In the months before he married in 1840, Prince Albert secretly commissioned the House of Garrard to create a jewel to his own designs: a jewel fit for a Queen. The result was a sapphire and white diamond cluster brooch, which he gave to Queen Victoria on the eve of their wedding. It was to be worn as her ‘something blue’. Every year on their anniversary the Queen would wear it again, and on many days in between.
The brooch was the first of many Garrard jewels made for royal brides. It was also the inspiration for the cluster engagement ring now seen on the hand of the Duchess of Cambridge.
In 1863 it came time for their son Edward, Prince of Wales to marry. He too turned to Garrard with an even more lavish request, to create a pearl and diamond parure of necklace, earrings, brooch and tiara for his bride, Princess Alexandra. The prince had a great appreciation for the intricacies of jewellery design and was actively engaged in its creation.
In one of the earliest instances of wedding photography, Princess Alexandra is shown resplendent on the arm of her young husband adorned in all the jewels but the tiara. Today its whereabouts are unknown, but HM Queen Elizabeth II continues to wear the accompanying brooch and earrings.
Among the jewels most favoured by Her Majesty is another Garrard creation made for a royal wedding. Known as the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, its swags and swirls of white diamonds rise to peaks, crested by 13 brilliants. The tiara was bought with donations from women around the country and given to the future Queen Mary at her wedding in 1893. She went on to describe it as one of her ‘most valued’ gifts. Years later she passed the tiara to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, on the occasion of her marriage in 1947.
However, it was not this tiara that held the young princess’s veil in place as she exchanged vows with Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in Westminster Abbey. This important role was fulfilled by the Fringe Tiara, lent by her mother as her ‘something borrowed’. Originally made by Garrard for Queen Mary in 1919, it features a series of alternating tall and short bars of white diamonds. On the day of the wedding, the delicate structure snapped as the bride was getting ready. A police escort rushed the tiara away to the Garrard workshop, where it was repaired and returned just in time for the ceremony.
Despite the years that separate them, no matter how different they are in form and setting, these jewels have retained their style and impact. They are as eye-catching at occasions today as they were when they graced these royal weddings many years ago.