Jewel of the Day: Cullinan III and IV Brooch – “Granny’s Chips”

  June 6, 2012 at 9:25 am by

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Ever since the Diamond Jubilee celebrations started, avid jewellery fanatics (like me) have been waiting for the appearance of any of the Cullinan diamonds. And yesterday, Her Majesty answered those silent requests and finally wore one of the most gorgeous brooches to have ever existed – Cullinan III and IV brooch, also known as “Granny’s Chips”.

The Cullinan III and Cullinan IV were two of nine stones cut from the great Cullinan Diamond in 1905. The diamond (largest in the world at the time) was found in South Africa and presented to Edward VII on his birthday. Two of the stones cut from the diamond were the 94.4-carat pear-shaped Cullinan III, and a 63.6-carat cushion shaped Cullinan IV. Initially, the smaller stones – all apart from Cullinan I and Cullinan II – were left with the jewellery company who cut the diamond into pieces, the Asscher, as a fee. However, in 1910 the South African Government bought them back and presented to Queen Mary.

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Queen Mary had these stones made into a brooch with the Cullinan III hanging from the IV. They have mostly remained in this form ever since, apart from Queen Mary’s coronation in 1911, when she had the two stones temporally placed into her Crown and circlet. Queen Mary frequently wore the Lesser Stars of Africa brooch, or as she referred to them as her “chips”, at important official events. One such occasion was the wedding of her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth in 1947.

Upon Queen Mary’s death in 1953, Queen Elizabeth inherited most of her vast jewellery collection, including this brooch.

Because of its substantial weight, the brooch is not the most comfortable one to wear, and the young Queen avoided doing so in early years of her reign. The very first time Queen Elizabeth decided to wear it was for a visit to the Asscher Company in 1958, during the state visit to the Netherlands. It was a symbolic gesture since it was the Asscher company who had initially been tasked with cutting the Cullinan stone: on February 10, 1908, Joseph Asscher started cutting the biggest diamond in the world. According to stories, the first cut broke the blade instead of the diamond; the second cut slashed the diamond in two, and Asscher passed out from exhaustion.

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Joseph Asscher was no longer alive by the time of Queen Elizabeth’s visit; however, his younger brother, Louis Asscher (who had also been present during the cutting of the original Cullinan stone) was there; the Queen unpinned the brooch and handed it to him for closer inspection. It is also during that visit that Her Majesty was heard referring to the stones as “Granny’s Chips” – a nickname that survives to our days.

The brooch was put on display in the new Queen’s Gallery from 2002. The stunning piece of jewellery, which weights all of 158 carats, is now believed to be the single most valuable brooch in the world with a value of over £50,000,000 – and that not counting historical significance, which makes it very nearly priceless.

Apart from the brooch, Her Majesty wore one of her favourite pearl necklaces, and her preferred earrings of late – Queen Mary’s Pearl Button earrings, which were presented to Queen Mary by the Ladies of Devonshire in 1893.

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As a bonus, we also saw another piece of jewellery that hasn’t made appearance for some time – this time on the Duchess of Cambridge. Catherine wore lovely  faux diamond and pearl earrings which she had last worn back in July 2011, when she attended her wedding dress display with the Queen. Despite looking every bit regal and authentic, the earrings are actually cultivated pearl and zirconium diamond which retailed at £48 (they are now sold out).

To learn more about the Cullinans, read this – The Cullinan Diamond. To read about Her Majesty’s sizeable brooch collection, visit this thread – Queen Elizabeth II – Brooches. To read about the Duchess of Cambridge’s building jewellery collection, visit this thread – Duchess of Cambridge Jewellery.

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2 Responses to Jewel of the Day: Cullinan III and IV Brooch – “Granny’s Chips”

  1. Lady Daphne says:

    I’m so happy the Queen decided to break out the Cullinans III and IV. I’m sure her garments must be reinforced at a certain point to keep these two blockbusters from sagging the garment. These ‘Cullinans’ are fabulous and I wish the Queen would wear them more often.

  2. Andrew Wyeth says:

    Fantastic, I was delighted and astonished to seethe Queen, wearing that valuable brooch, known as Grannies chips. Even I didn,t realize it was as
    valuable as it is. It is good to see that royalty show valuable pieces such as that, on major royal occasions,for everyone to see and alsoto enjoy.

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