The History of Queen Victoria's Sapphire and Diamond Coronet

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) famously shared a love of fine jewels and coloured gemstones with her beloved husband, Prince Albert. In fact, one of her most prized possessions - a sapphire and diamond coronet - was designed and commissioned by her husband in 1840. Here, we delve into the story behind this beautiful piece of history.

It is perhaps fated that Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet found its permanent home at London's Victoria & Albert Museum in 2019, not least because this year marks the 200th anniversary of the births of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Now, housed within its own cylindrical display cabinet at the heart of the refurbished William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet is once again the star of the show. 

The coronet was first acquired by the museum in 2017 and is considered one of Queen Victoria’s most important jewels. It was lovingly designed by her husband, Prince Albert, in 1840 (the royal couple’s wedding year) and was made by jeweller Joseph Kitching.

The coronet is mounted with diamonds set in silver, with 11 step-cut sapphires of octagonal and calf’s head shape, set in gold. The piece was designed to match a sapphire and diamond brooch that Albert gave to Victoria the day before their wedding, perhaps kick-starting the Queen’s love of parures.

In fact, in the same year, she purchased a pair of diamond and sapphire earrings, a brooch and a bracelet of sapphires and diamonds, which suggests she was building a rather impressive matching set!

Read more: What Factors Influence Sapphire Prices?

The design of the coronet was based on the Saxon Rautenkranz – acknowledged as Prince Albert’s coat of arms – although the gemstones are believed to have come from jewellery previously given to Victoria by King William IV and Queen Adelaide.

Prince Albert took a keen interest in Victoria’s jewellery, with one of the Queen’s diary entries from February 1843 stating: “We were very busy looking over various pieces of old jewellery of mine, settling to have some reset, in order to add to my fine ‘parures’. Albert has such taste and arranges everything for me about my jewels.”


Queen Victoria, François Forster (1790-1872), Paris, 1846, after Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73). Engraving on paper. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Soon, the coronet was immortalised in influential early paintings of Victoria, including the 1842 official portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, making the sparkling jewel a recognisable symbol of her power and status.

Prior to the untimely death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria famously had a great love of colourful gemstones and transformable pieces that could be worn in multiple ways. In 1866, she wore the coronet in place of the heavy state crown at the first Opening of Parliament she attended after Albert’s death (perhaps signalling that the piece gave her confidence).

Speaking on the introduction of the coronet to the V&A, senior curator Richard Edgcumbe said: “Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet is one of the great jewels of her reign. Designed by Prince Albert, it is an iconic symbol of their love, worn by Victoria as young queen and as widow. We are entirely indebted to William and Judith Bollinger and their sons for the gift of this masterpiece of the jeweller’s art, which is so intimately associated with Victoria and Albert that it will become part of the identity of the V&A.

"Together with an array of eighty new acquisitions and loans made possible by the generosity of many supporters, the display of the coronet inaugurates the next phase in the life of a much-loved gallery.”

All images credit to Jewellery, Rooms 91-93, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Gems&Jewellery.

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ヴィクトリア女王(1819-1901)が彼女の最愛の夫であるアルバート公とともに、宝飾品と色石に愛情を注いだことは有名です。実際、彼女が最も大切にした愛蔵品の一つ ― サファイアとダイヤモンドの宝冠 ― は、1840年に彼女の夫がデザインし注文しました。ここでは、この美しい歴史の1ページとなった物語を紹介します。





宝冠のデザインは、ザクセンのラウテンクランツ(上部に葉や花冠をあしらった飾り帯)-アルバート公の紋章- に基づいています。使用されている宝石は以前ウィリアム4世とアデレード王妃がヴィクトリアに与えたジュエリーから取られたものと考えられています。






すべての写真のクレジット:ヴィクトリア&アルバート・ミュージアム(V&A)のウィリアム・アンド・ジュディス・ボリンガー・ギャラリー、ジュエリー・ルーム 91-93。

この記事は、Gems&Jewellery Summer 2019 に掲載されたものです。

ヴィクトリア女王、フランツ・クサーヴァー・ヴィンターハルター(1805-73)が描いた後、フランシス・フォスター (1790-1872)による彫版、 パリ、 1846年。 紙に彫版印刷 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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American Gemstones: Yogo Sapphires from Montana

Native to Montana, the sought-after Yogo sapphire was first discovered accidentally by a gold miner in the 1890s. Elizabeth A. Gass FGA, a Gemstone Advancement and Education Coordinator at JTVguides us through the gemmology and origins of the Yogo sapphire and explains what makes this dazzling American gem so special.

Montana has so much mineral wealth that one of its nicknames is ‘The Treasure State’. Gold is what first drew settlers to its vast landscape but, in the gemmological community, Montana is most well-known for one of its more colourful treasures: sapphire. There are a few mines that have produced sapphires over the years, but the most desirable material is from Yogo Gulch. 

A Surprising Find

The story of the discovery of Yogo sapphires is much like the discovery of many American sources of gemstones; no one was really looking for them. In 1895, a miner by the name of Jake Hoover discovered gold along a bench (flat area on the side of a mountain) east of Yogo Creek. Thinking that there was the possibility that the deposit could yield significant amounts of gold, he searched for investors. 

They raised somewhere around $40,000 to invest in the mining operation, $38,000 of which was used to construct a ditch and flume to bring water to the mine. It extended for several miles and evidence of it can be found today. Luck was not on their side and after a year of mining they came away with only 40 ounces of gold, worth around $700. Miners had been noticing ‘blue pebbles’ in their sluice boxes since mining took off in the area but everyone just discarded them in their search for gold.


A cut and polished Montana sapphire.

Hoover was different, he collected the small blue stones in a cigar box until it was full. He then sent them off to Tiffany & Co. to see what they were and if they were worth anything. Hoover received quite the surprise when George F. Kunz of Tiffany & Co. identified the pebbles as sapphire. Tiffany & Co. bought the cigar box full of rough for $3,750 and Kunz declared the stones “the finest precious gemstones ever found in the United States” due to their exceptional colour and clarity. 

Learn more: Sapphire for Those Born in September

Realising that the sapphires could be the remedy to their financial problems, Hoover and his partners set out to find the “mother lode”. Another prospector stumbled upon the source of the sapphires when he found a fissure filled with soft material in a limestone outcrop. When he washed some of the material, he immediately found sapphires. Hoover and company quickly identified the vein as the source of the sapphires. It did not take long for claims to be staked along the five-mile length of the vein. Eventually, 33 claims, all mining sapphire, were established.

Origins of the Yogo Sapphires

The famous Yogo sapphires would never have existed without the geological processes that occurred in the Yogo mining area. They are found in a system of igneous intrusions called dikes. There are six main dikes that form the centre of the Yogo sapphire deposit. All are composed of a type of igneous rock called a lamprophyre. A lamprophyre is a dark igneous rock with porphyritic texture, meaning that there are larger crystals in a fine-grained matrix.

These dikes intruded into the predominantly limestone country rock. The limestone had previously undergone dissolution processes that created karst topography in the form of channels, caves, and sinkholes. The lamprophyre dikes followed the natural topography during emplacement. The main dike, which is where the bulk of the mining for Yogo sapphires has taken place, is un-weathered compared to the other dikes. The weathered dikes are altered to clay minerals, often yellow to reddish brown in colour. 

A tie or lapel pin set with a Montana sapphire.

One dike that was discovered does not bear sapphire. It is a mafic lamprophyre whereas the others that do bear sapphire are all ultramafic. This means that the sapphire bearing rocks are made of less than 45% silica. Because the other dikes are altered, the main dike is the most appropriate dike to study and infer the emplacement conditions of the Yogo sapphire deposits. It is also the only dike to have significant research available.

The main dike has a limited amount of contact metamorphism with the surrounding rock which indicates a quick emplacement and cooling process. The magma that made the lamprophyres is thought to have originated in the upper mantle. The magma moved through existing metamorphic rocks, rich in aluminum, partially melting and heating them. The sapphires formed as a reaction between the magma and the aluminum-rich rock in what is called a peritectic reaction. 

Learn more: Understanding the Value of Sapphires

Peritectic reactions occur between a solid (country rock) and a liquid (lamprophyre) at certain temperatures and compositions resulting in a new solid (sapphire and other minerals). The sapphires did not crystallise from the lamprophyre, but the intrusion caused their formation. Pieces of the country rock that now contained sapphire were incorporated into the magma as xenoliths. The magma melted many of these xenoliths and incorporated the elements into itself. Even the sapphires were partially absorbed with some showing a spinel reaction rim or etching and pitting. There are a few theories of how the sapphires came to be in these igneous bodies, but this is one of the more recent that correlates well with the known data.

Visual Properties of the Yogo Sapphire

The unique geology of the Yogo mining area leaves an imprint, not just on the geologists and miners that know the area, but also on the sapphires themselves. They are known for their even colour, lack of colour zoning, and are fairly-free of inclusions. Their quality as cut stones is also increased due to their high lustre and brilliance. They are typically a ‘cornflower blue’ colour but can also be found in shades of violet or purple. Typically, it is difficult to distinguish sapphires from different deposits because of how physically similar they are. 

Yogo sapphires, on the other hand, are wholly unique. Their origin can be considered igneous, instead of metamorphic, like most sapphires. They have unique inclusions and distinct trace element concentrations that make them readily distinguishable from sapphires mined in other locations.

Learn more: The Siren of Serendip Blue Sapphire

Some of the more notable and recognizable inclusions include negative crystals of carbonates or analcime, pyrope-almandine-grossular garnet crystals, elongated dark rutile crystals with or without tension fractures and melt inclusions with contraction halos. There is also a notable lack of silk in Yogo sapphires. If it is present, which is extremely rare, it is a minute amount which is called ‘rutile dust’. The trace element concentrations distinguish them by their generally elevated magnesium and titanium content. Some Sri Lankan sapphires can overlap the lower end of the Yogo sapphire range, but they always have a much higher iron concentration than Sri Lankan material. 

The United States may have vast wilderness and incredible natural wonders, but it is some of our smallest treasures that have captured mankind’s attention. Sapphires from the Yogo Gulch of Montana are no different. This unique formation environment provided a distinct chemistry and readily identifiable inclusions. The Yogo sapphire’s accidental discovery and all the subsequent successes and failures of different mining ventures gives this precious stone an incredible story.

Title image: A faceted Montana sapphire alongside a pearl tie or lapel pin set with a Montana sapphire.

Complete bibliography and references available upon request. All images courtesy of JTV.

This blog was originally published as part of the article, ‘One Nation, Many Gemstones’ in Gems&Jewellery Vol. 29, No. 1.

Discover more about coloured gemstones in Gem Knowledge, part of the Gem-A Gem Hub. Find out more about JTV here.

Interested in becoming a qualified gemmologist? Take a look at our Gemmology Diploma and Gemmology Foundation courses.

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