The tiara in its full glory

Queen Victoria’s Emerald Tiara along with the necklace, earrings and brooch that Albert first designed for her.

The Queen in the full parure.

Albert was a renaissance man and loved to design many things, including jewelry for his wife. Her engagement ring was of his design with an emerald included (it was her birthstone), and so it seems he went back to the vibrant green stone to have a necklace, earrings and brooch made for her in 1843. She noted in her diary how she loved them and thought him to be very talented in his designs. She wore the set to a banquet at Trinity College Cambridge to celebrate his appointment as chancellor, as well as numerous other occasions, including the christening of their son Prince Alfred where she paired them with lace from her wedding dress.

An up close image of the Queen wearing the tiara in a portrait of her growing family, including Albert, painted by Winterhalter in 1846.

But Albert wasn’t done with the set just yet. A few years later (1845), he commissioned the creation of the tiara, by working closely with the Queen’s Jeweler, Joseph Kitching. In a press release announcing the Kensington exhibit,  Historic Royal Palaces describes the tiara as, “set with cushion-shaped diamonds and step-cut emeralds, and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs an astonishing 15 carats.”

Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine in the 1880s wearing the tiara, on loan from her grandmother, as part of a costume.

She chose not to include the set in the list of “royal jewels” meaning they would not move on to her son upon her death and then continue from monarch to monarch, but instead she initially loaned at least the tiara to her granddaughter in the 1880’s for a costume. It’s unclear where it went from there exactly, but it was not included in an inventory of the Queen’s jewels in 1896 and was likely passed down to relatives.

Caroline, the Third Duchess of Fife, wearing the tiara, necklace and brooch at the State Opening of Parliament in 1960.

Seven decades after being spotted on Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, the tiara was worn, along with the necklace and the brooch, by Caroline, the wife of the 3rd Duke of Fife (who was the most recent owner, we now know) at the 1960 State Opening of Parliament. Until that point and for a while thereafter until the exhibit, its whereabouts had been generally unknown. The tiara is on loan to the exhibit from the Duke’s executors and will likely go back to the family when the exhibit is over.

The tiara and earrings up close.