Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crown Jewels go on display to mark Diamond Jubilee

Crown Jewels have gone on display in a dazzling new setting.

The priceless objects, whose symbolic importance outweighs their monetary value, are at the heart of a Tower of London exhibition updated to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The historic collection features some of the world's most famous diamonds and artefacts used at the coronation of a monarch, but all have had their brilliance enhanced by using a trick from the jewellery trade - blue velvet.

They include the Imperial State Crown set with 2,969 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires and 11 emeralds.

The exhibition also features newly commissioned music, film footage of the Queen's 1953 coronation in colour, and three dimensional models visitors can touch.

Sally Dixon-Smith, curator of the collection, said: "The interior of the cases have been lined with blue velvet which really makes the gold sing. Jewellers work in a blue room for that reason.

"We have given them a blue background and placed them on blue stems and they are brightly lit - it almost looks like the orb and crowns are floating. We wanted the facets to be seen much more on the jewels."

Objects associated with the coronation are known as regalia - sceptres, orbs, rings, swords, spurs, bracelets and robes - which have a specific part to play in the ritual.

The monarch is crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury with the St Edward's Crown - made of gold and decorated with precious and semi-precious stones. However the best-known item is the Imperial State Crown, re-made for the coronation of the Queen's father, George VI, in 1937. It is worn at the end of the coronation service and at the State Opening of Parliament.

Among the famous gems on display at the Tower is the First Star of Africa - mounted at the top of the Sovereign's Sceptre and the largest flawless cut diamond in the world, weighing 530 carats. This stone and the Second Star of Africa, weighing 317 carats and set in the Imperial State Crown, were cut from the Cullinan diamond, the largest ever found.

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