The legendary stones used in the Crown Jewels are emblematic of the rich and varied history of the British Monarchy. Each with their own colourful tale, they add yet more gravitas to the Royal regalia. Within the design portfolio of JMAsscher jewellery we find a skilfull blend of the quintessential elements of these fabulous gems. This achieved by using derivative colours, shapes and specialist finishes.
We cannot help but to be fascinated by the mystique which surrounds these rare gems, each with its own enigmatic history.What follows is just a short synopsis of their enthralling pasts.
The Saint Edward’s Sapphire
St Edward’s Sapphire, is the source of the legend that King Edward the Confessor (1042-66), or St Edward, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England, was asked for alms by a beggar. Carrying no money on him, the King presented the beggar with one of his rings. The beggar later transpired to be St John the Evangelist, who by nature of a return of favour, assisted two English pilgrims in Syria.They told an amazing story. Once they had been trapped in a sandstorm, and believed that they had no hope of survival, when everything suddenly lit up, and an old man appeared in front of them. The mysterious man learned that the pilgrims’ homeland was England, ruled by Edward, without saying a word he made a sign to follow him, and soon brought them back to their hotel. After a rest and sleep, the British were continuing on their journey, when the old man came to them, took off his ring with its immense blue stone and told them to give it to the king.
“Who are you?” – Asked the astonished travelers.
“I am John The Evangelist” – was the answer, – “tell your king that in six months we will meet in heaven.”
Hearing the words of John, Edward immediately began to prepare for the impending death. He died exactly six months later – and in heaven they met.
The King was buried with the ring in Westminster Abbey in 1066. However, the story of the sapphire is not over!
As described, the ring was left on the finger of the deceased ruler and two centuries later when the grave was opened – the body was in surprisingly good condition.
This was a recognised as a miracle and closely connected with the beautiful ring. The ring was removed from the hands of the king and put on public display. For a long time crowds of suffering flocked to the Abbey as it was then believed that by merely touching the sapphire one could cure epilepsy, paralysis and even blindness.
Then the stone was placed in the state treasury, whence it migrated to ornament the crown, and thus it has come to form part of the Imperial regalia proudly worn by many generations of British monarchs.
This magnificent sapphire is now a source of inspiration for the JMAssher Cullinan Collection’s which incorporates blue topaz rings, pendant and earrings.
Queen Elizabeth’s Earrings
Queen Elizabeth’s Earrings, the four large pearls, have become associated with the seven pearls that Catherine de Medici received from Pope Clement VII on her marriage to Henri II of France in 1533. She later gave them to her daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots, and after her imprisonment they were allegedly sold to Elizabeth I. Elizabeth is unlikely to have worn them as earrings, as she preferred to wear pearls scattered over her ruff, in her hair or on her costume, and despite this romantic tale it appears that at least two of the pearls did not enter the Collection until the nineteenth century.
These are a wonderful inspiration for a future collection, and for the individually bespoke pieces, which we love to create.
The Black Prince’s Ruby
The Black Prince’s Ruby – in fact a large spinel – was traditionally thought to have been the ruby given to Edward, Prince of Wales (1330-76), son of Edward III, (and known as the Black Prince), by Don Pedro, King of Castile, after his assistance at the Battle of Najera near Vittoria in 1367. The stone, which measures 170 carats, is of Eastern origin and has been drilled in the past for use as a pendant. According to legend it passed to Spain in about 1366, where Don Pedro took it from the Moorish king of Granada. In 1415 it was one of the stones worn by Henry V in his helmet, at the Battle of Agincourt. It is difficult to prove that this is indeed the same stone but a large Balas (or spinel) certainly appears in the descriptions of historic state crowns, and it has been reset each time crown was refashioned.
The exotic history of this stone was a marvellous inspiration to include our Rubelite and diamond statement ring, with its gold setting, which mimics the heart shaped surround of Cullinan I
The inclusion of ruby details in our collection is a thematic element that runs through the Excelsior collections.
The Stuart Sapphire
The Stuart Sapphire, which has also been drilled in its history for use as a pendant, is approximately 104 carats. It is traditionally thought to have been smuggled by James II, when he fled England in December 1688. He passed it to his son Prince James Francis Edward, ‘the Old Pretender’, and it eventually came into the collection of Henry, Cardinal of York. When an Italian dealer, Angioli Bonelli was sent on behalf of George IV to retrieve any remaining Stuart papers, after the Cardinal’s death, he encountered a Venetian merchant who produced a large sapphire, saying that it belonged to the Stuart Crown. Bonelli purchased the sapphire and returned it to Britain.
George IV certainly believed it was the Stuart Sapphire and by the time of Queen Victoria’s coronation it was set into the front of the band of her State Crown. It was moved to the rear of the band in 1909 to make way for the newly acquired superstar which is the Cullinan II.
Another Sapphire with an intriguing past – which inspired us to design suites of blue jewellery, set into delicately detailed cathedral settings which create a shimmering theatre of light.
The Cullinan I and II
Cullinan II, or the ‘Second Star of Africa, weighs 317.4 carats. It is the second largest stone cut from the great Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever discovered. It was found in 1905 by Frederick G.S. Wells, at the Premier Mine, about twenty miles from Pretoria in South Africa. This immense jewel, which weighed 3025 carats, was named after Thomas Cullinan, the Chairman of the Premier (Transvaal) Diamond Mining Company. The diamond was presented to Edward VII in 1907 as a symbolic gesture to heal the rift between Britain and South Africa after the Boer War.Britain’s King Edward VII, promised that the diamond would be ““preserved among the historical jewels which form the heirlooms of the Crown.”
It was formally handed over to the King on his birthday, 9 November 1907, at Sandringham. The stone was cut by Jan Maarten’s great grandfather. Nine large stones were cut from the original diamond. The cutting and polishing took three men eight months to complete. A further 97 small brilliants and some unpolished fragments were also created.
The largest cleaving of the stone, Cullinan I, the Star of Africa, was placed in the Sovereign’s Sceptre of the Cross, and Cullinan II replaced the stuart Sapphire in the front of the band of the Imperial State Crown.
The Cullinan is of course, of profound significance to JMAsscher, and the central theme for the initial collections.
The elegant treatment of its settings, with acanthus leaves and stylised enamelled detail, is a rich source of material for the design archives, which are already represented in the current JMAsscher collections.