Royal Rings: Princess Diana’s Engagement Ring
Angelica Frey | October 8, 2023
Angelica Frey | October 8, 2023
When it comes to royal engagement rings, Diana’s engagement ring is one of the most notable and recognizable jewels. It has a ceylon sapphire as a center stone, a halo of diamonds, and a white gold band. We'll show you how to recreate the look using VRAI created diamonds.
With this ring, Diana went against tradition because she picked it from a preexisting catalog. This meant that it was not a unique piece, so other people could purchase the same design if they wanted to.
Following Princess Diana’s death in 1997, the ring lives on as Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, celebrating the legacy of a timeless design and a bold departure from tradition.
What Is Princess Diana’s Engagement Ring?
In February 1981, Diana and Prince Charles were formally engaged. It was a short courtship. ”We met 13 times and we got married,” she revealed to her voice coach Peter Settelen in 1992, in tapes that would then be aired in the PBS documentary Diana: In Her Own Words.
Princess Diana broke tradition: she picked her own ring. Prince Charles presented her with a selection from Garrard, who, back then, was the crown jeweler. She landed on a Ceylon sapphire engagement ring surrounded by 14 diamonds, with the band and setting made of white gold. The center stone is an Oval Ceylon sapphire weighing 12 carats. Ceylon refers to the place where the sapphire was mined, and that’s the former name of Sri Lanka.
This Garrard ring was not a bespoke design. It was featured in the jeweler’s catalog, where it was priced at the then equivalent to $60,000. Potentially, anyone with that budget could have purchased the ring for themselves. The lack of exclusivity did not sit well with some members of the Royal family, but Diana loved the design so much she continued wearing it even after her marriage with Prince Charles ended.
Upon Diana’s death, Prince Harry inherited the ring, while Prince William inherited a Cartier watch. The brothers swapped the heirlooms. Some say that Harry decided that the ring should be on the finger of the future Queen of England, others maintain that a deal was made so that whichever brother got married first would give the ring to his fiancée. Eventually, Prince William gave it to Kate Middleton when they got engaged in November 2010.
Who Made Princess Diana’s Engagement Ring?
Garrard designed Princess Diana’s engagement ring. Garrard is a jewelry firm that was established in 1735. They were the official Crown Jeweller between 1843 and 2007, and made and imagined the regalia.
Notable Garrard jewels include the Imperial Crown of India, made for King George V's inauguration as Emperor of India in Delhi in 1911, and the Imperial State Crown made for King George VI's coronation in 1937. Garrard provided a new pair of armills for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. They were a gift from the Commonwealth, replacing the previous pair which had been made in 1661.
What Makes Princess Diana’s Engagement Ring Stand Out?
Princess Diana’s ring stands out for a number of reasons. It featured a sapphire in an era when diamond engagement rings had become commonplace both among aristocracy and among civilians. It is a catalog model from Garrard and not a bespoke design, which meant that, anyone who was able and willing to pay the price of that ring could present it to their significant other.
This catalog model is, however, steeped in history. The halo design with a sapphire center stone is actually a callback to a brooch that Prince Albert presented to Queen Victoria right before their 1840 wedding. It featured a large oval sapphire, surrounded by 12 large diamonds which appear to be in the Old Mine cut. Queen Victoria herself was fond of the ornament. In her own diary, she praised the gift, describing it as “a splendid brooch, a large sapphire set round with diamonds, which is really quite beautiful.”
Get the Look with VRAI
While VRAI doesn't offer sapphires, you can still achieve a similar look by using the Signature Halo setting with a pear shaped diamond with a plain yellow gold band. This combination offers a timeless, classic look that will never go out of style and will always look stunning with any outfit.
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Halo Rings in History
Halo engagement rings originate from cluster engagement rings and cluster jewelry. Cluster jewelry can be traced back to the Georgian era, named after the kings George I, George II, George III and George IV (1714-1837). It exploded in popularity during the Victorian era (1837-1901), because the shape was reminiscent of a flower, which was one of the shapes that was most in vogue at that time. The sapphire brooch Prince Albert gave to Victoria ahead of their wedding was one of the trend-defining pieces of jewelry.
The modern halo design is a product of the Art Deco era, when the cluster design was streamlined with the use of pavé diamonds, which uniquely draw the attention to the center stone and emphasize their geometry and shape. In general, halo engagement rings cyclically become fashionable during periods of opulence and maximalism, while they fall out of favor during decades that prefer more streamlined and sleek designs.
Sapphire Rings (and Jewelry) in History
Sapphires have long been favored by royals and aristocrats. In 1796, Napoleon presented Josephine de Beauharnais with a two-stone engagement ring featuring one teardrop-shaped diamond and one teardrop-shaped sapphire set on a gold band.
The British royal family has used sapphires in royal jewelry, including in the case of the Prince Albert brooch and in Diana’s engagement ring. Another notable sapphire is The Stuart Sapphire, which is part of the Imperial State Crown, and is located in an east-west setting on the back of the crown’s band.
The most famous sapphire to be sold at auction is the Blue Belle of Asia, a 392.52 carat untreated cushion cut Ceylon sapphire set on a diamond-tassel necklace. It sold in 2014 for the record sum of 16,965,000 CHF, around 19,362,561 USD.
American dynasties favored sapphires, too. The Logan Sapphire weighs 422.99 carats and was gifted to the Smithsonian from Rebecca Pollard Guggenheim in December 1960, who had received it around a decade prior from her then husband, Col. M. Robert Guggenheim.
The Rockefeller Sapphire is a rectangular-cut sapphire purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. His first wife, Abby, wore the jewel until her passing in 1948. Martha Baird, the second Mrs. Rockefeller, then wore it until her own death in 1971. It eventually sold at auction for $3,031,000 in April 2021.
Princess Diana’s Other Notable Jewelry
Princess Diana had other pieces of jewelry that she usually wore alongside her signature sapphire engagement ring. The list below is by no means complete, as it just reflects the jewels mostly seen in conjunction with her Garrard engagement ring.
The Saudi Sapphire Suite
As a wedding present, the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia presented Diana with a sapphire suite that was stylistically consistent with her engagement ring. “Made by Asprey, it consists of an enormous Burmese sapphire pendant set in a jagged sunray fringe of baguette diamonds and hung on a thin diamond necklace; a matching pair of earrings and ring; a two-row bracelet of brilliant-cut diamonds with a smaller version of the sapphire pendant as a centerpiece; and a wristwatch, the face set in the same diamond sunray fringe and the strap consisting of seven oval sapphires set in clusters of diamonds…,” is how author Leslie Field describes it in The Queen’s Jewels.
Diana’s Aquamarine Ring
Diana’s fondness for blue stones did not stop with sapphires. She also took a particular liking to aquamarines. One notable aquamarine jewel is an aquamarine cocktail ring featuring an emerald-cut aquamarine with diamond accents on the band. It was a gift from Lucia Flecha de Lima and was designed by Asprey. Diana received it in 1996 and only wore it on a number of occasions. Meghan Markle sported it in 2018 during her and Prince Harry’s wedding reception in Windsor in May 2018.
Diana’s Diamond Eternity Ring
Diana also wore a channel-set eternity band, one of the first presents from Prince Charles. Following their her engagement, she often paired it with her blue sapphire engagement ring