from Aliexpress. A bit pricey, but gets discounted quite frequently, so check back if you're interested - I recommend waiting for Chinese New Year at the end of January if you'd like to order, as Aliexpress sellers usually have big promotions going on. Even at full retail price, I'd say it's worth every penny.

Slightly smaller than Kate's ring (the 'sapphire is approx. 9 x 7 mm), which makes it a more believable size even for us mere commoners, it features 14 clear crystals surrounding the central stone, the same number as the original. I've had it for about 18 months and the metal is still in absolutely perfect condition and has not tarnished at all, even with frequent wears, so definitely a recommended purchase!

I also have the platinum-plated "Regal" ring from Marks & Spencer. This particular style is sold out now, but very similar rings remain available.

I wouldn't recommend them, though, based on my experience with the "Regal" (shown below left in both pictures): the metal has tarnished quite visibly and the crystal is a very dark midnight blue with not much sparkle to it. It's also visibly rounder than its Aliexpress counterpart.

For the engagement press conference, Kate paired the ring with subtle sapphire jewellery: a necklace and earring set of sapphires, diamonds and 18ct yellow gold, part of the Cabochon by the Yard collection by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. The exact style Kate wears is now discontinued:

While the necklace has only made that single appearance so far, the earrings have been worn on a number of other occasions (what's even better, you can now grab yourself a replikate in my Etsy shop! 😀):

Currently in Catherine's jewellery box is another pair of sapphire earrings, which are thought to be a modified version of a pair owned by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Diana had some fabulous sapphires in her personal collection, including a stunning Asprey parure which was a wedding present from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia:

The Princess wore the necklace and earrings quite frequently in the early years of her marriage, and occasionally the bracelet, but had the ring and watch remodeled and used the stones to create new pieces, including a pair of double-drop sapphire and diamond cluster earrings (shown below right. Note that the stone from the ring was reset as the centrepiece of a new choker):


Diana, however, also had another pair of very similar double-drop earrings, which are thought to be the ones remodeled for Kate. According to Leslie Field, these are different from the single-cluster and double-cluster earrings which were created from the strap of the Saudi gift watch. In this earrings, the top sapphire is surrounded by 8 diamonds and the bottom sapphire is surrounded by 9 diamonds, with a single brilliant-cut diamond connecting clusters. These sapphires are cabochons, not faceted stones:

Catherine first wore her sapphire and diamond earrings to a service of thanksgiving for Prince Philip's 90th birthday in June 2011:

Her pair features a cabochon sapphire surrounded by a cluster of nine diamonds and suspended from a single diamond on top. The editor at Diana's Jewels notices "that there are extra prongs around the sapphire to match the prongs on her engagement ring.  The one on Diana's only has four visible prongs".
Since their first appearance, the earrings have been worn at numerous occasions throughout the years:

Worn only once so far is a glamorous pair of sapphire and diamond fringe earrings which belonged to the Queen Mother and was loaned to Kate for an appearance at the 100 Women in Hedge Funds gala at the Victoria & Albert Museum in October 2015:

The Queen's Jewel Vault has a bit more info on this piece, although not much is known about the history and provenance of this earrings.

Of course we can look forward to Kate wearing many more stunning sapphire pieces over the years to come, there's no shortage of them in the royal vaults, as illustrated below by the Queen wearing three different sets - and while there's only one sapphire tiara currently in use, there are many more earrings, bracelets and brooches to chose from!

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