Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet

Amazing news out of London yesterday- the Victoria & Albert Museum has acquired Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet after a temporary export ban was placed on the piece last year. In honour of the acquisition, we are featuring the the Coronet below-

In 1842, Prince Albert commissioned a sapphire and diamond coronet from Joseph Kitching, designed by the Prince himself, for his wife. Queen Victoria. The coronet featured ‘kite- and cushion-shaped sapphires and diamonds’ and was part of a larger sapphire and diamond parure.

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Queen Victoria was overjoyed with her new Sapphire and Diamond Coronet, and wore it that same year for a portrait by Franz Xavier Winterhalter. She wore the tiara for several engravings and drawings, as well as the 1866 State Opening of Parliament, her first State Opening since Prince Albert’s death in 1866. Queen Victoria also wore the Tiara for an 1874 portrait by Henry Richard Graves. After her death it passed to her eldest son, King Edward VII, and then his son, King George V, but remained publicly unworn.

In 1922, King George V gifted Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet and it’s accompanying parure to his only daughter, Princess Mary, when she married Viscount Lascelles, heir to the Earldom of Harewood. While Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood (later known as the Princess Royal) wore the necklace frequently with the Harewood Scroll Tiara, the Coronet was worn rather rarely. Notable occasions include a portrait in the 1920s, a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1934, and an event in the 1950s.

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After Princess Mary’s death in 1965, the parure, along with the majority of her jewel collection, most notably the Harewood Scroll Tiara and her Fringe Tiara, was sold at auction, but the Tiara remained with the family.

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In 1977, Patricia, Countess of Harewood (second wife of Princess Mary’s son) wore Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet for an ‘informal’ dinner and reception at the Civic Hall during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee tour of Yorkshire, and in 1992, the Coronet was worn by Andrea Kershaw when she married the Hon. Mark Lascelles, forth son of the Earl and Countess.

Patricia Countess of Harewood also wore the Sapphire Coronet on a later date, back on her head in the original style of Queen Victoria. (Thanks to Paul Ratcliffe for the pic). In 1997, Wartski’s wrote to the Earl of Harewood, inquiring about any pieces of royal provenance for an exhibition. The Countess responded by telephone, saying they had a piece but “so small you probably will not want it.” However, Wartski’s was delighted and Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet was exhibited multiple times for the next few years. However, at some point the Harewood’s sold the Coronet, probably due to inheritance taxes after the 7th Earl’s death in 2011.

In 2016, the anonymous owner of the coronet decided to sell the piece to an anonymous foreign buyer, but the British government imposed a temporary ban to stop the coronet leaving the country, allowing time for money to be raised to buy the piece. Then yesterday, it was announced that Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet has been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, bought by hedge fund tycoon William Bollinger, and will go on display to the public in 2019, at the William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery.

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