"Diamonds are a girl's best friend", and so the song goes. But royal engagement rings are somewhat different. Despite some fabulous diamonds in the royal collection, the traditional diamond is not necessarily the rock of choice for royal engagement rings.
Symbolizing love and purity, sapphire is probably the most popular stone chosen by royal brides and this choice is somewhat of a tradition in the family. Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and Princess Alexandra of Kent who wears an oval star sapphire ring inherited from her mother. Princess Anne, the present Duchess of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent, also had sapphire rings for their engagements. When the Queen Mother became engaged in 1923, she was originally given a sapphire ring, which, in her only interview, she told reporters that it was her favourite stone. In the 1950's she switched to a large pearl ring surrounded by diamonds, similar to a ring worn by Queen Mary until her death.
The Queen wears many priceless jewels, but her favorite is her diamond engagement ring. The diamonds on her ring came from a tiara that had belonged to Prince Philip's mother. Prince Philip was involved in the design and the platinum ring was set with eleven diamonds, a 3 carat solitaire and five smaller stones set on each shoulder. When the engagement was announced, the ring was too big and had to be re sized 2 days before the official photo call. A bit of trivia: it is said that if the Queen is annoyed about anything she will start to twist the ring round and round.
Diana's ring was a large, striking oval sapphire surrounded by fourteen brilliant cut diamonds, set in 18 carat white gold. It has been reported that Diana was offered a tray of rings and she chose this one because it was the biggest. This particular ring inspired copies the world over and at the time the it was estimated to have cost £28,500. She is shown wearing the ring on the day her divorce became final. Prince Harry inherited the ring after his mother's death. At the time of her death it was valued at £250,000.
Sarah's ring has an oval Burma ruby, surrounded by a cluster of 10 drop diamonds. The stone was chosen to compliment her red hair. Prince Andrew had originally wanted an emerald ring, but Sarah didn't, so the couple chose a ruby instead. Prince Andrew helped to design it. It is set in eighteen carat yellow and has a white gold band and at the time it was valued at £25,000. In photographs, she can still occasionally be seen wearing the ring. The ruby stone is not chosen for rings very often, because, like opals, in the past the royal family has had superstitions regarding them. Queen Alexandra had a very strong aversion to opals, believing that the brought bad luck. The only other bride to have chosen a ruby engagement ring, in recent history, is the late Princess Margaret.
Sophie's ring features a 2.05-carat oval diamond, flanked by two smaller heart shaped gems, set in 18 carat white gold. Made by the Crown Jewellers, Aspry and estimated at £105,000, it is said to be the most expensive royal engagement ring in history.
Second to the provenance of diamonds in Queen Elizabeth II's engagement ring, Camilla's probably has the most history and sentimental value. The ring is considered to be a family heirloom, and there are estimated values of £100,000. It is in an art deco style, set in platinum, and composed of a emerald cut central diamond flanked by three diamond baguettes on either side. It originally belonged to the Queen Mother, who was given the ring in in 1926 upon the birth of the present Queen.
© Marilyn Braun
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