Gemstones of the British Empire

Article from Berganza


front view Burmese ruby and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1910. berganza hatton garden
Burmese ruby and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1910.
Ref: 20091

Monday 6th June 2016

This Saturday we celebrate the official 90th birthday of our reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II. During her sixty year rule we have seen her travel extensively throughout the global British empire to countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific. To commemorate her majesty’s 90th year we take a look at the rare and precious gemstones found within the commonwealth, some of which have found a place in her own private collections.

There have been many visits to the African continent by her majesty over the years. Her most famous visit was to South Africa in 1995 honouring President Nelson Mandela and celebrating democracy. South Africa is home of some of the largest rough diamonds ever found, including the Cullinan diamond which weighed 3,106.75 carats in the rough unearthed in 1905. It was cut and polished into several diamonds, some which are set into the British crown jewels whilst seven other gems cut from the rough belong to the Queen exclusively. Diamonds from South Africa were widely used in antique pieces in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries due to the discovery of rich diamond bearing mines.

Myanmar formerly a British colony known as Burma, is famously known for its royal blue sapphires and pigeon blood rubies. These rare gemstones have such vivid tones that they are sought after worldwide. Her majesty can occasionally be seen wearing her Burma ruby tiara which is set with some of Burma’s finest rubies. Quality sapphires can also be found in the commonwealth nation of Sri Lanka, home of the rarest colour of sapphire the orangey pink Padparadscha.

One of the Queen’s favourite official destinations is Australia which she has visited over fifteen times during her reign. Rich in natural resources, the land produces an impressive gemstone known as the opal. This unique gemstone exhibits a phenomena called play-of-colour, which is seen as flashes and patches of colour on the surface of the gem. Her majesty was gifted an Australian opal spray brooch as a wedding present in 1947, which she still wears to this day.

Whether you are fascinated by diamonds, seduced by the colours of sapphire and ruby or amazed by the play-of-colour exhibited by opals, at Berganza we can help you find the perfect piece for you. Why not treat your someone special like royalty and comb through our extensive collection of ancient, antique and vintage jewellery to purchase a special piece of your own?  

front view Burmese sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1950. berganza hatton garden
Burmese sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1950.
Ref: 24870
front view Opal bead necklace, circa 1910. berganza hatton garden
Opal bead necklace, circa 1910.
Ref: 21770
antique opal diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Black opal and diamond cluster ring, circa 1925.
Ref: 24500
front view Burmese sapphire and diamond cluster ring, circa 1905. berganza hatton garden
Burmese sapphire and diamond cluster ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 21847
front view Opal and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1950.
Opal and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1950.
Ref: 11421
front view Antique diamond earrings, circa 1890. berganza hatton garden
Antique diamond earrings, circa 1890.
Ref: 21878
Art Deco black opal diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Art Deco black opal and diamond ring, circa 1935.
Ref: 14381
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