The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Archie are about to start their 9-Day Tour of Southern Africa, starting in South Africa on the 23rd. To mark the start of the Tour, we are taking a look at the Queen’s ‘best diamonds’, her South African Diamonds-
During the Royal Family’s long post-war Tour of South Africa in the Spring of 1947, Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth celebrated her 21st Birthday and received 21 large diamonds, the largest of which was 10 carats, with smaller baguette and brilliant diamonds to form a long necklace. The diamonds were presented with the gift at a Young People’s Ball, where a nearby microphone picked up ‘her gasp of delight as she opened her treasure’.
The necklace immediately became a favourite, referred by the Princess as ‘my best diamonds’, and were among her first significant gifts she received, ahead of the huge haul of jewel she got for her wedding later that year (in fact, the necklace was worn to her pre-wedding gala). In 1952, the necklace was shortened from 21 to 15 large diamonds, which were used to create a bracelet along with a 6 carat diamond given by De Beers during the South Africa Tour. However, after the South African government adopted an apartheid strategy, the Queen (who was Queen of South Africa until 1961) sparsely wore her South African Diamonds until her 1995 Visit to South Africa, when she was hosted by President Nelson Mandela.
The Queen has notably worn her South African Diamonds at other events connected to South Africa, including her 1999 State Visit to South Africa, the 2001 Return Visit, and most recently the 2011 State Visit from South Africa. Let’s hope the Queen loans her South African Diamonds to her granddaughter-in-law for her first South African Tour.
The Diamonds were on display in the ‘Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession’ Display at Buckingham Palace in 2022, where I got to see them on the day the Queen passed away.
In 2023, Queen Camilla wore the Queen’s South African Diamond Necklace and Bracelet with the the iconic Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara at a Coronation Banquet at Mansion House in London.