This month, we are marking the Bicentenary of the Birth of Queen Victoria by featuring her Top 20 Jewels, one for each decade since the Birth of 2nd-longest reigning British Monarch, in the 20 days leading up to the Anniversary itself, starting with her Crown Ruby Brooch.
A large oval ruby and diamond cluster surmounting a pear-shaped ruby and diamond pendant, this brooch has two origin stories. The first one says that the brooch was part of the Opal and Diamond Parure acquired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from Garrard in 1854, which was left to the Crown when she passed away in 1901, but the Opals, thought unlucky by her daughter-in-law, Queen Alexandra, were replaced with rubies from a necklace given to Queen Victoria by the ruler of Nepal. However, Queen Victoria was painted wearing a Ruby brooch of a similar design and size multiple times, leading some to assume that this brooch is an earlier piece not connected to the Crown Ruby Parure.
Despite the changes, Queen Alexandra was never depicted wearing the Parure, but her successor, Queen Mary wore the Crown Ruby Brooch for a portrait in the 1920s. This would support the first origin theory, because Queen Mary had the opals replaced with rubies from the brooch in the parure only in 1926.
When King George VI came to the throne in 1936, the Oriental Circlet Tiara and the Crown Ruby Parure came into the possession of Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, and became life long favourites, becoming one of the few pieces she used into her old age. However, the Crown Ruby Brooch, also in the possession of the Queen Mother was not worn that often, notably worn for a Portrait, a visit to Rhodesia, and a Dutch Return Banquet, which supported the origin story that the brooch was not originally made to correspond with the Crown Ruby Parure.
After the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, the Crown Ruby Parure and the Brooch came into possession of the Queen (they were legally hers as the incumbent of the Crown, but as we’ll see later, she allowed her mother to retain quite a few pieces until her death), who has used the Oriental Circlet Tiara and Parure quite sparingly. Queen Victoria’s Crown Ruby Brooch was debuted on the Queen at Royal Ascot in 2015, and worn a few days later with the necklace and earrings from the Crown Ruby Parure at a State Banquet in Germany, and has not yet made a reappearance.