Jewellery A-Z

Jewellery collections through the ages

17th April 2015

Here at Astley Clarke we appreciate a bit of history now and again. Better still when history involves huge rubies, emeralds and our favourite monarch sporting some truly spectacular jewels. So here for your reading pleasure are a few of our favourite jewellery collections throughout the ages.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Jewellery Collection

The jewellery collection belonging to Queen Elizabeth II is so extensive that there is a special room about the size of an ice rink to house it, situated 40 feet beneath Buckingham Palace. One of the highlights of the collection is the so-called Timur Ruby which is in fact a substantial 352.50-carat spinel. It is inscribed with the names of several of the previous owners, who were Mughal emperors. Other impressive gems in her collection include the Cambridge and Delhi Dunbar Parure, a suite of emerald jewellery including an emerald diadem and the Prince Albert Brooch, a huge sapphire given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert the day before their wedding.

The collection also contains several of the large diamonds cut from the Cullinan, the largest diamond ever mined, weighing in at 3,106 carats, or just under one and a half pounds. From these were cut the ‘Stars of Africa’, the Cullinan I and II, weighing 530-carats and 317-carats respectively. She reportedly refers to the Cullinan III (94-carats) and Cullinan IV (64-carats) as “Granny’s Chips.” Now that sounds more like our favourite funky queen.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ Jewellery Collection

Jackie Kennedy’s jewellery collection grew considerably when she married Aristotle Onassis – it is reported that she received $5 million in jewellery from her husband. Her engagement ring from Onassis reportedly sold for $2.6 million at the auction of the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Sotheby’s on April 24, 1996. At this auction, a 47-carat kunzite ring that President Kennedy purchased for his wife but never had the chance to give her was also sold.

Marlene Dietrich’s Jewellery Collection

Dietrich wore her own jewellery in many of her films and was a particular fan of emeralds. Most famously, she wore a suite set with huge cabochon emeralds in her role as a jewel thief in Desire in 1938. One anecdote tells of her baking a cake at Katherine Cornell’s house, and being unable to find her 37.41-carat cabochon emerald ring which she had taken off in the kitchen. Despite everybody’s best efforts, the ring could not be found – until it turned up in a piece of the cake during dessert!

Joan Crawford’s Jewellery Collection

This actress was so notoriously keen on sapphires that the press called them “Joan Blue” after her. One of her favourite pieces in her extensive collection included a bracelet set with three star sapphires of 60 carats each. Star sapphires are half-dome-cut sapphires with a starlike effect which seems to glide across the surface of the stone, the way the sliver does in a cat’s eye. She was also the owner of a 70-carat star sapphire engagement ring, and a 72-carat emerald-cut sapphire, which she often wore together on the same finger. We wholeheartedly approve.