As small as it may be, being an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka’s renown for the best gemstones in the world is bigger than any other nation in the world. From age-old times, Sri Lanka has been unearthing the best jewels coveted by every royalty known to us. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and more have understood and sought the presence of a precious Sri Lankan gemstone. Even the wise King Solomon of whose intellect even the Bible speaks of has adorned his Queen Sheba with Sri Lankan gemstones. So, this is a word to the wise!
The story is the same for the British royals as well. It starts back in 1042 AD, with King Edward the Confessor and his coronation ring. That ring held a gorgeous blue sapphire of unknown weight believed to be sourced from Sri Lanka. Aptly named “St. Edward’s Sapphire”, it is rose-cut, octagonal in shape and breathtaking. This Sri Lankan sapphire is at the middle of the maltese cross of the Imperial State Crown to this date, along with the Stuart Sapphire, a 104 carat sapphire in weight that is also believed to be from Sri Lanka. St. Edward’s Sapphire from Sri Lanka is considered the gemstone with the oldest history among the gemstones of the British royals. And needless to say, a sizeable number of large precious stones on British crown jewels are from Sri Lanka.
The most famous jewel among the British crown jewels is arguably Prince Albert’s Brooch presented to Queen Victoria in 1840 on the eve of her wedding. And the enormous oblong sapphire (as described by the court jeweler themselves) in the middle of it surrounded by twelve round diamonds is believed to be from Sri Lanka. Queen Victoria adored this brooch and even made notes on her personal journal about the beautiful sapphire on it, and made it a crown heirloom in her will. It is still worn fondly on mostly daytime occasions by the reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
Forward to February 1981, when Prince Charles proposed to Princess Diana, with a heart-rendering blue sapphire engagement ring fashioned after the aforementioned brooch. The cornflower blue sapphire was oval in shape and weighed 12 carats, haloed by 14 diamonds to enhance its luster, and sat in 18-carat white gold. It is said that Princess Diana loved this Sri Lankan Sapphire at first sight when she saw it for sale at the crown jeweler’s catalog, and Prince Charles, noticing that, presented it to her as his token of engagement and commitment. This proposal took the world by an enthusiastic uproar and the demand for sapphires and rings fashioned after Diana’s engagement ring began flooding in.
Also in October 2010, Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with the same ring. The deep Royal Blue beauty that was at the center of all this adulation came to be known as “The Commoner’s Sapphire” after this engagement as Kate Middleton was truly a commoner, unlike the British royalty.
Another notable entry of this saga of Sri Lankan gems in the British royal household is the beautiful Padparadscha on the engagement ring of Princess Eugenie, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II. Back in 2018, Jack Brooksbank proposed Princess Eugenie with an oval, coral-colored, Sri Lankan Padparadscha seated on a Welsh gold ring surrounded by diamonds. Padparadscha sapphires are the most coveted sapphires among all, and Sri Lankan Padparadschas are the best Padparadschas one would find.
Apart from world-famous sapphires, the British royals enjoy other kinds of precious stones acquired from Sri Lanka in their majesty. A 170-carat spinel from Sri Lanka, owned by the royal family since 1367 and named ‘The Black Prince Ruby’ because of its bright, transparent red, is now the centerpiece of the British Imperial State Crown. A magnificent chrysoberyl cat’s eye of 105 carats originated in Sri Lanka found its way to the royal family in the 1900s and now named by the unique name “British Royal Jewel” is among the British crown jewels. A massive 361 carat, unfaceted, polished spinel gemstone believed to be from Sri Lanka was presented to Queen Victoria as a gift and now resides within a gold necklace among the crown jewels, named “Timur Ruby”.
But the British aren’t the only royals infatuated with Sri Lankan gemstones. Russian Tsars and their queens, Danish princesses and their elders, queens of Netherlands and Belgium, and princes of Monaco like the ever-beautiful Grace Kelly have all loved Sri Lankan gemstones, especially sapphires dearly, but that is a story for another time. But the thing to note here is not that Sri Lankan gemstones are worthy of royalty. It is that royalty is worthy of Sri Lankan gemstones!
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