In our visits to London over the past year, for the Platinum Jubilee, when the Queen passed away, and most recently for the Coronation, one of the highlights has been our trips to see the spectacular Royal and Noble Jewels on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which we are featuring today!
The jewellery is displayed in the William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery, located on the second floor of the Museum, and is arranged chronologically over two floors, up a modern spiral staircase. The Tiaras and other Royal and Noble Jewels are mostly in the far end of the room from the entrance, and you should keep an eye out for the catalogue books which list additional information about each jewel not included in the description.
The undoubted highlight of the Jewellery Room at the V&A Museum is Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet and Sapphire Bracelet, which as designed by Prince Albert and given as a wedding gift to their great-granddaughter, Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, in 1922. The Sapphire Coronet remained with the Earls of Harewood until recent years, with a temporary export ban put in place to stop its sale abroad, that let to it being acquired by hedge fund tycoon William Bollinger to go on display at the V&A’s William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery. The Bracelet was acquired through different channels more recently.
There are also spectacular pieces from the Russian Crown Jewels on display, including a set of 46 dress ornaments, inscribed with the Russian royal inventory numbers for 1764, being commissioned by Empress Catherine the Great from the goldsmith Leopold Pfisterer, and were famously worn with Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna’s Emeralds. The other Crown Jewels include a Ruby and Diamond Floral Spray. The jewels were sold by the Bolshevik government after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and left to the V&A in the Cory Bequest.
The most magnificent Jewels in the Jewellery Gallery are the spectacular Jewels of the Marquesses of Londonderry, which are not owned by the Museum and instead have been on permanent loan for decades. The Londonderry Tiara, Amethyst Tiara, Diamond Stomacher, Turquoise Necklace and the spectacular Jewels are on display on the main level, while the Pearl and Emerald Parures, along with Garter Stars, Swords and Snuff Boxes are on display on the second floor of the Gallery.
One of the most spectacular Aristocratic Jewels on display include the magnificent Cartier Manchester Tiara, which was displayed on loan from the Duke of Manchester between 1988 to 2006, and while other jewels were auctioned in 2007, the Cartier Manchester Tiara was accepted by the British government in lieu of inheritance tax, and was then reallocated to the Victoria & Albert Museum where it remains on display.
Another splendid heirloom on display is the Dufferin and Ava Shamrock Tiara, which is on loan from the estate of the late Lindy Guinness, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, the widow of the last Marquess.
One of the newest additions to the Jewellery Gallery is the spectacular Sutherland Diamond Rivière, which may have originated from Queen Marie Antoinette, and was only given to UK Government in lieu of death duties from the estate of the late Countess of Sutherland last year, having gone on display in 2023.
Throughout the gallery, there is an extraordinary amount of jewels on which the provenance is listed ‘Cory Bequest’, which formed the collection of Jane, Lady Cory, who left her massive jewellery collection to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1947. The collection includes two Diamond Tiaras, several splendid Diamond Floral Spray Brooches, including a massive en tremblant stomacher, jewels form eh Russian Crown Jewels, a Sapphire Parure, a Peridot Parure, and a large suite of Turquoise Jewels among several spectacular Jewells from the Victorian, Regency and Edwardian periods.
Among the jewels is a spectacular Nitot Emerald and Diamond Necklace and a pair of Earrings which were presented by Emperor Napoleon to his niece, Stephanie de Beauharnais, Grand Duchess of Baden. They were given by Countess Margharita Tagliavia to the Museum at some point after the Second World War.
Other Napoleonic Jewels include the spectacular Gold and Cameo Jewels which originate from Empress Joséphine of France, who may have been given them from her sister-in-law, Queen Caroline of Naples, and were acquired by Lord Lascelles, “ Beau Lascelles” likely from the Empress left to his grand-niece Catherine, Mrs Granville Edwin Lloyd-Baker, thence by family descent to the present owner. The Jewels were put up for Auction in 2021, but some of them remain on display at the Jewellery Gallery.
In the Art Deco section of the Gallery, you can see the splendid Mountbatten Cartier Tutti Fruiti Bandeau made for the infamous Edwina, Countess Mountbatten. The Bandeau was put in a temporary export ban in 2004, and. By 2008, went on public display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
There is a Cartier Tiara of diamonds and synthetic rubies made for Alexandra Calvocoressi Comnène when she married Robert Everts, the Ambassadorial Envoy to Beijing, in 1913. The Tiara was put on loan at the museum by their daughter, Irene, Lady Logan, in 2003, and accepted by the British government in lieu of inheritance tax, and was then allocated to the Victoria & Albert Museum upon Lady Logan’s passing in 2014. The surrounding brooches were given by Lady Reigate or came from the Bettine, Lady Abingdon Collection, bequeathed by Mrs TRP Hole.
The Seringapatam Emerald and Ruby Parure were a part of the loot of Major-General George Harris, the 1st Baron Harris, following the defeat of Tipu Sultan of Mysore in 1799. The Emeralds were reset by 1887 while the Rubies were reset by the time the 4th Baron Harris was made the Governor of Bombay in 1890. The Jewels are on laon from the Harris (Belmont) Charity, which runs the Harris family seat, Belmont, in Kent.
In addition to the Jewels on display in the William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery, there were some spectacular examples of South Asia Jewels in the South and Southeast Asian Galleries, including a spectacular Necklace and Earrings given Princess Naheed Mazharuddin Khan of Surat in memory of her parents Nayer and Qamar Ahmad.
There is also a spectacular First Class Badge of the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert, which originated from either a daughter or granddaughter of Queen Victoria, thought it is not known how it came into the Museum.