R. & S. Garrard & Co.,1870
This diminutive crown, which measures no more than 10 cm in diameter, was supplied by R. & S. Garrard and Co. in March 1870.
The crown became the most recognisable jewel of Queen Victoria’s middle and old age and she was regularly depicted wearing it in paintings, sculptures, on coins and in photographs, notably her official portrait by W. & D. Downey, taken in 1893 and released to mark her Diamond Jubilee on 22 June 1897.
It consists of a silver openwork frame, laminated with gold and set with 1,187 brilliant, rose and mixed-cut diamonds and some diamond chips.
Following Prince Albert’s untimely death on 14 December 1861, the Queen withdrew from public engagements for a long period. For the remainder of her life she wore mourning clothes, with which she found it impossible to wear her coloured jewels that were so closely associated with happier times. The commissioning of the Small Diamond Crown satisfied the need for a formal head ornament of colourless stones, suitable for mourning and usually worn over a veil of Honiton lace.
The Queen recorded the first wearing of the crown in her Journal on 9 February 1871 at the State Opening of Parliament: ‘Wore a dress trimmed with ermine & my new small diamond crown over a veil, on my head’.
The crown was placed on the Queen’s coffin at Osborne before her body was conveyed to London for the state funeral in February 1901. It was subsequently worn by Queen Alexandra, who then relinquished it to Queen Mary.
In 1937, King George VI instructed that the crown be added to the display of regalia at the Tower of London.